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Unexpected boiler leak

Ken C.
Ken C. Member Posts: 267
I went on a job to remove some copper fin-tube baseboard for customers who were having a new hardwood floor put in. I drained the loop (single zone), removed all the heating element on the first floor, capped the stubs and tied the feed and return mains together in the basement so I could refill and purge the boiler (I had to refill the boiler because they have a tankless heater for domestic water). When I went to purge the boiler, no feed water came in. The feed valve was old and clogged. I replaced the feed valve and was now able to purge the system. I thought I was all done, when I saw a puddle of water on the floor, coming from underneath the boiler. It was a steady dripping from between the boiler sections. I ran the oil burner, hoping that the leak would stop once the boiler was at full operating temperature, but no luck. So, I had to adjust the Watts 1156 fill valve pressure as low as it could go (the boiler's pressure gauge read 7 psi, but this boiler was over 30 years old, so I don't know if that was accurate). That did stop the drip, for now anyway. My guess as to what caused this is that the old feed valve, being plugged, put no pressure on the boiler, but the new feed valve did, hence causing a leak in a marginal system. There was evidence of prior leakage from the boiler (rust stains on the same area of the floor, and the bottom of the boiler jacket was severely rusted). Also, the last time the boiler was serviced was 1997 (oil boilers should be serviced every year). The homeowners didn't really blame me, they knew the boiler was on its last legs. Still, I can't help but wonder if I did anything wrong, or if I could have forseen this problem somehow? Or did I do nothing wrong, it's just that the boiler was old and in poor shape?


  • Darin Cook_3
    Darin Cook_3 Member Posts: 389
    Look at it like this

    The boiler is supposed to hold pressure without leaking. You just happen to be the one fate chose to tell these folks that it is time to move into the 21st century. You did nothing wrong. Take the new feed valve and put it on the new boiler. If you have a doubt next time, fill it with a garden hose on the bottom of the boiler. That kind of stuff happens to the best of us. It is a brand new day tomorrow.

  • Robert O'Connor_7
    Robert O'Connor_7 Member Posts: 688

    I wouldn't beat yourself up over it. The boiler was of sufficient age to warrant replacement. These things do happen every so often. It's not your fault. I had an experience when I just got out of my time, I went to replace an outside hosebib at 7:00am and wound up leaving at 11PM. I practically repiped that whole house. Every brass fitting I thought I adapted to broke..AAAAAHHHHH! As ol' Billy C use to say...I feel your pain..Robert O'Connor/NJ
  • Weezbo
    Weezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    it bites when that happens...

    you think well maybe i shoulda done this or maybe i shoulda done that ...maybe i shoulda put a new temp pressure gage maybe have slow fired it to 100¡ãF maybe i shouldnt have flushed the system,on an on...it is the nature of all component things to decay...you were just in the right place at the right time..maybe the next time the guy ran out of oil it would have happened...who knows...at least you are there and can make a sane suggestion on the way to roll.newer boilers are generally quite a bit more efficent...while the iron in his boiler will probably out live the lot of us perhaps one of the gaskets finnaly gave up the ghost.rebuilding an old boiler is perhaps not in the guys best interest...it is likely that you will come across these things once in a blue moon ...
  • Al Letellier
    Al Letellier Member Posts: 781
    boiler leak

    You didn't do anything different than the rest of us would have, but do yourself a BIG favor.Write up a quick disclaimer statement to give to customers when working on old systems....trust those of us who have been there, not all customers are as understanding!!!
    A simple statement explaining that you are not responsible for unseen problems or resulting damages or losses, can go a long way in saving you from potential blame, or worse, having to replace something out of your pocket. " It worked fine until you touched it" can be the foulest words you could hear that will really make your day.
    If you're not sure how to word it, spend the few bucks to have your lawyer write up a SIMPLE statement (if you can find a lawyer that understands "simple".

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  • ernie_3
    ernie_3 Member Posts: 191
    something similar

    Working for an oil co a few yrs back....They sent me on a tune-up. It was a Peerless fhw w' no domestic, cold start.
    I always start by verifying the burner runs and test the safety. It ran and safety locked out. Did the full overhaul, including washing the sections after the brush and vacuum. All fuel parts....you know the deal. Well...
    I fired the burner off to put the instruments on it and BAM
    the boiler cracked. Water everywhere. Couldn't beleive it! All the guys called it 'the 4000$ clean-out'. Thank God the customer was understanding.
  • DaveC
    DaveC Member Posts: 201
    Too interesting not to ask...

    didn't the customer act suspicious about your washing the sections just before it cracked? I've never used water to clean (the boiler surface, that is), but heard of it. Don't know if that could cause this type of problem. We used to ask the customer to turn off the boiler a few hours before we got there, if possible in the warmer weather, to make the cleaning go with less sweat and soot in the air. Many that had a tankless coil would be leaking from various spots once they cooled, sometimes the customer would make us stay until the boiler warmed up and the leaks subsided.
  • J.C.A._3
    J.C.A._3 Member Posts: 2,981
    Ken C.

    Like everyone else has said....Stuff Occurs. (that's the nice way of saying $*^& happens)

    Like Al said, probably not a bad idea to have a "disclaimer form" for a customer to sign.... if YOU think there may be a problem. I think I'll bring this up at a company meeting. Spending the dough on a lawyer for something like this would be a great idea.(like the FRAM guy used to say, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later", but with a court approved document.) Makes sense to me. Chris
  • Christian Egli
    Christian Egli Member Posts: 277
    Taking care of problems to come is always very good

    Think of the luck that the problem occurred when you were there. You prevented a basement from flooding.

    The boiler was going to leak some day anyway, you were right there to deal with it on the spot. The home owner saved himself an emergency that would have come at the worse of times. You can count on that.

    It may have been a water ram effect that was the final straw for the boiler. But again, it is a good thing you found out about the problem in a controlled way.

    This problem turned out to be cheaper for the home owner to solve this way, rather than to deal with the surprise later.
  • jaybee
    jaybee Member Posts: 128

    Yes i often wondered will washing it will crack the boiler?i guess if u put cold water on it but what if u use the boiler water that is the same temperture? Will this cause it to crack? If anyone know the answer please respond.
  • Ken D.
    Ken D. Member Posts: 836

    Some years ago, I attended a class by Weil-Mclain in Bethlehem, Pa. They advocated washing the boiler as the passages were tight. The boiler should be hot when you do this.
  • Wayco Wayne_2
    Wayco Wayne_2 Member Posts: 2,479
    Well said Christion

    Often times, things that happen to upset us are really blessings in disguise. What if the basement had flooded on another occassion. You were there and were observant enough to prevent a lot of damage and acrimony. Good job! WW

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  • EJW
    EJW Member Posts: 321
    Good timing

    Better now than this Jan. at 2am and 20 below. Thats when it would have happened to me. EJW
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