Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Fixing pitch issues in old house

ethicalpaul
ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
Hi Gang!
I have a 1915 wood frame home with a one-pipe steam system. I have read a lot and have done some things to make it work nicely (check/replace the air valves, check pitch on radiators, starting to re-insulate the years-ago removed asbestos insulation in the basement, etc).

But I have a second floor radiator in a part of the house that has settled and I can see a bad pitch area in the basement right where the pipe is angling to vertical. I think the settling caused the vertical pipe to lower, and it rotated the joint(s) to make an area of pooling there). If I turn on the valve for that radiator I get a lot of hammer. If I turn it off, I get none at all.

So I'd like to re-pitch that line. But I think I'm going to have to basically:

1. detach the radiator
2. disconnect the vertical pipe in the basement
3. start hauling up the vertical pipe on the second floor until I get to a joint
3.5 keep track of how much I have to lift to get the pitch right in the basement
4. disconnect the pipe at the joint that I find
5. Buy a new length of pipe shorter that the one I just disconnected by the amount that I need to lift the vertical in order to get the pitch right
6. re-attach everything

I guess the alternative would be to get a floor jack up there and lift the radiator like 3 inches or whatever and put some bricks under it :grimace:

Does it seem like I'm thinking about this correctly? I'm going to need some bigger pipe wrenches I think
1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
«1

Comments

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,757
    I would try to raise the entire radiator and riser pipe 1/2" at a time.
    Also put pressure on the basement 90's at the same time.
    A post slightly longer than necessary could be stuck under that point. You kick the post at the floor to get a little lift. Put the post on a scrap of plywood. Kick might be with a small sledge hammer.

    If you have swing 90's that have rotated there they will not be willing to rotate back home very willingly.
    Maybe do 1/2" every day or two.

    If I tried your 6 step plan, I am afraid I would end up in a 12 step program of some sort. ;)
    ethicalpaul
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 11,992
    As usual Mr @Jughne has good advise. Rip some scraps of wood in different thickness and keeping the radiator pitched the right way raise the radiator with a jack or pry bars. I will go with the 1/2"/day method.
    I would put a 2' level on the basement pipe first and see how much it is pitched in the wrong direction. For example If you level the 2' level and have a 1/4" gap at the end of the level your pitch is 1/8"/foot. Then measure the length of the branch from your main to the riser. Say it is 10' 10 x 1/8"/foot= 10/8= 1 1/4" you would need to raise the radiator to get back to level.

    The other alternative is to add a tee to the end of the branch near the riser and drip the branch to a wet return (more work)

    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    You guys this is great advice! I’m doing it just like you said. The prop stick in the basement is genius. I will post pics and results!
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,757
    Remember, it may have taken 50 years of gradual settling to create this condition. You can not change it quickly.
    You are trying to lift not only the rad but a fair amount of steel pipe.
    Many days or even 2 weeks.
    I assume the riser is buried in the wall, not exposed on the first floor.
    So if inside the balloon framing there may be 90's just under the top floor to bring it out for the rad connection. Just more items to move.
    Please let us know how things turn out.
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    Thanks I sure will. Yes it’s all buried in the wall and yes I’m expecting a tremendous weight slow to move so I’ll take it nice and easy with slow leverage.

    This touches on another topic. I know my exterior walls have little to no insulation and it drives me crazy to think of all the heating of the cold exterior part of the wall. I have half a mind to move the risers inside the wall to keep that heat on the correct side of my walls but...I’m married and I’d like to stay that way for now 😅
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,757
    I think that your risers inside the wall would be insulated with asbestos, another reason to leave them in there.
    No one thought of insulating the wall cavity back then, but they knew for steam to work, especially inside an outside wall, that the insulation was needed.
    Also another thing adding to the friction of trying to raise a riser.
    1Matthiasethicalpaul
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 11,992
    You can have insulation blown into your walls. Whatever the cost it will pay for itself if your staying in the house a while. Do some homework, low intrest loan? energy saving programs in your state? see what you can find
    ethicalpauladasilva
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,804
    is the valve you mention in this op the same that you show in picture in your venting post ?
    known to beat dead horses
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    > @EBEBRATT-Ed said:
    > You can have insulation blown into your walls. Whatever the cost it will pay for itself if your staying in the house a while. Do some homework, low intrest loan? energy saving programs in your state? see what you can find

    Thanks, yes I’m good with blowing cellulose and I plan to do it. I know there’s just air in a lot of the walls. My thinking with the riser pipes tho is even with blowing it in there the hot pipe only has at BEST an inch of insulation between it and the sheathing so that’s why I’d greatly prefer it inside where any heat loss goes into the living space. Oh well 🤷🏻‍♂️
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    > @neilc said:
    > is the valve you mention in this op the same that you show in picture in your venting post ?

    No, that valve seems to have a good slope. I’ll post a photo of the collapsed one, you’ll laugh 😂
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    @ethicalpaul , if those pipes have an inch or so of insulation on them, probably asbestos, there is minimal heat loss from them and the cost of removing the asbestos plus the cost of moving them will never pay for itself. I'd say it's best to leave them alone and do as @EBEBRATT-Ed suggested and blow insulation in those wall cavities.
    ethicalpaulwlgann
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    > @Fred said:
    > @ethicalpaul , if those pipes have an inch or so of insulation on them, probably asbestos, there is minimal heat loss from them and the cost of removing the asbestos plus the cost of moving them will never pay for itself. I'd say it's best to leave them alone and do as @EBEBRATT-Ed suggested and blow insulation in those wall cavities.

    Yes don’t worry I’m not actually going to move any pipes, I just am musing about how much I don’t like them out there
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • brandonf
    brandonf Member Posts: 197
    Just a thought. You could also start jacking the floor back up and shimming the joists/ beams as you go... Slowly of course. But it might be worth a shot.
    Homeowner, Entrepreneur, Mechanic, Electrician,

    "The toes you step on today are connected to the butt you'll have to kiss tomorrow". ---Vincent "Buddy" Cianci
    ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,923
    brandonf said:

    Just a thought. You could also start jacking the floor back up and shimming the joists/ beams as you go... Slowly of course. But it might be worth a shot.

    Oh brother. You do like to live dangerously...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    edited October 2018
    Here’s the valve on the settled part of the house. It goes to a bedroom over a porch and that part has definitely settled over the last century but I’m no mood to try to lift it back quite yet.

    I made sure the possibly level joist was in the photo for reference
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,923
    Eek. Am I really seeing just a short section of what should be horizontal pipe with a valve on it, from the T off the main on the left to the elbow going up? If it's that short, it's a wonder it hasn't broken something...

    On raising that section of the house. Of course it can be done. It's really amazing what can be done, if one sets one's mind to it. But. It takes a good bit of time and some really creative thinking to do it (been there, done that). Depending on the wall coverings and the type of construction, it can sometimes be done without much damage. Post and beam structures with no plaster, for instance, are pretty simple. On the other hand, balloon framing or, worse, platform framing with sheet rock or, again worse, plaster... ah not so much.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,757
    How about a picture of the radiator upstairs and it's valve.
    ethicalpaulR Dougan
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    edited October 2018
    Sure, here it is. You can see dramatic settling right at the radiator (floor is mid-reno). I shimmed up the left side to ensure slope toward the pipe end.

    Edit: actually it’s hard to see in the photo but on the left, the flooring in the 70’s was shimmed up with felt paper and plywood to level up about a 1.5” sag in the wood floor
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    > @Jamie Hall said:
    > Eek. Am I really seeing just a short section of what should be horizontal pipe with a valve on it, from the T off the main on the left to the elbow going up? If it's that short, it's a wonder it hasn't broken something...

    Yes that’s what you’re seeing 😄

    In the shadow on the left is a joint. I think over time both joints rotated at the threads to let the vertical pipe lower without breaking anything.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,923
    Amazing what a threaded joint will put up with. Since it is so short, however, you only have to get it level and make sure the valve really is fully open and it should be fine.

    I'm not really keen -- from the structural point of view -- about the sagging floor. I presume that the board (?) at the edge which one end of the radiator is sitting on is held up by something independently underneath? And that whatever is holding up the floor boards has sagged? Or, possibly, come adrift completely? I'd really be wanting to get under that floor and find out what's amiss there. There should have been a ledger board of some sort to hold up the ends of the floorboards, and then probably a joist somewhere around sixteen inches to two feet in.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,757
    Are you certain that the pipe you see go up inside the wall is directly connected to the rad valve?
    It seems like there would be a set of 90's to bring it out of the wall under the floor between floor joists and then up thru the bedroom floor.
  • Gilmorrie
    Gilmorrie Member Posts: 160
    I would first try shimming the radiator legs.
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    JUGHNE said:

    Are you certain that the pipe you see go up inside the wall is directly connected to the rad valve?
    It seems like there would be a set of 90's to bring it out of the wall under the floor between floor joists and then up thru the bedroom floor.

    No, not certain, but pretty sure. It isn't on the same spot on the wall, if that's what you are noticing, because the bedroom it's in sits partially over the front porch, under a gable roof that projects off the front of the house. So in the basement it's in the wall, but in the bedroom, it's inside a wall that is actually perpendicular to the basement wall in the photo!

    Also, I have nothing to lose by trying to haul it up a couple inches...I have had the valve turned off for about a year because the water hammer was insufferable.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    Gilmorrie said:

    I would first try shimming the radiator legs.


    Yeah, I did that to ensure the radiator was sloped toward the pipe, you can see the chunks of board under the left side. Shims aren't gonna cut it for the situation I have here--you can see the large reverse angle I have to overcome in the basement to avoid water pooling down there.

    Some time ago I verified where the hammer was occurring by standing in the basement as a heat cycle started up. Thanks though, that would be great if that's all it needed.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    edited October 2018

    Amazing what a threaded joint will put up with. Since it is so short, however, you only have to get it level and make sure the valve really is fully open and it should be fine.

    I'm not really keen -- from the structural point of view -- about the sagging floor. I presume that the board (?) at the edge which one end of the radiator is sitting on is held up by something independently underneath? And that whatever is holding up the floor boards has sagged? Or, possibly, come adrift completely? I'd really be wanting to get under that floor and find out what's amiss there. There should have been a ledger board of some sort to hold up the ends of the floorboards, and then probably a joist somewhere around sixteen inches to two feet in.

    I'm not keen on it either! But I know the floor sag occurred (or was noticed and "dealt with") about 30 years ago based on the style of the flooring that was put in when they built up the sagged part. The house is 103 years old and so I hope I have a couple years to look into that kettle of fish. The radiator I can have a shot at fixing single handedly for about zero dollars so I'm doing that first. Thanks for the input about the floor, though, I appreciate it and agree with you.

    Since you might be interested, here's the house. The part where the floor sags in the part of the bedroom that hangs out over the front porch. So either the porch supports have sunk, or the joists or whatever they used to hold up that part of the bedroom were too weak and like folded over the exterior wall.



    On the porch you might notice another radiator that rusted out from the main floor that I have yet to replace. My neighbors love it
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Why don't you just take that union loose, raise the radiator where you want it and enough to give you a little pitch on that pipe, swing the pipe up, after you raise the radiator and reconnect the union?
    Actually, after looking at your picture again, I don't think you can just raise the radiator anyway. It looks to me (Very dark picture at the turn) that part of your problem is due to the fact your main is pitched (as it should be) and that they used a 90 elbow to make that turn and the pitch of the main contributes to that short pipe being pitched downward. Trying to lift the radiator will only crack that elbow. You need to take that union apart, raise the radiator, take the 90 elbow off where it connects to the other end of the short 1" pipe and replace the elbow with two 45's so that you can get the swing you need and the pitch you want. Then use a union to reconnect the two ends. If it were me, I'd take that valve out as well or I'd replace it with a full port valve.
    ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,923
    I like @Fred 's piping idea. Since you have a union there. Clearances are a bit tight (chortle) but that just adds to the fun.

    On the other topic -- do you happen to know if the dormer with the bedroom was original? If not, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the porch roof joists were never meant to take the load. Wouldn't be the first time. At least it's outside the main envelope, so repairs might not be too difficult. Maybe...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    @Jamie Hall , there is something going on with that dormer. I just can't figure it out from the house picture. The front facia, across the porch looks too straight for the sag to have occurred in that bedroom floor but, when I look at the peak of the roofline, it looks to be sagging toward the middle of the house.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    Yeah they might have had to replace that elbow due to stress or a leak due to the movement of the pipe, I note it’s galvanized. Anyway I’ll take all the suggestions and see which ones help!
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,306
    As a former postal employee I want to commend your putting the radiator on the front porch opposite the mailbox. Just the thought of a warm up has to be gratifying to the letter carrier.

    My house is the same style, 1917 balloon framed with hard fir studs and nothing is level or plumb. That old tight grained fir is like iron. I was lucky and got away with shimming the radiators with strips of plywood. My radiator runouts are at least 10 ft long before the go vertical.

    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
    ethicalpaul
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,804
    where are you hearing this hammering?
    down in the basement where you have that dip at the valve?
    or,
    upstairs there where I envision a horizontal run between the riser from the basement and to the rad in the 2nd floor?
    known to beat dead horses
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518

    Yeah they might have had to replace that elbow due to stress or a leak due to the movement of the pipe, I note it’s galvanized. Anyway I’ll take all the suggestions and see which ones help!

    I didn't mean the galvanized elbow. I mean the elbow on the other end of that pipe coming out of the Main.
    ethicalpaul
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,757
    This may your chance to move a pipe out of the wall.
    Actually abandon it and run new exposed from the basement to the 2nd floor.

    I predict a domestic discussion concerning this! :)
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    neilc said:

    where are you hearing this hammering?
    down in the basement where you have that dip at the valve?
    or,
    upstairs there where I envision a horizontal run between the riser from the basement and to the rad in the 2nd floor?

    It seemed to me to be in the basement at that dip. Why does everyone think I have a horizontal run between my basement and second floor? Was that a common thing? I'm pretty sure it runs straight up, but I'll be sure to let you know!
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    JUGHNE said:

    This may your chance to move a pipe out of the wall.
    Actually abandon it and run new exposed from the basement to the 2nd floor.

    I predict a domestic discussion concerning this! :)


    I kind of hope I'm unable to lift it as it sits so that I am "forced" to do exactly this!! And there would be a hell of a discussion...although she does like steampunk, and what is more steampunk than a freaking steam pipe running up the wall in the dining room??? :lol:
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518

    JUGHNE said:

    This may your chance to move a pipe out of the wall.
    Actually abandon it and run new exposed from the basement to the 2nd floor.

    I predict a domestic discussion concerning this! :)


    I kind of hope I'm unable to lift it as it sits so that I am "forced" to do exactly this!! And there would be a hell of a discussion...although she does like steampunk, and what is more steampunk than a freaking steam pipe running up the wall in the dining room??? :lol:
    If it's in a corner, it could still be boxed in and drywalled.
    ethicalpaul
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,757
    Short horizontal pipe:
    I am (maybe others) thinking that your basement vertical riser is inside an existing outside wall. And that the 2nd floor wall behind that radiator is stacked (via balloon framing) on top of the existing outside wall. Therefore to get the riser to the rad valve would have to have an horizontal nipple to swing over out of that exterior wall. This would be under that floor.

    You could disconnect the rad, cut the floor board behind it from the valve riser to the left to the next joist and feel for sure.

    Also some houses had an outside screened sleeping room for the summer. They would have an outside door going out to the "balcony". The floor would have been sloped to drain rain out away from that door thru scuppers, drains thru the bottom of the 1/2 wall to spill water out on the shingles. Could that have been the case with your dormer room? The construction for the floor would have been only for porch load, like your main porch....a little less than the actual house construction.
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    Man, you guys are amazing. There is a short horizontal under that floor—I’m not sure how long it is or the direction, but I found out it’s there.

    I have lifted the radiator 1.5” so far and it has eliminated the big hammer but there is still some wrong slope to overcome that is causing quiet gurgling which I think I read is bad for my steam.

    I think I’m going to re-run that riser in the living space. There seems to be some galvanized in use on it so I’m thinking of killing 3 birds with one relatively painful stone
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,923
    If it cheers your wife up any -- all the risers in the main place I care for are visible on the various walls (mostly outside walls). It simply wasn't possible to put them in the walls when steam was installed in 1930 -- since the building dates from between 1780 and 1893. Nobody ever notices them...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,081

    If it cheers your wife up any -- all the risers in the main place I care for are visible on the various walls (mostly outside walls). It simply wasn't possible to put them in the walls when steam was installed in 1930 -- since the building dates from between 1780 and 1893. Nobody ever notices them...

    My house is the same way. Wife doesn't like it much, but she tolerates it.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    ethicalpaul