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Steam pipes/test?

ahearnj Member Posts: 3
Just purchased old 2 story home, 1890, owner passed so no history of heating system.
has steam radiators. gas boiler was in disrepair, and was not in use. coils rusted out and no way to repair, so it has been removed, however all other piping is existing. I would like to just replace boiler, but no one can guarantee that I won’t be chasing leaks in pipes, which would also require going into horse hair lath walls(money is tight so that option isn’t very viable).
 2 people looked at it and indicated the pitch of pipes looked right and they “believe” there shouldn’t be an issue with pipes but can’t guarantee. 
Is there any way I can tell if steel pipes had a prior issue? Or is there a pressure test someone could perform, neither suggested testing pipes. There are 11 radiators in totality so can anyone give me any solid non bias(who doesn’t want the job) advise. 


  • delcrossv
    delcrossv Member Posts: 742
    Leaks in steam supplies are uncommon. Look at the exposed pipes for signs of leaks- rust staining mostly. The most common leak point is in the wet return which should be accessible (basement near boiler) or radiator connections (also accessible).

    If you had in the wall leaks you'd see evidence off staining or failing plaster. Absent that, you're probably fine.
    Trying to squeeze the best out of a Weil-McLain JB-5 running a 1912 1 pipe system.
    Mad Dog_2WaherEdTheHeaterMan
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,206
    The piping immediately around the boiler must be replaced, as each boiler has different requirements. It is important that the installer knows his craft and follows the manufacturer's requirements exactly. As Delcrossv says, if anything leaks, it's usually the returns in the basement which are usually filled with water and tend to give about 60 years' service.

    You can check steam piping with air pressure, but it's not often done and probably not necessary. If you install a new boiler and find yourself having to add water constantly, it's time the check for leaky steam pipes, valves and bad vents.
    Mad Dog_2
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
    Steam leaks in mains do happen and if un insulated chances are higher . If insulated look for spots that the insulation is stained or falling off clear sign there’s a leak . As for pressure testing it can be done ,remove all air vents and plug remove main vents and plug and pressurize I would say only to a max of 1.5 to 2 psi that’s it no point and in going higher system should never see that hi a pressure . I would think the easiest way would be to have ultra sonic leak detector , which should be able to pin point it . I don’t have one but it’s on the wish list reason being I have a few refregerant leak dect. And have found for refrigerates I haven’t had a need for an ultrasonic leak dect for refregerants yet but like I said in the works $$$
    You should take a good look and see if there are visible signs of leakage from radiator vents and radiator supply valves . If going a replacement boiler be sure it’s sized to match the existing edr and if you have wet returns take my advise if zero maintaince has been the mantra do ur self a favor and have the wet returns checked out and even if replaced have isolation and purge valves installed ,you will be needing them to flush out everything that will end up there . One final note if hiring some one make sure they know what there doing not just a sales guy ,you want a owner / operator to do your replacement ,this way it ain’t just the sales guy w a pitch and commission and a lower price and then your looking for some one else to finish what there price did not include . I see it all the time lol
    Being the home is in heating disrepair don’t think it will be cheap in this day and age . Aside from proper boiler piping and sizing ,a true steam boiler upgrade in my eyes includes new radiator vents and main vents and I hear it all the time that there new ,that’s fine cause if they don’t work and it’s not priced in you pay extra If none of that is included in my eyes you need a different contractor being without these items a properly operating would be crap shoot and there’s be extras like re do the rad vents and mains . Again take all w a grain of salt I tend to tell the truth and this is it as I see it . Get one guy make sure he s not full of Pooh so there’s no bs and check his references .
    I know this as a noble truth because i see it all the time 1/2 butted jobs and they except it all straighten for peanuts lol myself I’ll hang out at home eating peanuts before I work for nothing for those looking for a bargain ,if so you got the wrong tree to bark up .In general stay away from franchise bossinesses in my experiences it’s always a half a mech doing the work and the future of workers now a day are beyond lazy just looking at a cell phone and getting home and usually milking any job they do cause nobody likes getting back to shop early to be sent out again .More concerned about there life then your heating system . Again one of the four noble truths according to the clam .
    Remember steam is pretty easy w just about zero moving parts aside vents and gas valve it’s not that hard so any one who shows up in sneakers w clean hands and good back should be shown the door espically sneakers
    Take it all w a grain of salt ,only the truth
    Peace and good luck clammy
    The sweetening of a cheaper price is soon forgotten after the bitterness of poor quality .

    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    Mad Dog_2reggi
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,973
    In my experience, Steam pipe leaking is extremely rare. Most of the ones that I have seen, are going through bathroom floors. I think the grout eats away at the pipe. In theory, you can pressure test the pipes. But that won't be easy and will be expensive. Not worth it in my opinion. Check any exposed piping for signs of leaking or rust or discoloration. And to repeat what others said above, be careful whom you hire to replace the boiler.
    Mad Dog_2