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Black Fittings and Nipples---USA made or Import--Opinion Survey

JUGHNE
JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,317
edited April 26 in THE MAIN WALL
This is for a low pressure, less than 2 PSI steam project. Up to 4" in size.
I have seen U-tubes by major reputational companies use import fittings/nipples.
Also installs here on the wall using both.
There is an obvious price difference so how much should one gamble?

This install would be all visible and accessible work.
I install threaded fittings with the thought of how to replace or tighten if needed.
Unions as needed so as to not "paint yourself into the corner".
Actual pipe would be USA made.

How much grief has resulted for import threads?

More problems with the fittings or the nipples?

Would a happy medium be USA fittings and import nipples?

I always try to use USA black fittings and nipples for gas piping.

Thanks for the input.

Comments

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 2,993
    edited April 26
    I can't believe I have the audacity to provide feedback on your question :) Especially you, who was one of the very first to reply to my very first post here where I had no main vent, a clogged p'trol set too high, a pretzel of near-boiler piping and especially I had no freaking clue about anything :lol:

    But I'm going to anyway because you asked!

    Who has ever seen any steam fitting of any country of manufacturer fail in a residential or light commercial heating application? And if so was it less than 100 years old?

    I'll wager no one has seen any steam fitting of any country of manufacture fail in the field. Maybe after over 100 years a steam pipe might fail (might!), but they are much thinner. Here's a bold wager--I will say that statistically zero low pressure import steam fittings have ever failed to this date. If you know of one, feel free to educate my ignorant self.

    I suspect that's why our friend uses some import fittings--it helps him get jobs where he can use the money where it will actually make a difference that will matter (as in high quality drain ports and good solid support hardware). Maybe he'll tell us!

    Having said that, I bought domestic fittings for my boiler :sweat_smile: But I was able to re-use more than half of the existing ones.

    PS: I would do the opposite of what you said "Would a happy medium be USA fittings and import nipples?" The nipples are the failure points, right? So I would go with domestic beefy ones.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,317
    I have come across some defective threads that were noticed as you try to fit things together. They were obvious.
    Maybe 6 bad import ones and even one USA Anvil.

    The real concern is the longevity of the steel....maybe pinholes in the future from porous castings?
    ethicalpaul
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 408
    I worked mostly on large boilers both low and high pressure and have rarely seen a foreign nipple or fitting fail. What I have seen is poor manufacturing of those items by over-threading the fittings and nipples to the point that they will not seal even when threaded all the way together without getting tight.

    Quite a few years ago the Pennsylavnia State inspectors for pressure vessels warned us of defective fittings and flanges used for high pressure applications where the country "CHINA" was filling defects in the castings with wood putty and then painting over the wood putty. They said that any fittings manufactured in China were being banned from use. I used "made in USA" any time I could but some supply houses would not sell them due to the cost.
    JUGHNE
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 1,295
    One time @ehicalpaul, one time only did I find a bad elbow. It was a 3/4 inch black steel on a gas line. The thing had a pinhole leak and, of course, would not hold air for the inspection test.

    @JUGHNE . I would use what is available. Meaning, whatever is in stock.
    One of the reasons we are all putting so much tape and compound on pipe threads nowadays is because we don't trust the manufactured fittings we get now. Sometimes you don't know where they have come from.
    I like the made in the USA stuff the best. However, the price always seems to be higher. It's (Sort of like the crazy high price gouging lumber prices lately.)
    JUGHNEethicalpaul
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 9,014
    I haven't got anything to add. Usually when I see defects in the foreign stuff it's bad threads on the nipples.

    So basically if they look ok they probably are ok. Some supply houses don't even stock the USA stuff.

    If I had my way it would be all USA but that horse left the barn years ago.

    We had a big job years ago with a lot of threaded gas pipe. Couldn't get it to hold pressure to pass inspection. Checked every joint multiple times. Turns out it was the welded seam in the pipe
    JUGHNE
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,141
    edited April 26
    I prefer domestic over import when it comes to fittings and pipes. I have found the import to have poor engineering from time to time. Threads that are not at 90° on tee and elbow fittings. Difficult to start at times. But once you get the job up and running the Chineezeium holds up as long as you need it to! I just find there are a few more factory defects on the lower-cost items.
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey Shore.
    Cleaned & services first oil heating system at age 16
    JUGHNE
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,320
    Domestic below the water line. Foreign above. 
    EdTheHeaterManEBEBRATT-EdJUGHNEIntplm.
  • BenDplumber
    BenDplumber Member Posts: 26
    Ethicalpaul I'd be happy to take your wager, how much you willing to bet?? In my area all pressure piping, hydronic, fuel gas, domestic water, medical gasses etc. Are pressure tested 3 times the operating pressure with a kuhlman gauge for 15 min residential and anything over 2" commercial with a 24 hour time recording clock. import fittings and pipe failure rates are higher due to sand holes in fittings, cast and malleable, leaking weld seams in a53 sch 40 and 80 carbon steel pipe, nipples. The low upfront cost of import fittings is lost when you have to break down a piping system to replace a leaking fitting or pipe. But since inspection parameters are different upon location I'm sure the outcomes will vary. Domestic only for me when it comes to piping. Curious if other plumbers and fitters that have put in miles of pipe for a living agree? Not just one homeowner residential boiler installation. :)
    ethicalpaul
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 9,014
    If you read specs for a federal job they sometimes (maybe always) spec USA made although I think they allow Canadian stuff,

    Don't know how the can control this.

    I can't remember the last time I saw a brass fitting that wasn,t stamped Thiland

    I think @STEAM DOCTOR idea makes a good compromise.......makes sense

    I have been in plenty of supply house's that don't stock USA. You have to use what's available.

    Bought a run of 3/4 black nipples a couple of years ago. China. Threw the box in the truck without looking inside. When I got back to the job about 1/2 the nipples in the box were junk.

    Looked like they cut the threads with a dull die or no oil
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,655
    I stick to ward or anvil and use American nipples even though there’s a big difference in anything over 1 1/2 . I find most of the time the foreign nipples have a crappy chipped threads so I pass on using them personally and take a beating on domestic pricing . As for foreign fittings it seems most of the larger chain supplies only carry foreign being everybody wants cheap so why stock American just give them what they want .i think a lot of strictly plumbing / heating supply house are mostly domestic while I see a lot of hvac supply chains carrying strictly imported garbage and miles of csst no need for steel piping .As things are pricing has seemed to be getting crazy and you have to double and triple chk your pricing and bids other wise you will be standing tall before the man and realize you made zero . I know on larger nipples the price difference is 1/2 and it’s very seductive alternative to save and make some possible profit but it’s not in me as I get older to not stay true to my self and I feel it’s to late to start changing what has always worked w no issues but that’s me . As things stand I recently received e mails from a few supply houses stating increases across the board on there whole line card isn’t that special now of course no percentage was stated on the increases but as things have always been once they get the higher price that becomes the new standard price great way for corporate to still stay on top when corporate taxes are increased let the bottom feed the top .in closing I got a quote for a boiler and was told the price was good for 14 days and to call again to chk on price . So now when I do a proposal it’s only good for 2 weeks . Welcome to the future and I’m done w today’s rant
    Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    STEVEusaPA
  • Grallert
    Grallert Member Posts: 514
    Not a failure really as much as an over sight? I have a 2" black 90 domestic that has no threading cut into it. I can't remember how long it took me to figure it out in the dark wet cellar I was working it. It's on my bench as a reminder that weird things happen.
    ethicalpaulEdTheHeaterMan
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 2,993

    Ethicalpaul I'd be happy to take your wager, how much you willing to bet?? In my area all pressure piping, hydronic, fuel gas, domestic water, medical gasses etc. Are pressure tested 3 times the operating pressure with a kuhlman gauge for 15 min residential and anything over 2" commercial with a 24 hour time recording clock. import fittings and pipe failure rates are higher due to sand holes in fittings, cast and malleable, leaking weld seams in a53 sch 40 and 80 carbon steel pipe, nipples. The low upfront cost of import fittings is lost when you have to break down a piping system to replace a leaking fitting or pipe. But since inspection parameters are different upon location I'm sure the outcomes will vary. Domestic only for me when it comes to piping. Curious if other plumbers and fitters that have put in miles of pipe for a living agree? Not just one homeowner residential boiler installation. :)

    Fair enough Ben! So how much higher are the import failure rates?
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 9,014
    @Grallert

    I have had the same thing happen. Only happened once, tried screwing a nipple in LOL
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,317
    I believe I will follow Steam Doctor's advice. Domestic below the water line and import above.
    Pricing can be about half for import looking at 2"--3" and some 4".
    Also as I look at availability with Supply House, the Domestic inventory looks thin compared to import.
    IMO, that indicates many people buying import.

    I have always leaned towards USA made but the price dictates what I have to do.
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 408
    I went one step more than the Steam Doctor and always used sch 80 below the water line and sch40 above the water line and all steam fittings were standard cast iron or X heavy for higher pressures. One more thing, any time you worked on repairs for the steel industry especially U S Steel, every fitting had to be made in the USA.
    JUGHNE
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,175
    I've had an equal amount of imported vs domestic fittings with bad threads, and honestly more domestic fittings that have cracked. Nipples and pipe have never been an issue for me with either, but I have had less trouble overall with imported fittings. With that said, I still buy Ward or Anvil when possible but just add a spare or two in case.
    JUGHNE
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,186
    So far in my lifetime I have cracked less than five fittings. I know that two of them were due to me being an idiot and over tightening the pipe and using two large of a wrench for the pipe I was installing. The other times it was when I was being cheap and tried to reuse old fittings that looked good enough to save. I prefer using all american-made fittings but specifically the ward brand. The only time I have quality control issues with import product is when I'm buying the cheapest of the cheap. Fortunately I'm not in my twenties anymore and I get to make better decisions. Everything we install is man-made and being such is prone to errors. Some of the best quality fittings I've ever used have also been imported. Before everybody runs out and uses schedule 80 please compare the flow charts as the inside diameter of schedule 80 is significantly smaller than schedule 40 and restricting the return to a boiler is a good way to kill it. By going to schedule 80 you may need to bump up a pipe size and if you were borderline on two inch bumping up to two and a half inch schedule 80 is an extreme price change. 
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
    ChrisJJUGHNEethicalpaulSTEVEusaPA
  • Lance
    Lance Member Posts: 149
    The facts: 20 Years ago my boiler pipe fitter could not put a proper thread on a black malleable steel pipe. He tried multiple times, he tried new die teeth. We even bought a new die. I even tried it figuring it was a user error? I, a Master pipe fitter, couldn't do it. It was manually done but pipe always chipped. Called my supplier. Found he got it from china. I sent the 200' load back, less 4' of waste and requested US Steel only. No more problems. Never bought anything but us steel from him since. The cost of the problem far surpassed the so called cheaper price. Remember: https://www.charlottepipe.com/Documents/InfoKits/Buy_America_Letter_020821.pdf
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,186
    @Lance we had an old experience plumber working for my father who started complaining about Chinese pipe and imported pipe and telling us he couldn't get a decent thread on it. I found out he was using used motor oil as cutting fluid. My limited experience around threaders which only goes back to the very early 1980s is that most of the issues with runners can be traced to operator error. If the imported pipe were so bad it would cause itself to go extinct. Jmho. 
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
    ethicalpaul
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,008
    Cutting oil has extreme pressure additives. Motor oil does not. The EP additives are important where the die is cutting in to the steel.

    That being said, the alloy and the way it is heat treated is important to make it cut properly. I'm sure many of the chinese manufacturers have figured it out at this point (although the black pipe i got from home depot came from uae or something like that).
  • scott w.
    scott w. Member Posts: 137
    My thoughts: Folks, why not support good quality American manufacture of heating products. If you don't support these companies many of these quality products made in America will be gone. We all will be stuck with poor quality goods made in foreign countries. The idea of make stuff cheaper, who cares how long it lasts, I don't want to pay much has permeated our culture. It is a rarity to find any household item that is made to last a generation. I, for one, am willing to pay up to buy an item that will last more than a lifetime of a fruit fly.
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 9,014
    Cutting oil makes a huge difference.

    But all cutting oil is not the same

    We were on a job and were having the same difficulty as above, couldn't get a good thread. Tried other dies, no luck. Struggled all morning

    While at the supply house getting new dies I bought a new gallon of cutting oil. I don't remember the brand of cutting oil we were using but the new stuff I picked up was 'Hercules Dark".

    End of problem and we were using the old dies so I know it was the oil. never installed the new chasers


    I also had a propress issue with imported copper.

    We were piping a bunch of reheat hot water coils. new 2" copper main that reduced in size so we were pressing every size from 3/4" -2"

    When we pressure tested it the 2" leaked (not every joint but we had 4 leaks) everything else was fine.


    We sent the 2" jaws and machine in to get checked and they were fine and the fittings were pressed properly.

    We cut the leakers out and sent it back to Viega to examine.

    The 2" tubing we had was made in England. All the other pipe was USA pipe

    Veiga claimed the pipe wasn't made correctly that when it was rolled and the seam came together there was a depression that the crimp couldn't make up for, yet you could not see it with your eyes.

    We finished the job with a torch
    EdTheHeaterManCharlie from wmass
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,186
    scott w. said:
    My thoughts: Folks, why not support good quality American manufacture of heating products. If you don't support these companies many of these quality products made in America will be gone. We all will be stuck with poor quality goods made in foreign countries. The idea of make stuff cheaper, who cares how long it lasts, I don't want to pay much has permeated our culture. It is a rarity to find any household item that is made to last a generation. I, for one, am willing to pay up to buy an item that will last more than a lifetime of a fruit fly.
    Because we are only the humble contractors and we do not get to choose what is stocked by our wholesalers. Now they like to make us think that we can choose. They make us feel as if our input matters to them. The truth is we don't have a choice. I buy most of my pipe and fittings from a wholesaler that usually has American made stuff. I cannot guarantee that every fitting and every piece of pipe that I install is American made because I need to go to war with the army that I have not the Army I would like.

    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 485
    Here is the problem! I order USA supplies, get a mix of import and USA supplies, on occasion I try to pay the vendor with Chinese yen, he does not like that and makes a big fuss, but its O.K. to supply counterfeit supplies. The statement is it is nothing personal only business.

    I am retired 30 years and had my issues back then. I only bought Ward and Stockham fittings and USA made nipples in the non ferrous pipe and fitting line. Only bought brass and copper made in the USA.

    The only problems I had were of my own making, although few and far between it was my fault not a manufacturer.

    Jake
    Charlie from wmass
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 408
    Many years ago, the company that I worked for was tasked with a re-plumb job that included a domestic hot water storage tank for a coin operated laundry. Me and my helper worked about 5 days installing the 250 gallon storage tank and all the copper tubing ranging in sizes of 2" and down. Now, I take great pride in my soldering ability, but imagine my surprise when every solder joint leaked, not just some solder joints but every solder joint. I re-soldered a few of the joints and found that they too leaked. Long story short, the copper was from a leading supplier but was made in a foreign country and was defective. The supplier ate the whole cost of the job.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,567
    scott w. said:

    My thoughts: Folks, why not support good quality American manufacture of heating products. If you don't support these companies many of these quality products made in America will be gone. We all will be stuck with poor quality goods made in foreign countries. The idea of make stuff cheaper, who cares how long it lasts, I don't want to pay much has permeated our culture. It is a rarity to find any household item that is made to last a generation. I, for one, am willing to pay up to buy an item that will last more than a lifetime of a fruit fly.

    What about in cases where the imported items are of better quality than the American ones and also lower priced?

    Many years ago, the company that I worked for was tasked with a re-plumb job that included a domestic hot water storage tank for a coin operated laundry. Me and my helper worked about 5 days installing the 250 gallon storage tank and all the copper tubing ranging in sizes of 2" and down. Now, I take great pride in my soldering ability, but imagine my surprise when every solder joint leaked, not just some solder joints but every solder joint. I re-soldered a few of the joints and found that they too leaked. Long story short, the copper was from a leading supplier but was made in a foreign country and was defective. The supplier ate the whole cost of the job.

    What was wrong with the copper that caused the joints to leak?

    Did the solder flow over the copper properly?
    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
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 657
    Chris J made a good point. Back about 15 to 20 years ago, The machining of the Chinese fittings was excellent ( material still seemed weaker) and US made fittings were poorly machined. Some US made pipe was also garbage... we went to canadian suppliers.
    Here in Chicago, our main suppliers only stock US made for threaded fittings, but do stock import welded fittings. Sounds like I'm pretty lucky
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 9,014
    Reminds me

    Someone mentioned (maybe on this forum) that the 10' black pipe which is usually painted black is Canadian made and the 21 footers with the varnish on them are American made. Is this true?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,008
    The black painted pipe i bought was made in like uae.

    How was the copper tube defective? too small so the solder didn't fil the gap?
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 408
    edited May 11
    @ChrisJ The copper pipe had a funny looking seam of a slightly different sheen than the rest of the copper surface that was barely noticeable which would release an oil substance when the pipe or fitting was heated for soldering. Nothing I did would remove that defect. The funny thing was that the solder flowed over the whole joint so a defective solder flow was not noticeable. That copper was supplied by one of the prominent copper mfg. from the USA.
    mattmia2
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,008
    Maybe the seam wasn't completely welded so there was a crack that water could flow through (and that was too fine for solder to flow in to)
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