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Replacing or fixing steam leak

Ozmat
Ozmat Member Posts: 18
The main steam pipe coming out of the boiler makes a 90 degree turn about three feet above the boiler where the pipe is then bolted to another pipe that goes into a brick wall. At the flange where the two pipes are bolted together there is a significant steam leak when the system is operating. I can remove the four bolts, but seems impossible to unscrew The pipes to get proper access to the seal in the flange. It seems to me the only thing to do is to cut the pipe out. My question is how do you replace the seal properly without destroying my pipe system and my sanity.

Comments

  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,506
    Without seeing a picture, might be easier to crack the elbow, and work off of that.
    steve
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,055
    I have some old systems with that problem....leaking gasket on flanges.
    On a couple, cutting the pressure down from 5 PSI to 2 PSI pretty well stopped the leak.
    I have complemented how to fix others.
    If able to separate the flanges, insert some spacer and file or scrape the old gasket off, then might be able to insert new gasket. Maybe red rector seal on the gasket.
    There might be some solvent to remove old gaskets.
    But you want to not get much into the piping itself.
    FWIW.

    I would like to hear from others who have this problem.
  • Ozmat
    Ozmat Member Posts: 18


    It’s the flange at the top left of the photo. I have no idea in what order these pipes were put together.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,055
    The 90 at the flange looks to be cast iron. It can be "cracked" with a 2-5 Lb hammer while holding a 10 Lb sledge on the opposite side. (common practice)
    Then the flanges would be exposed for cleaning.
    The flange gives you the feature of a union.
    A new 90 and nipple installed and then the flange screwed onto the nipple with new gasket and bolts would put you back in business.
    Provided you get the flange faces clean.
  • Ozmat
    Ozmat Member Posts: 18
    That makes sense. Thanks for the advice. As soon as I get my nerve up and the parts I will give it a wack. Thanks again.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,510
    @Ozmat

    The elbow will crack off but better than pounding (in my opinion) is an angle grinder with an .045 cutting disk.

    Cut down close to the threads, drive an old screwdriver into the crack and it will open up. You may find the old flange faces too pitted, if so you can order a new one.

    What you have is a "flanged union" that is different from standard companion flanges. It will come with both flange half's, a gasket and new bolts
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 901
    Anytime I used a part with a gasket that I may have to take apart in the future I would use "anti-sieze" compound on the gasket. You can buy it in any auto parts store. Ask for Permatex anti sieze compound which costs about $5.00. Even if you can get that flange to separate you will still have to remove the elbow to allow for cleaning the flange surfaces. A flange union that old will usually have an asbestos gasket so I would replace that flanged union with 2 companion flanges. One more thing, that piping must be able to swing slightly give you access to install the new flange pieces. It may be a good idea to install 2 flange sets or 2 unions, 1 in the vertical and 1 in the horizontal or maybe call in a professional company to do the repair.
  • Ozmat
    Ozmat Member Posts: 18
    Wow. This is a head full of knowledge. Thanks everyone. I have called some local companies in the past but no one is really certain about the system I have. I feel uncomfortable letting these people tear away at it and creating more problems. Besides the leak there are eight valves and two big boxlike regulators on the return that I am not sure to open or close or what the valves control. I am not even sure they are moving when I turn the handles. The system heats the house just fine, the the radiators get nice and hot. I know I have a leak inside the boiler at the top of one of the radiators. I can feel moist air at the chimney and I have to add water every four days when I am using the system. I keep thinking if I close my eyes and think happy thoughts the crack will heal itself. This is something I am dreading to open up.



  • motoguy128
    motoguy128 Member Posts: 393
    JUGHNE said:

    The 90 at the flange looks to be cast iron. It can be "cracked" with a 2-5 Lb hammer while holding a 10 Lb sledge on the opposite side. (common practice)
    Then the flanges would be exposed for cleaning.
    The flange gives you the feature of a union.
    A new 90 and nipple installed and then the flange screwed onto the nipple with new gasket and bolts would put you back in business.
    Provided you get the flange faces clean.

    I‘d go this route.

    FYI I tried breaking a 3” cast elbow on mine and failed. But that looks like 2”. Should break fine. I’ve succeeded on 1-1/4” and 1-1/2” elbows. SO maybe just didn’t swing hard enough. Ended up just cutting it out.... a very slow process with a recip. saw but it also works.

    Be sure to place the sledge And hit on the seam of the casting if possible. Works better for me that way.

  • Ozmat
    Ozmat Member Posts: 18
    The pipe measures three inches in diameter. I think I will try to cut it then pry it off.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,510
    @Ozmat said

    "I know I have a leak inside the boiler at the top of one of the radiators. I can feel moist air at the chimney and I have to add water every four days when I am using the system. I keep thinking if I close my eyes and think happy thoughts the crack will heal itself. This is something I am dreading to open up."

    That's a different problem. If the boiler is leaking you need a new one and and a professional to install it. I wouldn't bother with a leaking flange union with a leak in the boiler.

    You need a good steam guy.

    Where are you located? Did you try 'find a contractor" on this site?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,622
    That giant pile of what is very likely aircell asbestos pipe insulation and little gobs of likely asbestos mud on the fitting are also issues. If a boiler section is leaking, it is time to find a steam professional and an abatement company.
    CLamb
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,622
    Actually, before you condemn the boiler, lets take a step back and make sure the leak is there. Did you actually see a leak? When gas burns it produces water and carbon dioxide so the products of combustion normally have a rather high moisture content.

    The way to see if a section of the boiler is leaking is to open the fill valve to flood the boiler until the water is in to the piping while the boiler is off. Let it sit that way for a few hours if you don't immediately see any leaks, look underneath and in the combustion chamber for water leaking out. Drain the boiler down to the normal level. It is a good idea to fire the boiler until it steams to drive the oxygen out of the fresh water you just added before letting it sit waiting for fall.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,055
    IIWM, I would check for actual leaks as Matt said.
    If leaking then the flange could wait for the boiler change.
    If you find no boiler leak then the flange could be your main leak.

    You have some type of 2 pipe vapor system that someone unaware of can really butcher up while trying to repipe a new boiler......there are plenty of examples posted here done by hacks.

    The two devices hiding up behind the ductwork should be identified. There may be names and numbers on them.

    To the left of the boiler there is a pipe going down to the floor.
    It has a drain hose sitting in a pan. Is that pipe coming up thru the concrete or just sitting on the curb.
    Any pipes buried under the floor?? They are the first suspects for unseen leaking.

    If you could back up and take more pictures showing piping floor to ceiling in each shot.....more here would offer more advice.

    Also, show us your typical radiator so we can see both ends.
  • Ozmat
    Ozmat Member Posts: 18
    I am in the Charlotte area. There are no contractors within the 100 mile search. The pipe going to the floor is a 3/4 galvanized steel pipe that fills the boiler. There are no pipes in the floor. The bucket on the floor is for the drain on these box contraptions.



  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,055
    There are several people here who will recognize this system right away. The two return devices ("boxes")and the location of the 2 check valves in the lower piping are key points.

    In any event the steam pressure must be very low for things to work correctly.

    Also, your radiator inlet valves (if original) may be labeled with a trademark.
    And the lower fitting on the outlet of the radiator could be a unique item.
    Could we see them?
    luketheplumber