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Base-Ray Cast Baseboard - Remove and Reinstall?

Redrum
Redrum Member Posts: 123
I need a sanity/insanity check. Disclaimer - I am a homeowner, but have experience with hydronics for my own and parents home.

I am helping a friend remodel a bathroom, and after that, a kitchen/dining room where hydronic registers will need to be relocated with some shortening and lengthening (while maintaining the length per room).

He has Base-Ray Cast Iron Baseboards. Circa 1950's I'm guessing. He has a one pipe distribution where there is a big loop of (I think from memory 1") around the basement (single story) from supply to return, where each room branches off with 1/2" with a special tee, then returns to the loop via a standard tee.

I had hoped that we were just going to replace with some slant fin baseboard. Pull out Base-Ray, install slant fin in new location, replumb in basement and congratulate ourselves. Since the dining room is the next project we were planning on doing all the relocating at once. Since each room is a branch, should be straight forward.

The complication is he has expressed an interest in keeping the Base-Ray, removing it, modifying lengths, and installing it in a new location.

This is intimidating to me, fear of the unknown comes into play. Especially since with it installed I can't see what's what, how they connect, even how it's attached to the wall. I downloaded the Base-Ray installation guide and it looks like there are 2' sections with couplings. But there is also mention of special tools. I am also fearing trying to loosen 70 year old connections that have thermo-cycled about a billion times.

So, to those that are familiar with this system, what do you think? As a note, he is open to being influenced (i.e. I can tell him what is best and he will say o.k.)


Jim

PS - a a side question, since there is one loop that feeds everyroom, is there something invented in the last 70 years that we might want to add for better heat distribution?

Comments

  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    Thank you Bob;

    I had done some looking, but I guess I should have specifically looked here, there are a few threads of folk doing exactly this. Some good into on the other threads too.

    The only potential problem would seem to be the draw up tool. Big $$ to purchase. Would a plumbing supply (a real plumbing supply) rent something like that?

    Has anyone come up with a hack for making a substitute draw up tool?

    Also, yes, I had planned on repiping past the tees. I forgot to take a picture or write down the #, but the tee on the supply side is directional and seems like it diverts part of the flow. The tee on the return tie is a standard tee.

    I also noticed that the 1/2" Cu to the radiators is done with bendable copper rather than elbow and straight. Just installer preference?

    Jim
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,877
    edited March 21
    You may find a Baseray supplier who would rent the tool. I wouldn’t try to do it without it.

    We do a fair amount of Baseray and put it on the floor against the wall while tapping the other end with a board and sledgehammer and using the draw tool at the same time. Some sections go together pretty easily, some need more persuasion.

    You should minimize any turns or Ells in the runouts to the BBs. Too much resistance in that piping will cause flow to go straight through the diverter Tee instead of into the Baseray. Proper bends, done with a bender, offer less resistance than Ells. Don’t use pex insert fittings that are used for plumbing; that could definitely add too much resistance.

    Again, study the article for diverter Tee systems.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    understand completely the use of large radius instead of elbows, which is why it was done that way way back when, great that you pointed it out.

    I had a thought that I thought I would run by you. We are in the north east. winter should be at least thinking of winding down. My thought is to install full flow ball valves on the supply and the return of his bath loop, and close them off to allow the removal of the baseboard, rest of his demo and rebuild, then reconfigure the baseboard lengths during the remodel (get nipples, find draw tool), and re install.

    Since it is a DYI project it might be a month or two, but we could get the baseboard out of the way. allow the new drywall, tile floor, shower, tub, etc to be installed, then add the baseboard.

    see anything wrong with that other than a chilly room during the remodel? The basement below is heated, and he can keep the bath door open.

    Jim
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 373
    Redrum,
                Where are you located? I have a Baseray tool you can borrow.
                 Be careful handling assembled sections. Carry it in the upright postion, and be careful of drooling water; it's often black like squid ink.
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    Western New York (Buffalo/Niagara Falls). Thanks for the tip on the transport....many many years ago I took a shower from the one of those old expansion tanks that used to sit in between the floor joists! My wife and friend just laughed despite the fact that the tank was very very heavy, and they weren't able to support much weight doubled over ;)

    If we aren't near, I looked up and found a list of contractors on the US Boiler website. Thank you...

    Jim
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,877
    Doing the valves will probably be alright for a temporary situation.

    Make sure that you don’t increase the lengths of runouts unless the distance between the Tees is increased or a second diverter Tee is added. 
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    understand on the distance of the runout loop. Also, my plan is to leave the ball valves in there. Otherwise, I could just run some 1/2" copper between the old start and old finish (temporarily).

    Bob, I am having a hard time finding the "system resources" section for the monoflo/diverter tee information you reference. I found "system help" on the main site (not the wall) but could not find the info you suggested. Could you please supply a link?

    I also think I have found the nipples https://www.supplyhouse.com/Burnham-109248-01-3-4-STD-Steel-Slip-Nipple another thread gave me the part number, which referenced me to a new part number (this one).

    Thanks.

    Jim
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,877
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • JimP
    JimP Member Posts: 44
    As others have said you’d be wise to keep the Baseray. If nothing else it’s a nice match for the home interior. I find that cast iron baseboard is always an install that needs to be done carefully with a good dose of planning and patience. You should consider if a backing to reflect heat and make it easier to clean dust is something that you want to do. I’ve come across four different types and sizes of Baseray. If you have a tall model (10”-11”) be prepared for some hard work (it’s all at the floor level!). I would try to rent or buy the installation tool. I’m not sure what you want to accomplish adding valves unless there’s none at the radiators. If you add them for control I’d suggest that you keep the mono flow tees.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,554
    If you mix fin tube and baseray on that monoflow loop they will heat differently and you will never be able to balance it. You would have to put the fin tube on another zone or zones to make it work well.
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    Thank you all for adding your opinions and advice, I am so lucky I checked here. It looks like we will be keeping the Base-Ray. I am not a pro, I hade never seen it before. My parents house, and my house were both built about the same year and they have what I would call standard, 1" copper pipe, aluminum fin, steel enclosure.

    A comment and a question, If I might...

    The ball valves - This is a DIY remodel, complete gut of a bathroom, moving fixtures, hot and cold water, waste plumbing, electrical, put it all back together. May take months. My friend is still working, quite allot actually.

    Right now, the baseray is in the way. My thought is to drain the system, insert ball valves after the Tee's (as part of the room loop), keep them shut off (or capped with a stub and a cap), allowing removal of the baseray (and repainting and reconfiguring). This might be for a period of a months. No heat to the bathroom, but the dead of winter is (hopefully) gone. I suppose I could just skip the valves and cap. But if I cap temporarily, will that screw up the balance of the rest of the system?

    Length of Base-Ray - The bath is not large, and right now there is maybe 12' of Base-Ray in an 'L'. Seems like overkill, and for layout purposes, 8' fits better. I realize less baseboard = less radiant heat area, but also less drop in water temperature being returned. How critical is the length? would we be screwing something up just using 8'?

    Jim

  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,463
    Wow, 12 feet in the bathroom? How big is the bathroom in this 50s Ranch?
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123

    Wow, 12 feet in the bathroom? How big is the bathroom in this 50s Ranch?

    exactly. I have about 4' of slant fin in one of my bathrooms of similar size. I'll have to take a look at his other rooms, I'm going to stop over later today...
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 373
    edited March 22
       Jim,
              I'm too far away ( CT ) to help with the tool loan.
              We always pressure test newly assembled Baseray to 30 psi; overnight if possible. We'll leave the test set up on & pressurized until the unit is fastened in it's place on the wall.

  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    MikeL_2 said:

       Jim,
              I'm too far away ( CT ) to help with the tool loan.
              We always pressure test newly assembled Baseray to 30 psi; overnight if possible. We'll leave the test set up on & pressurized until the unit is fastened in it's place on the

    Thanks for the offer anyhow, kind of you. I am sure I'll find someone local. Thanks for the tips on the pressure testing, just a regulated air compressor I imagine? Test fittings should be easy to cobble together

    Jim
  • EricPeterson
    EricPeterson Member Posts: 101
    I love Baseray, I imagine it's 7" since the house it was built in the '50s. Do what you can to keep it.
    Our neighbors were renovating their house in the late '90s and converted their hydronic system to forced-air so they could have AC. They were throwing out all the radiators including about 50 feet of Baseray. I took all they had and brought it home in sections using a dolly. I then reassembled it to provide heat for two rooms when we put an addition on our house. I was able to do this reassembly using pipe clamps but I would not recommend that approach. Later I found out the the guy who put in our AC (high-velocity SpacePak) had a tool that he would have lent me. So do check with local professionals and see if they would do the same.

    Good luck with your project.

    PS I have a short section of 7" Baseray - either 4' or 6' - if anyone in the Chicago area would like it it's yours.
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    Quick questions about baseray. I am going over to my friends this weekend to cap off the loop and help him remove the base-ray for the remodel.

    How does it secure to the wall? It's hard to find, and I looked in the install manual...might have missed it.

    Also, how heavy will it be? We will have to lift up say an 8' section with a 4' 'L" in order to get at the back to disassemble sections for moving (say to his basement for refinishing)

    I am also wondering if, since we are removing modifying, reinstalling, should I only seperate and use new nipples on the sections I need to, or, should I go ahead and reconnect all sections, new nipples, because of the age?


    Thanks;
    Jim
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 373
    edited March 23
        The tall model ( + or - 10" ) is about 15 lbs per foot. I wouldn't try to carry an L shape. You're better off disconnecting sections at the inside corner before you move it.
        The baseray was held to the wall with screws & small square bushings that fit in the upper slot. There were 2 types of beveled bushings; one solid & one stamped. They were drilled to accept a wood screw & I think I remember the drilling was beveled also so the head of the screw finished flush with the bushings face.........it's been decades since I worked with any Baseray.
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    Thanks! I took this image off the web, is this where I am looking for the fasteners?

  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 373
         Yes. They're meant to hold the baseray to the wall, not support the weight. Remember not to carry assembled sections like a stretcher. 
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    thanks Mike, yea, I plan on us taking it off off the wall, getting to the back and disconnecting the L, then breaking it down to maybe 4' sections. it really needs a cosmetic upgrade so I am going to make my friend either strip or sand and repaint. His remodel is going to take allot more time than he imagines (been there), he's on the younger side, still allot of optimism...
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 373
        Exercise caution, work safely, and wear safety gear while handling & testing. 
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    MikeL_2 said:

        Exercise caution, work safely, and wear safety gear while handling & testing. 

    always. Thank you for your help.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,554
    The corner will have some sort of pipe fittings under a cover if I understand the system correctly, it doesn't just clamp CI to CI at the corners.
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    mattmia2 said:

    The corner will have some sort of pipe fittings under a cover if I understand the system correctly, it doesn't just clamp CI to CI at the corners.

    yea, I saw that, thanks. You can see it in the pictures (not ours) on this thread, faintly https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/158284/re-assembling-cast-iron-baseboard

    since we are relocating the baseboard (and will need to rerun loop lines) I'll be cutting the copper tubing below the floor from the basement. We can take it off then disassemble. That's my assumption anyhow!

  • EricPeterson
    EricPeterson Member Posts: 101
    Google "Baseray corner fittings" to see what's available for inside and outside corners.
    Also check out the Burnham installation guide - link

    I was able to use rigid elbows in my installs but it may not work for you:


  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,554
    I don't think the copper flex connectors that they sell now would have been used 50 or 70 years ago.
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    curious, what is the thread, 1" NPT? I think I found the nipples https://www.supplyhouse.com/Burnham-109248-01-3-4-STD-Steel-Slip-Nipple
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,554
    The push nipples are unthreaded, they are just tapered nipples that seal as the sections are pressed together.
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    mattmia2 said:

    The push nipples are unthreaded, they are just tapered nipples that seal as the sections are pressed together.

    yes, understand, sorry to mix two questions into one!
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    quick question if I might. I am going to take my friends system down to disconnect and cap the bathroom zone today. When I bring it back up (he has one pipe system with diverter tees), can I assume that the shutoff/purge at higher pressure (override makeup water regulator up to, say 20-25psi ) will still work to eradicate air? I ask because of his configuration and the diverter tees. I am used to a 2 pipe system with zone valves. I am unsure if the diverter tees play any role. Maybe I have to bleed the registers as well?

    Thank you.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,877
    A Monoflo system is by far the most difficult to bleed air from. Put a coin vent on each rad, and yes, increase the pressure while purging.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    thanks Bob. The vents are already there and I am only temporarily removing one loop today. But since I will be draining the system to cut and cap the loop, I wanted to know what I was getting into...so I could help him, and go home ;)
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,877
    You can also put about 1/2 a cup of Dawn dishwashing soap into the system which helps move air bubbles along toward the vent.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 373
    edited March 25
         It doesn't hurt to raise the boiler  temp higher than normal during purging/ bleeding.  And depending upon the location of the feed valve tie in and isolation valves, it may help to alternately isolate the supply & return piping at the boiler during bleeding at the Baseray...
    .

  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123
    Thanks guys, all done. Purged at a slightly higher pressure until no air dischargeout the hose, then we still had to open keys on the registers. Allot of air escaped on each. My friend says it's quieter now than before :smile:

    tried to take a section of baseray apart, probably a section that was factory assembled, but we just gave up for today, didn't want to break the cast...

    He has the registers out of the way so he can continue his demo....
  • lowercanada
    lowercanada Member Posts: 5
    another Buffalo denizen here.....
    Baseray is great stuff....I scavenged a nice 6' section from a job years ago, added it to my parents unheated basement room that previously only had waste heat from the furnace and radiator piping. it worked great. I can't remember if we had to split/rejoin anything, and I was pretty green at the time, so I expect I had a plumber I knew from work help me with it.
    I have to imagine it's going to be harder to separate than to re-assemble.....take your time, use penetrating fluid, and
    arm yourself with the biggest best cushioned deadblow hammer you can find (I have a very old Nicholson 304, the head barrel is 3" in diameter, has a green soft face and red hard face, weighs 15lbs, it's the 4 foot pipe wrench of hammers...been very glad to have it on the rare occasions I've needed it). Some tapping and wiggling....
    Also, while it's always nice to have the factory tool, I think with a good selection of clamps and blocking ----and the hammer----you could probably get it done.
    good luck!
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,877
    Redrum said:
    Thanks guys, all done. Purged at a slightly higher pressure until no air dischargeout the hose, then we still had to open keys on the registers. Allot of air escaped on each. My friend says it's quieter now than before :smile: tried to take a section of baseray apart, probably a section that was factory assembled, but we just gave up for today, didn't want to break the cast... He has the registers out of the way so he can continue his demo....

    I hate to ask the obvious, but did you remove the tie bolts?
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    EdTheHeaterManmattmia2
  • Redrum
    Redrum Member Posts: 123



    I hate to ask the obvious, but did you remove the tie bolts?


    Yea, that would be embarrassing, eh? :smile:

    I think as @lowercanada suggests, time for soaking in the pb blaster...but that's my friend's problem right now...