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    Has a sink hole ever tried to swallow up a boiler you service? (38 Posts)

  • Timco Timco @ 9:13 AM
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    Has a sink hole ever tried to swallow up a boiler you service?

    I piped this in 4-5 years ago. 1.5 mil BTU.

    Flood pic is how it was 3 weeks ago when the rain flooded the entire mechanical room. last time someone left a fill open and it was knee high maybe 2 years ago.

    Since then it takes in 60-100 gallons daily to keep up with the leaking returns. A price has been given twice. Very sad. I asked where they thought all that water was going several times.....

    Now all we do is wait for it to fall in. It has dropped an inch where my pad cracked. Pic under slab is under the boiler all the way to the foundation. Sink hole is about 12" at deepest, at least 4" all the way around under other equipment. All gas, power, water isolated.
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • Timco Timco @ 9:19 AM
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    when I finished...

    Back when I finished it...
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • icesailor icesailor @ 10:22 AM
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    Cracks in floor:

    See all those cracks in the floor around the new boiler? Water under the floor is seeping up.  There's water under the slab. I'll bet during the rainy season, water is squirting up through those cracks from water under the floor.
    The first boiler slab should have been dug down and a proper base poured. Your boiler probably isn't all that heavy but when the soil washed away from under the slab, it wouldn't have mattered if you put a 12" thick slab that was 12" out al around the boiler. What has happened, would have still happened.
    IMO and experience.
  • Timco Timco @ 7:52 PM
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    cracks

    Oh, I explained there was WARM water under that slab. No returns under slab in that room. The huge leaks in the returns are about 30-40' away and about 6' above that room but obviously that is where all those hundreds of gallons of water has gone, along with every blow-down and leak. I can see for several feet in all directions under the slab.
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • icesailor icesailor @ 10:14 AM
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    Leaks:

    Judging by the riveted steel tank in the photo, you must have done a replacement of the boiler. Nice piping.
    I'm sure that all the known issues weren't addressed. Like buried returns that could have leaked, or were leaking. It looks like the floor was put on a clay bank and once the leak started, the clay/silt was washed away.
    Is there a sump pump in the floor to stop flooding? Rubble stone foundations are notorious leakers. If there is groundwater under the slab for all of the year or part of the year, the flowing water, because you artificially lower the groundwater locally, will suck that clay/silt away and make hollow voids all over the floor. Look in the sump with a flashlight shining directly to the bottom of the sump. If you see little reflective particles in suspension in the water, you are sucking the underside of the slab out. Keep it up and the foundation will start sagging and settling. If it isn't already.
    I've seen worse.
    Take a 10# top mall and bang it (don't beat it) on the floor and listen for hollow sounds. I'll bet that there are hollow pockets all over.
    And not addressing the adding of large volumes of fresh water to the boiler don't do the system any favors.

    Just stunning.
  • Timco Timco @ 8:02 PM
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    I re-piped it for the last guy...

    I'll see if I can find the original pics that I fixed. No slab to make it level, or anything. Piped in & out. No under slab returns. This water was from that flood, and 60-10 Gallons per day leaking and finding it's way under there. The sewer is along the ceiling of that room, and no sump down there. DHW tank is 120-150 best guess size, and has a pin hole in it's side already. I tried to explain if that sprays tonight or any time soon, they can be up to their arm pits!

    The 4" main pictured (90˚ elbow) was 3/4 filled with water because it's so low, it was the low spot in their main. I saved that 90 with the water mark inside.
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • icesailor icesailor @ 10:38 AM
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    Water Stains:

    That photo with your arm in it?
    See the water stains on the wall? There's another one with water stains that come down from the ceiling. It looks like an overlapping line along the floor.
    That grey stuff painted on the wall looks like Stay-Dri waterproofing cement paint.
    It looks like the walls are concrete blocks that water is running right through. It may be old formed concrete walls, formed with 1 X 8 matched T&G spruce judging by the lines. It is probably an old poor Concrete mix. Heavy on the sand, light on the gravel and Portland Cement. Maybe with a lot of big rocks and chunks of old bricks thrown in as a filler.
  • SWEI SWEI @ 12:05 PM
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    Slab Jacking

    Might be able to save this one, assuming you can fix the leaks of course.
  • Timco Timco @ 8:05 PM
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    jacking

    They got one price later Friday to pump in cement or grout. No discussion of the leaks.

    Whatever.....
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • KC_Jones KC_Jones @ 8:08 PM
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    Am I understanding this correctly?

    So they are getting prices to fix the slab, but not prices to fix the reason the slab failed (ie water leaks)?
    Just another homeowner trying to find his way through.
  • Timco Timco @ 9:00 PM
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    Prices

    Almost. They have had prices to fix the leaks for months and months. Same for traps.

    Now that the boiler may drop through the floor, they want prices to save that. Only the most dire issues get fixed. Sad, really. Could be much quieter and cost less to run and all that.
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • KC_Jones KC_Jones @ 9:04 PM
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    Ugh

    I worked at a car wash for a while and the owner was like that, only fix what's broken.  To me it's like this, pay a little now or a whole lot later.  PM in general is way cheaper then when things break.  
    Just another homeowner trying to find his way through.
  • STEVEusaPA STEVEusaPA @ 4:57 PM
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    Yikes

    Anyone concerned about the stress on the gas pipe, or the venting pulling loose?
    steve
  • RobG RobG @ 5:57 PM
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    Red tag

    As Steve notes, the gas and flue are compromised. I would shut it down until they decided to have it fixed. If you touched it last, you own it.

    JMHO,
    ROB
  • Timco Timco @ 8:11 PM
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    gas and power

    As I mentioned in first post, I saw that and killed gas, water, power. No way I would leave that in service.

    Nothing will be fired back up until it's leveled, vent checked, and the 2" gas line checked. It is pulling the strut that supports the main & gas line right off the ceiling. It has dropped another inch or so.
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • STEVEusaPA STEVEusaPA @ 10:35 AM
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    I didnt mean you Tim....

    I meant when the owners, or whoever doesn't think this is a problem, see the stress on the gas pipe alone...how are they not frightened into immediately fixing it.  If you hear they fired it back up, I would call the building inspector and the fire marshal.  Seems like a lot of gas has gone BOOM this winter....
    steve
  • ChrisJ ChrisJ @ 7:33 PM
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    Wow

    So,

    There is actually a benefit to half of my basement floor being dirt?  :)
    Weil-McLain EG-45 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. Using Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment to greatly reduce corrosion in the boiler.

    Steam system pictures updated 6/5/14.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/thetube0a3/Boiler?authkey=Gv1sRgCImUxIqv9436MQ#
  • KC_Jones KC_Jones @ 7:49 PM
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    Yes

    You will see the sinkhole before the concrete falls apart...lol
    Just another homeowner trying to find his way through.
  • Timco Timco @ 8:12 PM
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    dirt

    No. They have dirt now, and that settles.

    You and my customer both need a sump pump since no sewer that low.
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • ChrisJ ChrisJ @ 9:06 PM
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    Pump

    I have a sump pump, installed it the day before Hurricane Sandy.
    Weil-McLain EG-45 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. Using Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment to greatly reduce corrosion in the boiler.

    Steam system pictures updated 6/5/14.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/thetube0a3/Boiler?authkey=Gv1sRgCImUxIqv9436MQ#
  • Pughie Pughie @ 10:35 AM
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    Sump pump

    Chris,
    Is that a steam driven sump pump?
    John
  • ChrisJ ChrisJ @ 10:44 AM
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    Steam

    Hi John,

    Unfortunately no, too much make up water will destroy the boiler. :)
    Weil-McLain EG-45 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. Using Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment to greatly reduce corrosion in the boiler.

    Steam system pictures updated 6/5/14.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/thetube0a3/Boiler?authkey=Gv1sRgCImUxIqv9436MQ#
  • icesailor icesailor @ 10:59 AM
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    Destinations:

    Regardless of where all the water is coming from, it is going someplace and it is washing the soil away with it. It HAS to. It may appear that MAGIC is afoot, but it isn't. There could be a sewer pipe under the floor and the water under the slab is flowing into it. It could be a storm sewer.  With clay floors, it can be impervious but there can be drain holes around and let the water flow down. To have a sinkhole like that, and not have a sump pump defies explanation. Either that, or another building nearby is pumping.
    Do they have metered municipal water? Is the meter creeping?
    There's more to this story than you and we know.
    Buildings in what they call the "Back Bay" in Boston were built way over 100 years ago on piles. How they did this, I don't know. But all the buildings are on wooden piles. The piles were completely submerged and under water. A number of years ago, some buildings started to settle. The groundwater started dropping and exposing the tops of some piles causing them to rot. It is extremely complicated to fix the problem. No one has ever come up with a definitive answer, but one reason makes sense to some. They built a highway underpass and it is below the river and groundwater. They must pump it continuously, 24 hours a day. If they don't, the highway will flood higher than the cars driving through. In my career, I saw one new building drop over 12" from 3 sump pumps so they could have a basement for storage. A few more that had issues with local settling in a corner with sump pumps. Don't underestimate the power of flowing water to wash things away. Look at the Grand Canyon for an example.
  • Gordy Gordy @ 11:12 AM
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    Mud jacking

    Depending on the experience I think I would disconnect associated piping before they mud jack. Seen mud jacking go perfectly, and seen them get more then they wanted. Hopefully they are just filling the void. Or you might be repiping your beautiful work.
    This post was edited by an admin on March 16, 2014 11:14 AM.
  • heatpro02920 heatpro02920 @ 11:39 AM
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    WOW

    thats a first for me, I would throw a flexible gas line on that thing with a lot of slack, lol... I have a few customers that just badn aid and band aid and band aid, it gets sickening, the money they spend on temporary fixes makes no sense but they still do it vs just fix or replace the issue and be done.... Mostly commercial customers...
  • Timco Timco @ 12:59 PM
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    Band aids

    Wait till I get pics of the 6" main with a quarter-sized hole in it, with a tumor of mighty putty all over it!
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • RobG RobG @ 12:57 PM
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    Tim

    What is the building used for?
    Beautiful piping by the way, It's a shame that you did all that work just to see the boiler get swallowed.
    Let me guess, he's getting bids from the guy who did the original install.

    Rob
  • Timco Timco @ 1:00 PM
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    Building

    36 apartments. All the big ones I service are apartments, so figure 2-3 traps per apartment, all bad.

    :(
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • RobG RobG @ 2:46 PM
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    Let me guess

    Let me guess, the "building engineer" kept cranking up the pressure to "fix" the heating problem and blew out the traps. Then the owner nickle and dimed you on the re-pipe, then took nintey days to pay and only wants to take care of the traps in the apartments where people complain? No?


    Rob
  • Timco Timco @ 5:16 PM
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    Assessment

    Very close!

    Traps are ALL original, 1905 era or so. If you pull one it rattles. So, not the fault of their maint guys. But, their guys do crank the pressure up to overcome steam loss out the leaking returns because no working traps. Building sounds like a silverware drawer in a dryer when it starts from cold. I installed a vaporstat a couple months back and when the DHW steamer was low on water and left them with no DHW, they turned the vaporstat up until it ruined it trying to get hot water. (Separate boiler)

    Derp......

    Then the nickel & dime & 90 day thing.....

    Now it's tenants complaining about banging on pipes with hammers and which traps exactly do we need to change to fix this?????
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 2:51 PM
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    lack of heat, and hot water

    how will he deal with chilly, unwashed tenants?
    who left the fill valve open-some knucklehead maintenance man?---NBC
    This post was edited by an admin on March 16, 2014 2:53 PM.
  • Timco Timco @ 5:21 PM
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    DHW

    Separate boilers. Heating boiler pictured. DHW is a leaking and going to rupture 8' tall tank and a 600k btu steamer and a shell & tube HX. Has DHW, no heat.

    Their "boiler guy" maint guy left the fill on. It was shooting out the main vent all night. Almost up to my knees. Swapped the GVs on both boilers and the igniters. When I got there I asked him if he filled it last. No. Then I got back with waders and pumps and he had soaking wet pants and went in and closed the fill. That's when they had me put the auto fill on there, but that can't keep up with the leaks and is always on "LOC" these days after filling 3 tries then lock out.
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • Timco Timco @ 1:56 PM
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    best fix?

    So bids are coming in and the bidders want to use urethane and allow that to expand. Anyone hear of this?

    The piece that fell in has dropped another 2-3", and the boiler has dropped about 2" now on that corner.

    I assume I will have to re-level this beast because the injected material will just support it where it is? 
    Working on steam and hot-water systems isn't rocket science....it's actually much harder.
  • Gordy Gordy @ 5:13 PM
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    Urethane injection

    Nope. Is this a company that mud jacks professionally or someone's idea to try? Never heard of it but that does not mean it's something new. Maybe it will float. I think it will deteriorate over time in that environment.

    If it's still settling they have that problem to solve first!
    Injecting what ever is still going to settle unless the source that's causing this is found and fixed.
  • Mark Eatherton Mark Eatherton @ 7:59 PM
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    Yes....

    I worked with a local company that did urethane injections and saw them raise slabs anywhere from 1/4" to 2" dead nuts on. They can also do deep urethane injection to stabilize unstable soils.

    They do highways and airport runways. The foam is amazingly strong.

    I use to locate the heating lines so their guys didn't inadvertently "find" them…

    They only drill a 5/8" hole through the slab.

    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • bill bill @ 10:40 PM
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    Same problem but in reverse

    Some time ago I saw houses in AK going up and down but never a sink hole. Of course it's all location ,location, location. The rigid gas lines is where things got really funky. I was warned by an inspector of trouble with frost heaving in the area. He mentioned his own house. I came up with the idea if supporting the boiler from above  This was one of fifteen minutes of fame things.
    We took beams, Threaded rod and supported a platform for the boiler and W.H. from the footing. Of course Tim's boiler must weigh about a ton. But let the ground sink all the way to China:)
  • icesailor icesailor @ 10:11 AM
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    Where's the dirt?

    I keep asking, :Where's the dirt gone"? and what is making it leave. If there's a water leak, the water is going somewhere. And it has to take the dirt somewhere. There aren't little munchkins under the floor eating it. And they have to poop it out somewhere.
    Some building, somewhere near by is pumping water. Is there a sewer or water project somewhere nearby where they have to lower the groundwater locally to do the job? The water has to be going somewhere. Someone has done something, somewhere to cause this. Jacking up the boiler with foam is only a Band-Aid on the infection. Unless you have experienced it, and have worked extensively in low lying areas with ground water issues, you may not understand.
    Tell me where the building is. I (or you) can look on Google Earth and maybe figure out where a problem can come from. Judging from that old riveted tank in the photo, that was an old boiler that was replaced. Why did this just come up? And not years ago? There's a "High Tide" mark on that support column. Look around carefully and see if there are any other columns or parts of the foundations that have tide marks on them. Look at the bottoms of the steel columns and if the very bottoms are rust flaking, there's water under the floor.
    The company that wants to inject the foam, will only resolve that problem. There's another problem that needs to be addressed.
    Believe me. I've experienced it.
    You can just give me/us the Latitude. Longitude position.  

    If you have had a lot of rain, it could be rainfall from broken downspouts or broken storm sewers. If it is a clay area (and the gray stuff in the floors and walls looks like it) and they dug out the foundation in the clay and backfilled it with clean sand, the building is sitting in an impervious clay bowl and if the water isn't lead away from the building, it gets washed under the foundation.
    Remember this. When water appears, the first person they call is The Plumber. When water comes through a ceiling, the first person they call is the plumber. They don't call the tile person because it was a bad tile job. It only leaks when you take use the shower. 99.9999% of all water leaking intermittingly through a ceiling is from a shower and not a broken water pipe.
    I'd say that the same holds true for water appearing seasonably like your problem. You can raise the boiler but what does someone say when it doesn't stop the washing away of the soil?
  • icesailor icesailor @ 10:27 AM
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    Reviewing past pposts:

    I just went over these past posts.
    This job and customer is an energy sucker and your uncompensated time will never cover your experience and cost. They are willing to spend a lot of money on a temporary fix, but not solve the problem. Don't sell yourself short.
    From the appearance of the boiler that you installed, you are one qualified mechanic and do work to be proud of. It isn't appreciated and you were probably the low bidder, against slugs who would do an install worthy of the "Wall of Shame" on hvac-talk.com. Go somewhere where your skills are appreciated. Working there is like living in an abusive relationship. You don't realize how bad it was until you leave.
    Because of pride, it took me a very long time to learn that with some jobs and people, I needed to wish them health, happiness and long distance. And get on with my life.
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