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removing a 90 year old one pipe steam radiator

Sorry if this has been answered, I couldn't find anything that seemed pertinent.

I'm getting a floor refinished and need to temporarily remove a cast iron radiator.

I'm sure it's too heavy for me, but beyond that I really don't know what to do anyway, so I thought I'd try the brain trust here.

Is it possible to remove it without doing major damage?

What is the worst case scenario?

Is there anything I can apply to the pipes to make them move better (ie: heat, cold, any spray stuff etc.)

If the end result if I screw it up is going to be more expensive than hiring someone in the first place, I'll opt for hiring someone.

If I hire someone, what I really need is to have them remove the radiator, I'll repair the floor under it (here's my vote for not having radiator covers, you can't see what's going on day to day), then maybe a week later after the floor has been repaired and refinshed  have someone come in and re install the radiator.

Who would do something like this? A plumber? A heating contractor?

I'm $1000 into the floor refinishing so I'd like to do it correctly, but also as cheap as possible.

Thanks in advance for any replies, much appreciated.


  • JStarJStar Posts: 2,668Member

    The radiator has a union nut on it right after the hand valve. You can leave the valve in place and install the floor around it.
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 4,964Member

    If you raise the floor height, the piping may need lengthening. And make sure that the rad is pitched slightly toward the valve so the condensate will drain.
    Bob Boan

    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    edited September 2012
    Removing a Radiator

    Hi- As JStar mentioned you will need to loosen the union nut  (See attached photo) If I'm reading your picture right, the nut should loosen in the direction I have placed the purple arrows.

    There may be a slight bit of water bottom of the radiator so you might want to have a pan and a roll of paper towel ready to catch any water that runs out when you open the union.

        Cast iron radiators are very heavy so if you plan to move it any where you will need a dolly.  I've also moved them short distances (out of the area where I'm working) by dragging them on a piece of old wall to wall shag carpet. Have some one steady the radiator as it can be top heavy / unstable when moving it

    Moving a radiator up/down stairs can be very tricky and needs to be well thought out first If a  heavy radiator gets away from you on the stairs, it can do a lot of damage to both the house and to people that get in its way.

    - Rod
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Posts: 4,053Member

    that you do not have the wood too close to the pipe. There is a reason the escutcheon is that wide. the pipe needs room to expand and move without rubbing.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,817Member
    Reinstalling the radiator

    Make sure the mating faces of the union between the radiator spud and the valve are cleaned with a mild abrasive pad, like scotchbrite, then any particles rubbed off with a rag. A bit of dish washing liquid rubbed on the mating surfaces will lubricate the faces better than pipe dope. As you begin to reattach the two, first turn the union nut in reverse, until you can feel the threads match, and then reverse rotation. As you reach the tight spot rock the radiator back and forth slightly to enable the mating surfaces to align properly.

    You will probably do as good a job at this as any professional;however it will take longer.--NBC
  • glassmanglassman Posts: 13Member
    thanks so much!

    Jstar: Thanks! that should make my life a bit easier.

    Ironman: I'm not going to change the height of the floor, just repair it. You hit on about the only thing I know, to tip it towards the valve, a great piece of info though, thank you.

    Rod: you are the man! I LOVE a good illustration that tells you exactly what to do and how to do it, and you created one! I wish I knew how to do that! This monster has 9 fins and is 36" tall, so I'm thinking around 250 lbs?

      What size wrenches do you think I might need to move this bad boy?

    Can I get away with a couple of Harbor Freight  specials? i only use them for one time tools and sometimes they don't last that long, but this (I hope!) qualifies as a one time tool.

    Charlie, thanks for the flooring tip, I didn't really think about that!

    Nicholas, I hope your confidence in my abilities is justified.'You will probably do as good a job at this as any professional'. I'll do my best, but I wish I could turn the clock back about 30 years to when I was a sprightly 35.

    Thanks for the cleaning tips.

    Great answers all, I really do appreciate your time and effort, thanks so much.
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    Pipe Wrenches

    Hi- You get what you pay for and personally i would get some decent pipe wrenches. Using cheap "Mickey Mouse" wrenches can get you in trouble. Home Depot has some reasonably priced pipe wrenches.  Their Husky brand is fairly good.  It sounds like You haven't had much experience with this sort of thing. It might be an idea to find a friend or relative that has some experience with this type of work to guide you.  What you are planning to do isn't difficult just having a bit of help makes it easier.

    - Rod
  • SWEISWEI Posts: 7,356Member
    hex wrench

    The Ridgid E-110 is not particularly expensive and works quite well on union nuts.

    The Chinese Harbor Freight pipe wrenches work just fine, though they won't hold up to regular abuse for years on end.
  • Paul48Paul48 Posts: 4,492Member

    I believe your loosen direction is backwards.
  • RobGRobG Posts: 1,850Member
    Union Disconect

    I concur, the way to disconnect the the union nut should be by turning counter clockwise to the face of the valve. (great graphics though Rod).

  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    Direction to Loosen?

    Paul/ Rob -   You could quite likely be right and the nut comes off the other way.  i wondered that myself which is why I mentioned "if I'd read the picture right" though when I blew the picture it seemed to have threads close to the nut. If it is in fact an ordinary spud and nut then it would loosen in the direction you are indicating, that is , in the opposite way that is shown in the picture.

    - Rod 
  • glassmanglassman Posts: 13Member
    more answers? thanks so much!

    I would have sworn I posted this yesterday, but it's not here? Oh well, again.

    So we are in agreement that the nut turns counterclockwise?

    If it would help to firm up that opinion, I could easily post more/better pictures.

    Rod, I agree that you should buy the best tools you can afford, but sometimes the reason a tool is economically priced is not because it won't do the job, but because it won't last. In this case I don't need it to last, I just need it to work a couple of times, so the criteria for me in this instance is different..

    However, I like the looks of the Rigid e-110, I think I might spring for that.

     I still need another wrench to hold the fitting. I have an old 18" 'Taiwan special' from ages ago, do you think it would be ok to use this to do the statioary job of holding the fitting?

    I also assume I'm going to need some kind of breaker bar for the Rigid wrench?

    Would 2 ft be overdoing it? Although it's been on there forever, I'm thinking this nut might not be a big problem coming off? Or am I deluding myself?
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member
    Ridgid E-110

    That wrench has a 10" handle, if it's the one I'm thinking of, and it says not to use a cheater or impact. If you do, wrap a rag around the handle or use a soft-face dead-blow hammer just in case you break it. They don't have to honor the warranty if there are signs of abuse, so be careful not to leave any.

    Try it without the cheater first though. Those nuts aren't so bad. It's the pipe joints with the fossilized thread sealer that can hurt you.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • SWEISWEI Posts: 7,356Member
    edited August 2012
    fossilized pipe joints

    That's what the 3-footer is for.

    The union nut should really not be that bad.  If it doesn't break loose, try hitting it with a torch for a few minutes before you crank.
  • glassmanglassman Posts: 13Member

    Well, I bought the Ridgid e-110 and tried it, that sucker would not budge.

    Then I threw the torch on it for about 2 minutes, no help.

    Then I used another wrench to hold the fitting and used an 18" wrench on the nut, still no luck.

    Then I heated it and used the 18", still no luck.

    I'm going to throw in another pic or two just to be sure we're going in the right direction.

    Any suggestions appreciated.
  • RobGRobG Posts: 1,850Member
    Union Nut

    That wrench is not very long. You need a cheater bar on the handle to give you more leverage. When looking at the valve (and the wall the rad is up against) turn the union nut counter clockwise) you will be pulling up from the floor.

  • BioBio Posts: 266Member
    Union nut

    Check/feel both sides of the union nut, one should be open and the other closing to the nipple, on the open side go CCW
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067

    Hi - I agree with Rob. You probably aren't getting enough leverage out of the wrench. What you need to use is a "cheater" . This is a piece of pipe that will just fit over the wrench handle which extends the length of the handle,  I have/use "cheater" lengths from 24 to 48 inches.  Home Depot has Black Pipe and will cut it to the lengths you need. Normally the pipe size needed is 1 1/4 inch but I would try the pipe out first to see how well it slides over your wrench handle before cutting. 

    Note: Using a cheater can break/damage the wrench so be cautious when applying pressure using a cheater pipe.

    - Rod
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,626Member

    Arn't the valves and associated nuts usually brass?  I'd think that would make them easy to take apart, no?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • MikeyBMikeyB Posts: 696Member

    If you can get an extra set of hands to help you, heat up the nut again and stick wax in the thread while trying to unscrew the nut, make sure the nut gets hot enough to suck the wax in, it will lubricate the thread enough to loosen the nut.
  • glassmanglassman Posts: 13Member

    Robg:  So I'm simply turning it towards the radiator, right? CCW looking directly at the pictures? That is the direction I've been going, so that part should be ok.

    Bio; Sorry, I don't quite understand what you are saying? Please explain a bit more for me if you can?

    Rod: I have some black pipe for cheaters from my wood clamps, I was just trying to avoid breaking a new $35 wrench:-). I guess I'll just have to take a shot at it.

    Chrisj: While they might be today, this could easily be 90 year old stuff. God only knows what they were using then, although obviously it had to be rustproof, so it might have been brass even then. Bronze?

    Mikeyb: Now that's a trick I've never heard of!  Just ordinary candle wax?

    I was at a craft show this weekend and a lady was selling candles there. Boy, did she have an agenda! Her candles were made of soy, and she had big signs all around saying 'the joys of soy; the perils of parrafin', telling you how regular candles are killing us all! Oh boy...

    Again, thank you all, i will try these new approaches tomorrow. At this point, I'm just determined to get this thing off before the heating season starts! 
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member
    I noticed...

    Harbor Freight has their 24" adjustable (aka crescent) wrench on sale for probably less than you paid for the Rigid. I guarantee you you can turn that thing with a 24".
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,626Member
    I knocked mine free! :)

    Just used my new Ridgid spud wrench and a 3LB deadblow hammer and knocked one of mine loose.  I need to move it to paint and was curious to see if it would actually break free.

    I couldn't do it by hand, maybe with a pipe on the wrench I could've but the deadblow knocked it loose no problem.

    Remember, sometimes shock knocks stuff loose that constant pressure will break.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Posts: 4,053Member
    edited September 2012
    you may have egged the nut.

    a miss adjusted pipe wrench can crush and egg a valve union nut, or any fitting for that matter. As you look towards a valve from the radiator the nut turns counter clock wise to loosen. Visualize standing in the pipe with the radiator behind you and the valve in front of you. Inspect the nut and check to see if it is oblonged. If so it needs cut out and a new valve needs installed.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member

    No one here is using a pipe wrench. The Ridgid E-110 and Chris's spud wrench are both parallel smooth-jawed wrenches. The spud wrench is similar to a Ford or monkey wrench. The Ridgid is something Gerry Gill uses. From what I can tell it does clamp down on the nut but not enough to egg it. It just keeps it from rounding the corners like the adjustable wrenches do.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member
    edited September 2012
    What fun is that?

    You didn't even chip the paint off the handle.

    If you turn that hammer 45° counter-clockwise and the wrench 45° clockwise, your picture will look kinda like the Dead Men T-shirt logo. All you need is the skull.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Posts: 4,053Member
    I am guessing the 18" Glassman is using

    is a pipe wrench.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member
    Could Be

    I didn't notice that part of his post. Heating it isn't doing it any good either. Might burn the valve, and all of the tension is on the thread flanks and thrust surfaces.

    Pretty sure he doesn't have the 18" Ridgid hex wrench. I think Gerry got the last one.

    I usually end up replacing these things anyway. I have never had any luck getting them apart once they're off.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • MikeyBMikeyB Posts: 696Member

    If you cant get your hands on a good size candle you can always use a toilet wax ring (minus the plastic extension) and keep a portable fire extinguisher on hand in case you need it.
  • glassmanglassman Posts: 13Member

    I haven't tried the most recent suggestions yet, that happens today.

      I don't think I've egged the nut, it seems to be round still.

    I tried the 18" pipe wrench for a minute or so, don't think I did any damage though. Otherwise, I'm just using this to hold the fitting.

    So today I will try the  breaker bar.

    Heat is a problem? then I guess I can't do the wax thing?

    Hap_ Hazzard: I'm using the 10" Ridgid, kinda small. They say a breaker bar voids the warranty, but I guess that's a chance I'll have to take.  When you say ' usually end up replacing these things anyway. I have never had any luck getting them apart once they're off.', I don't quite follow? I'm assuming I will replace the nut with a new one, but what's to 'get apart' once they're off?  Do you mean the pipes coming apart even with the nut off might be a further problem, or am I missing something here?

    Just a thought; as a last resort, would it make any sense to notch the nut at an angle (45degrees?) with a Dremel or similar and try moving it with an old chisel and a hammer?  I'm guessing I'm replacing this nut anyway so that part wouldn't matter. Or is the metal it is made of too soft for this to work?  Any thoughts?
  • Dave in QCADave in QCA Posts: 1,736Member
    Turning right way?

    Just checking to see if you caught Paul's post.  He points out that the arrows indicating the direction to turn to loosen the nut are backwards. 

    It is confusing because with a union valve, the spud end is usually threaded into a radiator.  In your case, it is threaded into an elbow.  But, the nut still threads onto the valve.  As you're facing the valve with the nut in the foreground, it is "lefty loosey"
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
  • glassmanglassman Posts: 13Member

    Yes, I know that Rod's diagram should be ccw, thanks!

    Anybody have any thoughts on the dremel idea?
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,626Member

    I'm glad to say I don't have one of those handy for the picture. :)

    I would like to add, just in case no one else has, once the union is apart protect the machined surfaces like they are your first born.  A small scratch is all it takes to cause a big problem.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Paul48Paul48 Posts: 4,492Member
    No Dremel

    The cheater will loosen the nut. Let some "colorful words" works every time!
  • glassmanglassman Posts: 13Member

    2 ft black pipe, judiciously applied, did the job!  YAHOO!

    This may not sound like much to you, but it's a victory for me. Thanks a million for all your help!

    So now, I guess I have to just slide the 'sleeve' out of the valve? A little 'wiggle dance'?

    First I have to reinforce the basement ceiling joists just in case there is another weak spot in the floor.

    This thing has 9 fins and is 3 ft in height. I'm thinking to lay it over onto a dolly I'll probably need a hand. Then I can cart it out of the room and fix the floor. Once I get done with repairs, I'll have the flooring guy come in and refinish, then try to reinstall the radiator, hopefully without too much damage to the new floor.

    I guess some teflon tape (heavy duty) on the male threads, maybe some pipe dope on the female?

    I have a feeling 'I'll be back' as they say:-)

    Again, thank you all so much for getting me this far.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member
    Why I replace radiator valves

    Whatever the reason I'm taking it off--to paint the radiator or just clean the crud out from behind it--I'm not going to put it back on there if it looks like it's not going to close the next time I need it to, and if I see a lot of crusty stuff hanging from the disc, and I can see daylight all around it when I close the valve, I want to clean and inspect it--replace it if possible. But you have to get them apart first.

    They look like you can just unscrew the bonnet, but the only one I actually got apart looked pretty awful by the time I finally broke the thing loose. I basically just persisted out of stubbornness. And then I couldn't figure out how to get the disc off the stem. If I've learned anything from my experience it would be: knock the loose stuff out, soak it in white vinegar overnight, clean it with a brush and call it a day. If it still doesn't look good, get a new one.

    You won't be replacing the nut, by the way. It will stay with the radiator spud. You'll never get the spud out of the elbow, so don't waste your time trying.

    Once you get it off (I know you can do it!) if the nut looks out of round you can make it round again with a clamp or a vice. It'll be made out of brass but might be plated with zinc. You know it's not steel because it isn't covered in rust.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Posts: 4,053Member
    no to teflon

    make sure the threads are clean, light wire brush. Then I put just a touch of [i[e dope on the threads to lube them. The face of the valve and the spud ( the part inside the nut) is what makes the seal. If you have a dolly, hand truck, or appliance cart you can put a block of wood on it to make up the gap and use it to move the radiator. Glad you got it free. Watch when you move it as there is always a bit of water in the bottom so keep a rag handy and stuff it into the spud. I like to keep radiators up right as they feel lighter to me when moving them. It is a balance thing. 
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,626Member
    Lighter upright

    I'm sorry but that made me picture Ralph and Norton taking draws out of the dresser and stacking them ontop and then commenting on how much lighter it got. :)

    But in all seriousness I know what you mean and I agree its a balance thing.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • glassmanglassman Posts: 13Member
    edited September 2012
    not leaking I hope


    I'm almost certain the valve is fine now, I think the floor damage was done ages ago and they probably 'fixed' the radiator and never bothered with the floor. There hasn't been a wet spot there since I've been living here, and that's 25 years.

    Being from the 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' tribe, I think  I'm just going to clean everything up as much as possible without disturbing things too much.

    Previously, you saId this: ' usually end up replacing these things anyway. I have never had any luck getting them apart once they're off.', I don't quite follow? I'm assuming I will replace the nut with a new one, but what's to 'get apart' once they're off? Do you mean the pipes coming apart even with the nut off might be a further problem, or am I missing something here?

    Can you elaborate?  thanks!
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,946Member
    two wheeler might be easier

    I've always used a two wheeler with a 1x or 2x on the tongue to give me more height and just tip it to 45 degrees and wheel it out of the way. No matter how you do it your probably going to need a helper to make nothing gets away from you, they are VERY heavy.

    Also just a light sheen of dobe before putting it back in place and you might try some plastic disks under the feet to jocky it back in place, it's critical everything be lined up before tightening the nut.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
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