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wooden cover for exposed steam pipe?

I'm renovating my kitchen and have an exposed steam pipe that I would like to cover for safety and make an attractive wood column over it. However, I have been told that wood will dry out and become a fire hazard.
Is this true? Are there alternatives ( besides moving the pipe)?
Thanks!

Comments

  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,349
    edited January 2021
    Wood ignites at 451*f. A low pressure steam pipe runs at 215*f.

    Folks have been building wooden cabinets over steam radiators for over 100 years and there’s never been a case of the radiator igniting one.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,542
    Installing pipe insulation intended for steam pipes before enclosing with wood will help keep the wood from drying and cracking.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    Ironman
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,317
    I have herd stories from fireman that a steam pipe can start a fire if left in contact with wood, something about lowering the ignition temperature of the wood over time.

    I think if this is true houses would be burning down every day. There are steam pipes in contact with wood everywhere.

    In any event I would insulate the pipe with 1" fiberglass and then box it in with wood if you want
    Zmanethicalpaulgarrettgjp
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,233
    Hi, Have a look here: http://www.warrenforensics.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Low_Temperature_Ignition_Wood.pdf
    It looks like 256 F is a number to remember as it "cooks" wood.

    Yours, Larry
    WMno57
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,317
    @Larry Weingarten

    Dam. I guess going in the cheese melting business isn't a good idea.
    Intplm.
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,233
    Hi @EBEBRATT-Ed , I think it's all in the details! Probably best not to melt cheese with an open flame using wooden utensils in the same old wooden barn where the gunpowder is stored. o:)

    Yours, Larry
    CanuckerIntplm.EdTheHeaterMan
  • mmbt188
    mmbt188 Member Posts: 2
    You guys are awesome! do you tag team as well? Thanks for the well debated views and humor as well. Our steam pipes are scorching and seem to put out as much heat as the radiators ( which have metal covers).
    I will insulate my pipe and talk to my contractor about correct construction of cover.
    Thanks!
    Intplm.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,605
    They definitely are as hot as radiators, but...are people climbing on them or something?
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    mmbt188
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,317
    @ethicalpaul
    Climbing?

    Only when the thermostat isn't calling.
    Ironman
  • jhrost
    jhrost Member Posts: 57
    I don't think a steam pipe could ignite wood but I have a curious example of what looks like charring on joists from contact with a steam pipe. By way of background this building is well over 100 years old, and back in the 1920's the whole building was moved back from the street ( I happened to find the receipt for the job in an old roll top desk recently, a team of horses was used to accomplish the job - moving a big boiler would probably be a piece of cake for them. )

    It was I suspect at that point that a new leg of steampipe was added to service a single upstairs corner radiator. When this came into my purview I found it a little concerning, also the fact that the steam pipe was jammed up against the joists in order to achieve a slope for the condensate to return to the boiler - though it was actually borderline sloping in the opposite direction (house settling over the course of the century may have aggravated this) . Not wanting to weaken the joists I used an aggressive rasp to create a small cavity in the joists to improve the slope a bit - this area at the bottom in actual contact with the pipe was even more charred looking than the higher part of the joist seen in the photo. The charring appears on 5 different joists.

    Hard to believe it could be that hot, though over all those decades it operated as a coal-fired system and was probably on constantly through the winter months. I am not really sure whether this was charring or discoloration, if there is any difference between those two terms. I tend to think it was never in any real danger of ignition, or even that any smoke was produced by the process?
  • Snowmelt
    Snowmelt Member Posts: 1,404
    At very least box it in with wood but at the top put wooden slots so heat escapes, also put insulation around the pipe so it doesn’t give off any heat.
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 1,795

    @ethicalpaul
    Climbing?

    Only when the thermostat isn't calling.

    And they will only clime on it once! For a very very short time.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,451
    None of my radiators or pipes are covered in the house and I have no intention of changing it.

    I have pipes up against wood as well.  I'd call that discoloration,  not charring but I'm no expert.  I have dark spots on wood flooring from radiator legs as well.  Those get hot too.

    I think they make charcoal at something like 600F.  I took a quick look but the subject looks like it's worth a few hours of research.




    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    ethicalpaul
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,563
    I thought this thread may go off-topic in a bad way but no one mentioned "Pole Dancing"

    Now that Girl would literally be HOT!
    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,451
    I thought this thread may go off-topic in a bad way but no one mentioned "Pole Dancing" Now that Girl would literally be HOT!
    I strictly forbid pole dancing with my steam piping.  It has a good chance of working plastic shims I installed under the floors between the wood and piping.


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    EdTheHeaterManIntplm.
  • jhrost
    jhrost Member Posts: 57
    I agree with Chris J that it can probably only cause discoloration. The science and facts you have cited support that , but does that particular piece of wood know it's not supposed to burn? In an abundance of caution it would probably be a good idea to insulate it - that discoloration might cause alarm and concern in those not willing to follow the science - some people are nervous by nature.
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 875
    The discoloration on the joist is most likely from the same effect that causes dark streaks above radiators and around air vents:  The heat from the steam pipe causes convection currents in the surrounding air, and dust and dirt in the air stick to adjacent surfaces.

    Bburd
    ChrisJacwagner
  • jhrost
    jhrost Member Posts: 57
    bburd I like your explanation. The cellar is dusty and those old joists are full unplaned 2 x 10's so their surface is very rough and likely prone to collecting that dust.