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.

Removing old stuck pipe fittings...advice?

AdmiralYoda
AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 459
I've been mulling over if I want to re-pipe my near boiler piping myself or have someone else do it. Either way, I have a question on how to best remove the old pipe fittings.

The area in question is probably 60-70ish years old and has 2" pipe and cast iron fittings. I was thinking of breaking them apart with a sledge but I wouldn't mind saving the fittings if I can for re-use. They are probably better quality than what I can buy today.

Any good methods for removing old pipes and fittings without destroying them? I have a 4ft pipe wrench but I'm expecting to crush the pipe before the fittings break loose.
«1

Comments

  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,335
    edited March 17
    PB Blaster overnight and four foot wrench. I took apart 90 yr old pipe/fittings fairly easily recently with a couple two foot wrenches. Next option, cut the pipe about an inch from fitting, make two cuts in the exposed inch and with a hammer and punch deform the pipe and wrench it out.
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 459
    @SlamDunk I've got the next best thing....Kroil :) Love that stuff. Maybe I'll give the fittings a few squirts every day for a few weeks. Might be able to take the pipes off by hand after that. (Kidding)
    wmgeorgecross_skier
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,759
    I use an 18" pipe wrench with a 48" cheater black steam pipe of 1-1/2 over it.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    PC7060
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,997
    edited March 18
    There ae also various styles of compound wrenches to look at
  • Phillysteamguy
    Phillysteamguy Member Posts: 1
    Use a sawzaw if none of the above methods work. Sawzaw is my back up if I can’t get the pipes unthreaded. I usually leave about 2 inches of pipe in the fittings and cut the inside of the pipe in the fitting. It’s called “caping”.
  • Big Ed_4
    Big Ed_4 Member Posts: 1,901
    edited March 18
    Let me save you time and money ....You don't want to reused a 70 year old fitting unless you have to . Two lugs and break them off .
    I have enough experience to know , that I dont know it all
  • veteransteamhvac
    veteransteamhvac Member Posts: 54
    I have to say that although I admire your attention to detail there are times in life when it's best to just let the old stuff go. The only situation I would work hard to recover a fitting is if it is an obscure older special piece not easy to duplicate today or connected in such a way that it's best to leave it. But if we're talking elbows and tees I'm not sure it's worth the effort.
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 781
    I use an 18" pipe wrench with a 48" cheater black steam pipe of 1-1/2 over it.
    Exactly my approach but my cheater is a 2” black pipe from hot water system!  😏
    ethicalpaul
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,997
    large emt or fence rail makes a much lighter cheater
    Canucker
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,317
    The old chrome vacuum cleaner wands are remarkably strong but the id limits the size wrench you can use them on.

    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
    mattmia2
  • mygardenshed
    mygardenshed Member Posts: 51
    I scored mine with a cutoff disk taking care not to go all the way to the thread of the pipe. Two score lines and a rap with a hammer completed the cut. Easy to turn off at that point. Whatever method you chose be gentle while trying to turn the fitting off. You may cause a leak upstream if you’re too rough. I know because it happened to me.
    wmgeorge
  • Daveinscranton
    Daveinscranton Member Posts: 115
    Sometimes a little judicious heat helps things along.  Easier done in a pipe vise.  Helps in a pinch if you need a hard to come by fitting.
  • bobbob
    bobbob Member Posts: 70
    You can look up caping chisel, although I think any cold chisel could work as well. There are tutorials on youtube that demonstrate very clearly how to take pipes and fittings apart this way. It requires some patience. One thing I have found is that when assembling again you have to be careful NOT to overtighten fittings. I busted a fitting the other day. We're not looking at high steam pressures here, so I would not use the 4 foot extension when assembling things. (other steam guys may not agree. Ask them how tight is tight enough).
  • Pumpguy
    Pumpguy Member Posts: 551
    @SlamDunk and @AdmiralYoda, to go off on a tangent here about penetrating oils, I agree with both of your choices.

    That said, published tests have shown that a 50/50 mixture of Acetone and automotive ATF have shown to be much more effective than these or any other commercially available penetrating oil. My experience bears this out.

    I understand there is a unique chemical reaction taking place that contributes to its effectiveness.

    Only problem with this concoction is, it need to be used soon after being mixed up. The Acetone is so volatile it evaporates away in a short while, leaving the ATF behind.
    Dennis Pataki. Former Service Manager and Heating Pump Product Manager for Nash Engineering Company. Phone: 1-888 853 9963
    Website: www.nashjenningspumps.com

    The first step in solving any problem is TO IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,997
    Won't the acetone remain if you put it in a sealed container?
  • Pumpguy
    Pumpguy Member Posts: 551
    mattmia2 said:

    Won't the acetone remain if you put it in a sealed container?

    If its truly sealed, I suppose so. Once I mixed up a solution of Acetone and Liquid Wrench penetrating oil. The Liquid Wrench plastic bottle was about half empty so I added some Acetone. As a penetrating oil, this mixture worked great. Only problem was, in a day or so the Acetone dissolved the plastic bottle.

    So I guess if you intend to store the mixture for any time period, you need an effective seal, and a container that is resistant to Acetone.

    Dennis Pataki. Former Service Manager and Heating Pump Product Manager for Nash Engineering Company. Phone: 1-888 853 9963
    Website: www.nashjenningspumps.com

    The first step in solving any problem is TO IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM.
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,335
    Ill have to try it. Got plenty of both. Thanks @Pumpguy
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,781
    PB Blaster, Kroil, Liquid Wrench, WD-40, Marvel Mystery Oil, etc., etc., etc., do absolutely nothing to loosen steam pipe fittings because steam pipes are joined with thread sealants, and thread sealants do just what the name suggests: they seal threads. Penetrating oils require a leak path to penetrate the threads, and the purpose of thread sealants is to block the leak path and prevent steam, water, air, oil or gas from leaking out of the pipe joints. I don't dispute the fact that some people succeed in removing pipe fittings after applying their favorite penetrating oil of choice, but I assert that they would have had just as much success without it.

    Applying a penetrant, aside from being a waste of time and money, creates a smelly, smoky nuisance if you then decide to heat the fitting with a torch.

    Heating pipe fittings with a MAPP torch can be helpful, if it can be done safely, because fittings expand at a rate proportional to their circumference, but, since pipes expand at the same rate, the faster you can heat the fitting, the more it will expand relative to the pipe.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    ethicalpaulNew England SteamWorksrealliveplumberConsuelo
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 291
    I never had much luck with disassembling old black pipe, but I'm a rank amateur. Even heating with mapp and huge pipe wrenches never got me far. I spent more time trying to get them apart than it was worth. I just have the local plumbing supply cut/thread new pipes for me as it's not worth it for me to own a pipe threader. I've gotten real good at measuring..

    reggiCorktown
  • Lance
    Lance Member Posts: 217
    If you really want to do it the easy way use the appropriate pipe wrenches, double wrench the pipe if it starts to deform and use a winch, a come-along on the wrenches. Power magnified.
  • cubbydog
    cubbydog Member Posts: 34
    It’s a save save lose lose situation!!!!
  • Paul Formisano
    Paul Formisano Member Posts: 22
    I suggest to sawzall the old pipe out and replace it with copper tubing.  You will only need a few adapter fittings to join with the remaining threaded pipe in the system.  You can cut and sweat the copper tubing as needed on the spot with a large tubing cutter and a torch.  Use a steel nipple as a riser out of the boiler as you should avoid a wet connection with different metals due to galvanic corrosion. 
    mattmia2
  • lpakiz
    lpakiz Member Posts: 1
    Back in the seventies, I got a job at the local dairy. About all I knew then was how to pile bales and shovel manure.
    At the plant, we were trying to disassemble some 2" threaded pipe fittings (with cheaters) and succeeded in crushing the pipe.
    The old maintenance guy showed me how to put a large (3-4#) hammer on the back side of the fitting and hit the pipe fitting with about a 1-2# hammer, directly against the "anvil" hammer. He told me to rotate the anvil all around the fitting and just keep tapping. Every time I stopped to rest my rubber arms, he would yell from the other room, "KEEP TAPPING".
    After about 10 minutes of this, he comes in and says "let's try it". I bet we could have unscrewed it with a channel lock pliers.
    I have used this technique MANY times in the ensuing years, sometimes swapping a 2-3' piece of 1" shaft for the anvil if space and access were limited. This requires some assistance. Point the END of the shaft at the fitting.
    When I do this myself, I frequently stop and attempt to unscrew the fitting before sufficient work has been done to stretch the fitting. Each time it still won't unscrew, i can hear him from the other room--KEEP TAPPING!
    Albany ChrisCLamb
  • joea99
    joea99 Member Posts: 56
    Pumpguy said:



    . . .published tests have shown that a 50/50 mixture of Acetone and automotive ATF have shown to be much more effective than these or any other commercially available penetrating oil. My experience bears this out. . .

    When this is done, should one expect the Acetone and ATF to combine completely? I tested this once and found they tended to act as if oil and water, requiring constant agitation. Does Acetone tend to absorb moisture over time?
    MaxMercy
  • MarkMurf
    MarkMurf Member Posts: 25
    Just a funny note, I was tapping into an antiquated 3" natural gas line, adding an off-season unit heater at the city pool boiler house . I had to air test my work and repipe for a new gas meter while at it to satisfy the gas company techs. I'm 65 and weigh 150lbs. Soaking wet ! So, the 4' and 3' Ridgid aluminum are always close at hand . What dealing with old steam pipes as I do too often . Three gassers show up for the meter install ; one old-timer buddy and two young newbies. I was jockeying back and forth to my truck. When I re-entered the boiler room, the old timer was kneeling down smirking, shaking his head. What-up Teddy ?, says I . The two youngsters were standing off to the side whispering. The 3' & 4'er were propped up in the corner. Teddy nodded over to the wrenches. They wanna know if you really use those things Murf ! ?
    Hahaha ! ! I do . More often then I'd really like ! Along with that 2" x 4' black cheater pipe !
    My old method for loosening ancient fittings has always been to heat the fitting with a torch for a couple of minutes before wrenching . That has rarely failed me !
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,997
    Acetone dehydrates the oxide crystal changing it from a hard crystal to a softer and more powdery crystal. Heat does the same thing. I think if I were going to go to extraordinary lengths I would get an acetylene torch before I would destroy my joints with hammers.
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 459
    Thanks guys! Since it is my own house and I'm not on the clock I will probably incorporate a number of your techniques. I don't necessarily want to save things just to be cheap, but don't mind spending 10+ minutes if I can save something that is potentially 130+ years old...if nothing else, just for the challenge and learning experience.

    1. Heat the heck out of the fitting.
    2. Tap it as much as possible to break the rust bond internally.
    3. Grab the 3' pipe wrench and a cheater and give it hell.
    4. All else fails, break the pipe fitting with a couple of 3# sledges. Or put a few deep cuts in it and use a cold chisel.
    ethicalpaulcross_skierjamplumbreggi
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,997
    Another thought, if you want to save the fittings but not the pipe you can cut the pipe, take the fitting outside, heat it to near cherry(or even put it in an industrial oven if you have one handy), then unscrew it with wrenches once it cools. The heat will turn the oxide in to a soft powder, possibly the pipe dope too.
    jamplumb
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 459
    mattmia2 said:

    Acetone dehydrates the oxide crystal changing it from a hard crystal to a softer and more powdery crystal. Heat does the same thing. I think if I were going to go to extraordinary lengths I would get an acetylene torch before I would destroy my joints with hammers.

    It's been a while since I played chemist but I looked up the SDS for Kroil, my favorite penetrating oil. A major active chemical in it is Diisobutyl Ketone. When I google that it is made of a few different isomers, 2,6-dimethyl-4-heptanone and 4,6-dimethyl-2-heptanone.

    Acetone's more fancy name is dimethyl ketone, which I think is very closely related to the two isomers mentioned above. It may be possible that Kroil already has Acetone in it, or possibly a chemical equivalent of it. Maybe.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,997
    Looks like a different ketone which probably behaves similar. There are probably some technical reasons why they use a different ketone maybe acetone doesn't play well in a spray can or in their mix, maybe it evaporates more quickly than the one they use. I don't know the chemistry of how it dehydrates the crystal, jut that it does.
  • Pumpguy
    Pumpguy Member Posts: 551
    Wow! The things you learn here.
    Dennis Pataki. Former Service Manager and Heating Pump Product Manager for Nash Engineering Company. Phone: 1-888 853 9963
    Website: www.nashjenningspumps.com

    The first step in solving any problem is TO IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM.
    Gary Smithjamplumb
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,908
    Often one wants to save the existing hanging pipe for extension or what not.
    I would certainly "crack" the fitting rather than risk egg shaping the pipe itself.

    For me, that existing pipe would become a major problem if it was messed up and connected to the rest of the system.....cut and thread it hanging in place..... :s
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,880
    Has anyone read "The Sand Pebbles"? Stubborn big nut. Eventually protagonist found a VERY big wrench plus a VERY heavy sledge hammer. How about heating fitting while keeping pipe cooler?
  • Pumpguy
    Pumpguy Member Posts: 551
    Didn't know there was a book but I've seen the movie many times.

    I'll have to see if I can get a copy of the book.

    Just love the boiler and engine room scenes and Steve McQueen's character Holman talking about LIVE STEAM, SLEEPY STEAM, and DEAD STEAM.
    Dennis Pataki. Former Service Manager and Heating Pump Product Manager for Nash Engineering Company. Phone: 1-888 853 9963
    Website: www.nashjenningspumps.com

    The first step in solving any problem is TO IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM.
    Corktown
  • SteamHeat
    SteamHeat Member Posts: 156
    Just FYI...

    The magazine article years ago that did the penetrating lubricant comparison and detailed 50% acetone and 50% ATF had a correction in the next issue that detailed that it was supposed to be 50% Acetone and 50% Power Steering Oil. Many cars at that time used ATF for the Power Steering system and so the confusion. I have used 50% Acetone and 50% Power Steering Oil for many really rusted stuck threaded setups with excellent success. It has broken free threaded rusty nightmares that would not come loose with WD-40 nor Kroil. Whatever works for you is the good stuff. Good luck.
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 459
    Good to know!  I may try this someday!
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,362
    If I am saving the pipe I slice the fitting down close to the threads with a grinder and a cutting disk. Then drive and old screwdriver in the crack. A sawzall works too but jumps around too much.

    If I am saving the fitting I will saw a couple slits in the pipe inside the fitting and chisel it out. The little Milwaukee "hackzall's" are good for this.
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,522
    If I am saving the pipe I slice the fitting down close to the threads with a grinder and a cutting disk. Then drive and old screwdriver in the crack. A sawzall works too but jumps around too much. If I am saving the fitting I will saw a couple slits in the pipe inside the fitting and chisel it out. The little Milwaukee "hackzall's" are good for this. I use the hackzall with Diablo heavy metal carbide blades, in cast iron and black fittings. Works like a charm 
  • reggi
    reggi Member Posts: 191
    This might be a good one for the Plumbers Candle !
     Now I see that the paraffin is the main ingredient so I don't know if those Boutique Shop Candles have the "right stuff" .. unless you look around and find "Beeswax" , supposedly the Cadillac of piping lube ..
    Just don't get carried away or you'll be skimming for a long time  🤓
    One way to get familiar something you know nothing about is to ask a really smart person a really stupid question
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,880
    Pumpguy said:

    Didn't know there was a book but I've seen the movie many times.

    I'll have to see if I can get a copy of the book.

    Just love the boiler and engine room scenes and Steve McQueen's character Holman talking about LIVE STEAM, SLEEPY STEAM, and DEAD STEAM.

    If you like marine steam engines the book is for you.