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leak from the radiator

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I apologize in advance. I am a novice, so forgive me for my lack of knowledge of terminology, and general understanding of how steam heat works.

That being said, I better learn some things quickly. I have a 1950 sq. ft house that is heated by steam. I fill the boiler up manually. I have radiators in every room. Most of them work.

I have a back room that we recently hooked the radiator up. It had been sitting next to the valve for 6 or 7 years! We had to circle cut four holes in the tile floor so we could get the radiator to hook up to the valve. It seemed like it was about 1/4 inch too high to fit, because of the tile floor.

This morning i noticed water coming from the valve. When we hooked it up, I used a little bit of plumbing tape. I'm wondering if there is a better sealing product that I should use.

I also wonder if that might be my only problem?

I'm sure every centimeter matters, but this seemed to fit good. Thats why I am hoping it's just a matter of sealing it up better, and tightening the connection.

Thanks again,

Chad Stocker
Detroit, MI
(1950 sq. ft., built: 1929)
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Comments

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,739
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    Post a picture of the connection to verify what you have. If it is the union connection that is supposed to be installed without any pipe dope or tape. It is a tapered union connection and should be done completely dry. If that's indeed what you have then the tape is probably what is causing the leak. It will prevent you from making up the union properly.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
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    I think i see a bit of tape peeking out from the union connection. No tape there. jiggle the radiator as you tighten the union to make sure the union seals up tight. Where exactly are you seeing a leak from?
    KC_Jones
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    hard to say. there IS tape where the radiator connects to the valve. I know that for sure.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,739
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    hard to say. there IS tape where the radiator connects to the valve. I know that for sure.

    You need to get rid of that tape. That is a union connection and you don't use anything on those. If you put tape on those threads take it back apart and remove the tape, the tape can cause it to leak because you can't tighten it up properly to seal the tapered part of the connection inside. The threads on a union don't do any sealing.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,313
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    And before you put it back together, make sure that both faces of the union are really clean.

    You can clean them -- but don't use any abrasive on them.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
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    A touch of anti-seize compound on the threads won't hurt.
    RobG
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    what do you recommend cleaning them up with? sponge? Hot water?
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    Is there any packing inside that bolt that might need to be re-packed?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Is there any packing inside that bolt that might need to be re-packed?

    There is packing under that nut below the valve handle/knob. If that turns out to be where it is leaking from, try to tighten that nut a little and see if that stops the leak. If not, you can buy packing kits at most supply houses.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
    edited October 2015
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    I have found that loosening the packing nut first before tightening it down has prevented some grief.
    Also have the habit of closing the valve about half way and putting a virgin section of the stem at the packing area. It seems to get the packing a little freer to compact for a new seal.
    It's just something I do without thinking about it.....(having cracked a few nuts and had to replace entire valves) :'(

    Also, don't over tighten anything. I have learned that I could always twist something off later on the next try.
    vaporvac
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    I noticed that there is plumber tape on both the union (the radiator meets the valve) as well as the nut you are talking about above (Fred). I am going to take the tape off of the union. Should i take it off of the nut below the valve as well?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
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    The only place in your picture for Teflon tape is on the pipe threads coming out of the floor where it goes into the lower valve body. You can clean this with water and a brass brush or a stiff toothbrush.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
    edited October 2015
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    After looking at your valve picture this morning, I wonder if...IF:

    The valve on the pipe is newer than the "spud" screwed into the radiator.
    New valves are usually shorter than old ones, creating the 1/4" or so difference in height.
    New valves and old spuds seldom match up. The big nut on the spud looks like it was wrenched pretty hard.
    The rad spud is usually changed when installing a new valve.

    The new spud & nut could be lurking in the basement somewhere as some people do not throw things away.
    If you find it, move the rad away from the valve and see if it is a perfect match on the union "nose" and seat of valve body. The new brass spud nut should spin on by hand.

    If you don't find the spud, you can probably buy a whole new valve of that exact design (they come with new spud & union nut) and change the spud on the rad.
    There are Utube videos here to show you what is involved.

    There is a chance that the existing valve union threads and seat are damaged and changing the entire valve and spud are in order. That valve was off recently (6-7 years) and should be removable....using 2 pipe wrenches.....
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    OK, I took off the radiator from the valve to clean it up. got rid of the plumber tape. When I tightened it back up, I realized that the union is stripped. I'm thinking thats why its leaking, just couldn't make a tight enough connection. Think I am on the right path?

    So whats my next step? The fitting that's on the radiator is on there tight! trying to get it off all day. I don't think the threads on the valve side of the union are stripped. I think it's the nut that is attached to the radiator side.

    Where should I buy the part from? Any specifics on measuring the diameter of the fitting? Is it galvanized? Any advice on getting the union fitting off of the radiator?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    The Spud on the radiator and the Valve on the pipe side are a matched pair and you will have to replace both sides to get a good seal. You can try a pipe wrench on the radiator spud. It will likely bend but it has to come off anyway. Whatever it takes but don't ruin the radiator threads. Once you get that off, tale the valve off of the supply pipe and take it to a supply house. They can match the size for you. That valve and the radiator spud are brass.
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    excellent. very clear and concise knowledge Fred. Thank you. I noticed matched pair unions at Ace Hardware. But I don't think they had brass fittings that big. When I search for a supply house, should I search "steam heat supplies"? I'm in Detroit, MI, just in case anyone knows a place to recommend.
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    The spud on the radiator has the bolt on it. makes it hard to get a grip on the spud. Should I try to cut the bolt off with a hack saw?
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,973
    edited October 2015
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    Hard to tell from picture. Looks like the radiator and the valve are not lined up properly. Looks like the radiator is hitting the valve at a slight downward angle (i.e. the rad is a bit too high). If so,best idea might be an extention on the pipe and then prop up rad to proper height.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    excellent. very clear and concise knowledge Fred. Thank you. I noticed matched pair unions at Ace Hardware. But I don't think they had brass fittings that big. When I search for a supply house, should I search "steam heat supplies"? I'm in Detroit, MI, just in case anyone knows a place to recommend.

    There should not be any bolts on the radiator spud. Can you take a picture of the bolt you are refering to? The valve body, on the supply pipe should have the actual size stamped on it, when you get it off. Probably on the side against the wall. Any plumbing supply will carry those valves or you can order one from Supplyhouse.com, http://www.supplyhouse.com/pex/control/search/~SEARCH_STRING=steam valve
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    so that bolt, won't come off of the pipe that is screwed into the radiator.
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    here is where i am trying to connect the radiator to.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
    edited October 2015
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    The "spud" is screwed into the rad, if you look/feel inside the spud there are 2 ears in there. You will need a spud wrench to install a new spud anyway. If find a new steam valve EXACTLY matching the existing one on the pipe coming out of the floor, check the brand name on the handle, or take the handle with you. Get that valve if possible. If not get another of that size. It must be designed for steam, not hot water only. In any event you will get a new spud with the new valve. Ask for a spud wrench that will fit your new spud. (also buy a 4" nipple that just fits inside the new spud from the threaded end)
    Your spud wrench might...might unscrew the old one. Might break off the ears inside the old one. If ears come off then jam the 4" nipple inside the old spud. With a hacksaw cut off the nut, (you might be referring to this as a bolt, but it is a nut).
    Then with the nipple jammed inside to prevent the old spud from collapsing try a pipe wrench on the old spud.

    Don't tip the rad over on you, they can be top heavy and break something if they fall over. Some times you get lucky. If not then search on this site for spud removal. There are several videos to see that will explain a lot.

    Make sure your new spud & nut match your old valve on the pipe, should screw all the way on by hand. If not you will have to change the valve to your new matching valve. (2 pipe wrenches on the valve removal)

    Don't cut the threads on the rad, they are steel, what you are removing is soft brass. Then wrap 3 turns of Teflon tape on the spud, plus some pipe dope and start it by hand and tighten with your new spud wrench. (don't forget to put the nut on the spud in the correct direction........I have never done something like that ;) ........)

    If anything the pipe coming out of the floor can be raised up to match up with rad. Usually you don't want to lower it. When finished the rad should slope towards the valve for draining condensate back to the valve. Just some slope for draining, usually nothing drastic. Checkers have been recommended under the legs opposite the valve end.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,842
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    That type of valve is notorious for developing hairline cracks in the body. I'd simply replace it with a better-quality valve.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    ethicalpaul
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    OK, I bought a spud wrench, it pretty much flattened, or broke off the ears inside of the spud. So what you are saying is buy a 4" nipple, with a diameter that fits snug inside the existing spud, jam it inside of the spud, and try to twist it out of there?
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    i get it, you put the 4" nipple in there to prevent the spud from collapsing as you wrap a tight wrench around it. and you do suggest cutting off the nut with a hacksaw.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    I'm not understanding why you would want to cut the nut off? That nut is threaded into the radiator and the spud threads into that nut. You want to get that spud out and your new spud will screw into the inside threads on that nut.
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,115
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    The spud is threaded into a bushing. Remove the bushing and the spud will come out with it. Replace with a new bushing. I replaced all my rad valves and spuds last year. This is easy, lay the rad on its side, put your biggest pipe wrench on the bushing and remove. Mine came out quite easy after 75 plus years.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Mark N said:

    The spud is threaded into a bushing. Remove the bushing and the spud will come out with it. Replace with a new bushing. I replaced all my rad valves and spuds last year. This is easy, lay the rad on its side, put your biggest pipe wrench on the bushing and remove. Mine came out quite easy after 75 plus years.

    OK, I'm good with that but I don't think any of us told the poster he'd need to buy a new bushing and i bet he didn't :) I'm a little bit more cautious, I guess. I'd rather try to get the spud out and leave the nut as my first option. Ruin the radiator threads when trying to take the nut out and you're pretty much done with that radiator. In any case, Cutting the nut off is not what he want's to do. That hex is the only thing he/she has to grab hold of if removing the bushing is the option of choice.
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    the spud had nut around it, I can't get to the spud without cutting it off.
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    i am not going to touch the hex nut that is on the radiator. That the spud screws into
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    I got you. If you are cutting the spud or nut that attaches to the valve, that's fine. Sorry I misunderstood.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
    edited October 2015
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    Yes, he should cut the old union nut off to gain pipe wrench access on the bad spud. If the 4" nipple does not fit well into the pipe I have ground it down to size or get a bolt that fits snugly into the spud.

    If you have your new valve & spud, if you take the new spud with you shopping then you have an idea of the size of insert you might need. You may not even need the insert plug, but if the spud collapses or egg shapes it becomes tighter and more of a challenge. I would apply some PB blaster to the spud......smells bad but has loosened a lot of rusty things for me and I forgive it for its aroma.
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    i got the spud off. Hacksawed the nut, gained access to the spud, and got it! Now i can go to the supply store and have them size the parts I need based on the old spud.

    So is everyone of the opinion I should get a brand new valve as well?

    Also, the underneath side of the radiator is pretty rusty. Should I be worried about that, and is there anything I should do?
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,478
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    The spud and valve are a matched set, probably best to replace both at the same time. Some new valves are shorter than the old ones were so you may have to extend the pipe that feeds the valve also.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
    edited October 2015
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    Congratulations!! It should give you a feeling of accomplishment.

    As Steamhead said that particular brand of steam valve has given trouble over time. You need to step up from whatever it is. The new valve comes with a new spud.

    Use TWO wrenches to remove the old valve and two to install the new. You can raise the riser pipe thru the floor but you don't want to push it down. With the valve out of the way you probably can install the new spud without moving the radiator.
    Teflon tape and some pipe dope for both spud and floor pipe. Nothing on the union, just be sure it is lined up correctly.
    Good luck and let us know the results.

    BTY did you use/need the insert pipe/bolt? I have had the spud wrench remove old spuds and some have come out fairly easy, but easy can sometime turn into chit.
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    I bought a spud wrench. It broke the ears off within a couple of minutes. So I went back out, bought a 4 inch nipple. I didn't even take it out of the plastic bag it came in, i just shoved it in there! I wrestled with the wrench on the spud (after removal of the nut) for about 5 minutes before it started to loosen. I cheered out loud to myself!

    So I can raise the riser pipe through the floor, meaning, I can pull it up, or are we talking about extending by adding more pieces of pipe to it?

    And you are saying use two wrenches, one on each piece, (ie. one on the valve and one on the riser pipe) so as not to mess with/bend the riser pipe, correct?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
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    Yes, you can raise the pipe within reason. Remember that pipe must slope back to the main to drain the condensate water that must return to the boiler from which it left as steam. Also your radiator must slope towards the valve for it to drain also.
    Pushing the pipe down into the floor could create a water trap below the floor which would give you water hammer which you would notice.

    Yes, 2 wrenches to avoid moving the pipe coming up thru the floor. Those pipes below the floor are something you don't want to disturb. So anytime you work on anything above the floor be sure not to move or stress piping you cannot see or have access to.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Great Job!!! Definately replace both the spud and the valve. As has been said, they come as a matched set when you buy the new valve. Keep us posted.
    ethicalpaul
  • cstocker77
    cstocker77 Member Posts: 27
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    I am going to go tomorrow to buy the new valve (w/spud). I can see on the existing valve it says "1", so I believe what I am looking for is a 1" valve and spud.

    The last owner of the house had a brand new valve laying around, that one was bigger, and it had a "1 1/4" on it. So, from that I am guessing the one I need is a 1 inch.

    I've taken a couple pulls on the valve, two wrenches, and I cannot get it off. I will keep at it. I want to just leave it on, but more than one of you have recommended I replace the valve and spud. I don't want to create more problems! But I do have my confidence level up...