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Contractor Needed to Replace Steam Boiler in Rockland County, NY

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Hello,

My wife and I recently purchased a home in Clarkstown, NY, and a few weeks ago I noticed water was leaking from the boiler. Since then, we've had multiple contractors come out to diagnose, and all have said that the boiler needs to be replaced. It appears to be leaking from the cast iron block itself. The reason for the multiple opinions is because the diagnosis was part of a warranty claim for a service that was gifted to us as part of the home sale, but that process has not been fruitful and at this point I'd rather not waste any more time.

The home is very old: the original portion was built no later than 1756, with additions in the mid 1800s and again in the early 2000s. The boiler is a gas-fired steam boiler that I believe is a Crown Jamaica series from Crown Boiler Co (specifically the JBF-SPD, although I may be incorrect about that as I don't recall how I determined it).

Shortly after moving in, I bought Dan Holohan's book, The Lost Art of Steam Heating, because we noticed a couple radiators weren't getting hot a few weeks after moving in. The inspector told us there was one, and now there are at least four, but I cannot honestly say whether he was just incorrect or if that problem has gotten worse since. Regardless, I have not had time to read more than maybe a dozen pages, and there won't be time for me to figure anything out on my own, as the leak finally got so bad that I had to shut off the boiler altogether to keep our basement from flooding (I could hear the system asking for water every two minutes or so, which tipped me off to the problem).

Is there anyone who specializes in steam heat who would like to take a stab at installing a steam boiler in an historic house? If so, please reach out ASAP, as I will soon have to bite the bullet and just go with the whoever can get out here soonest, which is something I am loath to do considering the very specialized nature of steam heating.

Thanks,
Chris

Comments

  • ChrisPowers
    ChrisPowers Member Posts: 5
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    Also, I forgot to mention that I did try the Find a Contractor function, but it doesn't return any results within 10 miles of here. Also, I would prefer to find someone who specializes in steam heat, or who comes highly recommended by the specialists who post on this site.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,544
    edited April 2022
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    I don't know where Clarkstown is, but I would PM @JohnNY.

    It's probably not his geographical area but maybe he can recommend someone

    The right contractor is more important than the boiler or the price. You don't want to be one of the horror stories on the Wall that we see every day.

    At least you made it through the winter

    I would start by measuring your radiation and coming up with your EDR (square feet of steam load). It's easy to do and it will tell you if your contractor is on the ball; Any contractor that doesn't measure the radiation .... boot him
    ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
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    I'm not sure that @JohnNY goes that far north, but he might. If not, he'll almost certainly know someone who does and can work in your area.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    Advice from a fellow homeowner who knew exactly as much as you do about three years ago and thanks to this site installed my own boiler two heating seasons ago: DO NOT find who can get there soonest, you have all summer to find someone. You are exceedingly fortunate to have come here BEFORE you got rooked by somebody.

    Read the book enough to be able to measure your radiators' EDR. Step 1.

    Step 2: research boilers available in that size by Peerless and by Weil-McClain

    Step 3: Download the installation manuals for those boilers and see how they are installed. Use Dan's book to understand what is the header and its purpose. Same for the equalizer.

    These steps should take you less than 2 weeks. Do searches on this forum for "steam boiler install" to see how people here install them. See how they match the diagrams in the installation manual. Look at other posts where people care complaining about water hammer and other problems and see how those look. See the horror stories of people just like you who came here AFTER their install.

    Post pictures here on this thread of your existing boiler's near piping as a learning exercise. We will tell you what to watch out for.

    When you find some contractors to bid, don't share any of your information yet because you want to see what they do on their own. If they don't measure each single radiator in your house, show them the door. I'm not kidding. You don't want them in your house. When you find one who actually measured your radiators, ask them which size boiler they recommend. If it's larger than the one you picked, ask them why. If they can't answer show them the door too. If they say "we're going to use the size of your existing boiler," then physically throw them out. This shouldn't be a problem because by measuring your radiators they already proved themselves better than 95% of installers out there.

    If they pass all that, then ask them to show you in the manual how they will install the piping (which should be threaded steel with iron fittings). Ask them to state they will follow the installation manual in their proposal.

    All this must seem outrageous to you today. But it comes from my having seen probably over a dozen brand new steam homeowners get completely rooked by negligent or worse installers.

    You are too close to NYC and NJ to not get a good installer. If you want me to come over and show you the good and bad of your current boiler so you will know what to look for in an installer, drop me a PM. You live on the way to my mother's house in Modena.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Larry WeingartenChrisPowersBroadwichCT
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,973
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    @ethicalpaul is spot on. I can't vouch for the location of his mother's home, but everything else is as accurate as accurate can be. 
    ethicalpaulErin Holohan HaskellBroadwichCT
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,861
    edited April 2022
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    Also, I forgot to mention that I did try the Find a Contractor function, but it doesn't return any results within 10 miles of here. Also, I would prefer to find someone who specializes in steam heat, or who comes highly recommended by the specialists who post on this site.
    Extend your search radius to 50 or 100 miles. The installing contractor is the most important thing. 
    @EzzyT might service your area. 
    As has been stated time is on your side so use it. Choose the contractor let them choose the equipment. 
    Ironman
  • ChrisPowers
    ChrisPowers Member Posts: 5
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    Thanks, everyone, for all the comments and advice. I have reached out to the conractors recommended, and been in touch with a few others as well who reached out privately.

    My intention was to do something akin to @ethicalpaul's suggestions, and certainly get through Dan's book before proceeding with the replacement. The problem is I ran out of time, and with two kids at home under three years of age, it's a tough sell to stick it out and be cold for the next few weeks. Still, I will take everyone's advice and resist the urge to grab the first warm body willing to do the job. Believe me, it's no coincidence that I'm posting here for help--I have read the horror stories, and discovered just how difficult it is to find someone who truly understands these systems.

    The nature of my job at present, as well as a myriad of other obligations, are such that I will not be in a position to do any measuring and posting of photos until this weekend at the earliest. Is there anything specific I should be trying to capture?
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
    edited April 2022
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    Well wait...it's springtime! Surely you can limp it along for the remaining cool weather?

    For the radiators, look for radiators like yours in Dan's book and use the directions in the book to "size" each one in EDR. Then add up all of the radiators' EDR and that's the total net square feet of steam that your new boiler needs to supply. If you get stuck on any radiators, send a picture of it here.

    For the pictures of your boiler, just stand about 10 feet away and take pictures from floor to ceiling from several angles
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,295
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    @ChrisPowers I did get your message and did reach out to you but haven’t heard back. The best way to reach me is at 2018878856.
    E-Travis Mechanical LLC
    Etravismechanical@gmail.com
    201-887-8856
    Alan (California Radiant) ForbesIronman
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,376
    edited April 2022
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    If you get EzzyT, you won’t have to worry or do a lot of research to know if it’s done right - that’s the only way that he knows to do it.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,861
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    A few electric heaters
    Ironman said:

    If you get EzzyT, you have to worry or do a lot of research to know if it’s done right - that’s the only way that he knows to do it.

    Shouldn’t that read
    “ you don’t have to worry or do a lot of research to know if it’s done right”
    Ironman
  • ChrisPowers
    ChrisPowers Member Posts: 5
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    Thanks, folks. As expected, I didn't have nearly enough time this weekend as I'd have liked, but I did manage to measure all the radiators and snap a few photos of the boiler. The boiler and some shots of the piping above it follow. Please let me know if there's anything else you need to see and I'll do my best to provide.











  • ChrisPowers
    ChrisPowers Member Posts: 5
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    EzzyT said:

    @ChrisPowers I did get your message and did reach out to you but haven’t heard back. The best way to reach me is at 2018878856.

    @EzzyT Oh, great, I'll give you a call tomorrow. Can you tell me what method you used to reach out?