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Break the old elbow?

I need to repair the leaking union in the photo.

What is best procedure to get these 2.5" fittings apart?

Cut the nipples, lots of heat on the remaining parts?


  • bruce_21
    bruce_21 Member Posts: 241
    problem is

    at the joint between the nipple and the union. I need to remove the nipple as well as the union and then get it all back together. Pipes won't move much even with union gone because of other take-offs etc. holding them in place.

    Not looking forward to this crawlspace.
  • Replacing a union

    I would cut the pipes between the elbow and the tee. Make small axial cuts in each remaining nipple fragment, and tap it inwards to get the pieces out of the fitting.

    Assemble everything before going into the crawl space.--NBC
  • bruce_21
    bruce_21 Member Posts: 241
    cut inside the nipple bits?

    What type tool will easily cut inside the nipples to allow them to be beat in and removed?
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Flipped Out:

    Right Nasty.

    The photo is flipped 180 degrees.

    If I was attempting that, I would be working hard to get the Union apart. Kroil the heck out of the union nut. Hit it with the heat wrench. Whack the ship out of it with a hammer. That nut will come off easier than the elbow. I'd bust the ell off by cracking it with a 4# hammer. Take the union half out and heat wrench the ship out of it to save the union. Get a new nipple and ell. Teflon Tape and paste the clap out of it. There should be enough spring and swing to swing the ell and union back into place. Most Unions are Malleable and will stretch a little. Elbows are Cast Iron. They crack before they stretch.

    If your worried about pounding on the ell and disturbing things to get the ell to crack, take a sawzall and cut a groove across and over the threads. Take an old beater screw driver and stick it into the saw kerf and give it a whack. It will break easily then. Cut two grooves if you're so inclined.

    I hope that there's room for the dirt that you will be moving to dig out some work space for yourself. I'm feeling an anxiety attack coming on just thinking about doing things like that in a tight space.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,849
    Icy's right

    The union is the only threaded connection that's not sealed with 50-year-old pipe joint compound, so penetrating oil will make a big difference.

    If you can't get a wrench on it, get an air hammer with a chisel bit and press it against the nut obliquely and try to spin it loose.

    Applying heat will expand the nut and loosen it, but don't apply penetrating oil to a hot fitting.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752
    Old fittings

    Here's my new favorite way to get old fittings apart...

    Get a small drill bit, maybe 1/8". Drill a line of about 4 or 5 holes all the way across the hub of the fitting. Make the line perpendicular to the line of the fitting, or in the same direction as the pipe. Make sure not to drill into the nipple itself. It helps to mark the drill bit with tape as a depth gauge. You can leave as much as 1/8" depth. Take a lump hammer and a cold chisel and go to town on the line of holes. It will start to crack all the way down to the nipple and travel throughout the fitting. You may need to do this in a second location as well. If the fitting doesn't completely fall apart, it will at least release the tension and be able to spin with a wrench or by hand.
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469

    like that. Now ya gotta figure out some kinda "big arse" nut splitter. That way you could avoid rattling those old pipes altogether.
  • bruce_21
    bruce_21 Member Posts: 241
    My problem

    is that one of the nipples is leaking and needs to be replaced
  • bruce_21
    bruce_21 Member Posts: 241

    it is between the union and the tee.
  • Clearance problems

    I don't see enough clearance for replacement of the union if it is cracked off. Now I think I would remove the whole corner from tee to tee.--NBC
  • Fizz
    Fizz Member Posts: 547
    Jstar's new favorite

    way to get old fittings apart.  Can't speak about specifics, but Jstar just left our house after re-routing an old pipe connected to 2floor riser.  On testing system after hooked-up, noted 100 yr old elbow cracked, which he replaced in 15-20 min.  Can't say how it was done but it was quick and pipe re-attached and working with no leak.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    Smash the elbow!

    I think you'll have to remove the elbow anyways and put in a new elbow, union and 2 nipples. You won't be able to save the elbow, because you'll need to turn it to fit the union in there with the 2 nipples. I'd crack the elbow off, then either heat the crap out of the tee and cool the nipple. The expansion of the tee and contraction of the nipple should hopefully loosen up the thread. Tap on the tee a few times while wrenching the nipple. In the end, in that situation, I think I'd just cut the nipple off the remove it like NBC said. Throw a rag into the tee so you don't lose any pieces of the nipple as you are chiseling them out. I've often used a jigsaw with metal cutting blades to cut axially into what's left of the nipple if the sawzall won't fit in that space.
  • How much force

    All this wrenching can only result in some other pipe down the line being twisted, and then you will once again be back into the crawl space with spiders, and no ventilation for a long time.

    The good thing about cutting and removing the nipples from their respective fittings is the relatively gentle use of force on the rest of the piping.--NBC
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    edited September 2014
    I've never tried it

    I've never tried it but I think Mark Eatherton mentioned using table salt on a wet fitting to rust the leak closed. If it works on a pressurized iron fitting I would think steam would be a breeze. Seems like something to try before tearing it apart. I never have the time to try these things at anyone else's house however I would not hesitate to try it at my own. Just take a wet rag and put salt all over it and wrap it around the fitting for a few days, salting and watering regularly.


  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,849

    We haven't heard back from bruce in about five days. I hope he isn't stuck down in that crawlspace.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • bruce_21
    bruce_21 Member Posts: 241
    Thanks everyone!

    Thanks to all who offered advice and support. It is really wonderful to feel that there is a great well of knowledge and experience willing to be shared and that I am not alone in confronting difficulties. In the end this job turned out simpler and easier than I had ever imagined it could be, and largely because I felt your collective support. Thanks again.

    We cut the union open and the cut the part of it on the nipple off axially without damaging the threads and broke it so it would turn off easily. Then the same with the other nipple. Cut it mostly away then axially mostly thru then beat the hell out of it with a cold chisel, more cutting , more chiseling, etc. Didn't need to drag the torch into the crawl. Fortunately the pipes dropped after the union was gone and that helped the sawzall work. Pictures below. We blocked one pipe down from the joists and raised the other with a hydraulic jack to get them lined up and held in place so the fittings could match up and be tightened.