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Black paper lining wall of radiator

lpop75 Member Posts: 1
Some of my steam radiators are recessed into my walls and the walls are lined with what looks like black paper. I have noticed over the years that the paper smells and I am worried that it has mold. Is this paper something I can have removed and is that something a plumber would do? is it there for safety or to amplify the heat? My house was built in 1938 and I can bet you that paper was probably installed then so its OLD. any insight would be greatly appreciated!


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,928
    I would imagine

    that what you are seeing is "tar paper".  Exactly what kind of "tar paper", though, would be difficult to say -- over the years the stuff has been made in various ways, and, worse, the term is and was used to also apply to tar-saturated felt.

    It might have mold, though.  Without looking at it, I'd not care to say.

    It's not really a plumber's job to remove -- more like a carpenter, perhaps.  However, to get at it you may find that the radiators have to be moved -- and that is a plumber's job, and likely to be a bear at that.  If there is enough space around and behind the radiators, you might be able to get at it enough without removing the radiators...

    Then, of course, there's the question of what are you going to find when you get rid of it!  Older houses are full of surprises.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    Coming from cellar?

    If these are on the first floor check the cellar below them as that smell might becoming from below. If you can get the old stuff out you should replace it with some sort of insulation board so the heat doesn't just go through the exterior sheathing.

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