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Joined on August 21, 2009

Last Post on August 7, 2014

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One shot spud wrench

@ August 7, 2014 8:46 AM in 1" Spud into 45 ell, do I cut the smaller sizes on the wrench off?

I'm not a pro, but I've made a single use spud "wrench" by milling down a piece of hardwood to fit the spud, then simply used a pipe wrench to crank on the block of wood. Worked fine. Just be cautious with the soft spud fitting.
Good luck,

Test It.

@ May 27, 2014 7:36 AM in Steam Radiator to Water Question

Much as I like powder coating, the process can free up rust and such that's been keeping a radiator otherwise water tight. I'd pressure test it to avoid some potential heartache.
Good luck,

home meade solution

@ March 5, 2014 8:26 AM in Magnetic coasters to shim radiator?

Hi Blaine,
Not sure how handy you are in the wood shop, but my favorite home grown solution so far is also dead simple if you have a few tools.
Find a piece of wood a bit thicker than what you need to shim the radiator. It's helpful if the wood is something "stain grade" - maybe similar to the floor or nearby trim. Using a (cheap!) forstner bit a bit bigger than the foot of the rad, drill a hole into but not through the wood. Adjust the depth of this hole to match the depth/height of the shim you need. Now center a (cheap!) hole cutting bit (a little larger than the forstner bit) over the hole. Drill through the wood and you've got an attractive, 100% custom "caster cup."
Slap a little stain and shellac on them- the whole business doesn't take more than a few minutes.
Good luck,

Never mind.

@ February 10, 2014 11:37 AM in Meet The Cozy

A valuable skill of the modern age: know when to abandon an
online argument.

 Good luck with the Cozy.



@ February 10, 2014 9:55 AM in Meet The Cozy

The same.

A bad taste.

@ February 10, 2014 9:40 AM in Meet The Cozy

Frankly, I'm put off by the claims they've made about TRV's. Perhaps this product fills a special niche the TRV can't serve, but let's be honest about it. I emailed them a while back in regard to some of their more laughable assertions ("there's no r.o.i. with TRV's because you need to replace them every year") but never heard back. They seem to have refined their marketing message without changing the product.
Now they say a TRV on steam radiators requires "plumbing?"
Only in America.



@ December 21, 2013 7:27 PM in Main bottleneck

No- in my drawing steam would be moving right to left. Sorry for the confusion- is #2 not ideal now?

More info

@ December 21, 2013 9:35 AM in Main bottleneck

The second layout it is, then, thanks gents!
I imagine this will be cheaper for us as it leaves more piping intact, but I have to say I don't understand the problem with the third scenario, Joe. Can you give me a little more info, just out of curiosity?
When that zone valve closes steam will leave the header for the second main (not shown in my diagram). Whatever water gets thrown up into the left side would be free to go straight through, past the T (with valve at the top) and on to the drip.
And I don't see how the drip is before the valve in my second picture- I'd call that "after" given the flow of steam from the boiler?
My "logic" for the third layout was that a vertical takeoff would leave more water behind. But clearly I'm not understanding something right in front of my face.
Thanks for the help!

No pix

@ December 20, 2013 2:19 PM in Main bottleneck

No pictures at the moment, though I could go and take some. It's such a hot mess I thought a diagram would be a lot easier to "see."

As for the trap, I hadn't gotten this far in my thinking about what work to ask for. Having not thought about it, I didn't think we'd need one and assumed we'd tie the drip right into the wet return. What is the purpose in this context?


@ December 20, 2013 2:05 PM in Main bottleneck

Though now that I think about, we could probably do something like this with not much more expense (see picture).

Main bottleneck

@ December 20, 2013 1:53 PM in Main bottleneck

Hello all,

It’s the continuing saga of a poorly piped church boiler.
Boiler is piped to service two buildings- this is controlled via zone valves. Large
(small commercial) steam boiler utilizes only one tapping, takeoffs from the
header are horizontal, and the equalizer is a bit undersized. In other words-
it throws up a lot of water into the mains (one for each building).

This problem is especially bad for the one takeoff:

(see "Before")

The “header” (far right- looking down the pipe) is 4” and then reduces
to 2 ½” for the horizontal takeoff to the main. It is further throttled down to 1 ¼” for
the sake of the zone valve. I understand they’re not cheap in larger sizes.
Sigh. This main rises another 10” or so and then maintains that level (plus adequate
pitch) until its end. This main is counterflow with a drip before the takeoff
to the first radiator on the main.

As you can imagine, it seems this bottleneck is quickly
overwhelmed with boiler water, and the layout holds back a sizable puddle
(after the zone valve). The boiler cycles on pressure and takes quite a while
to heat all the rads (sorry, I haven’t timed it).

The boiler is in OK working order, yet it’s
definitely in its golden years so a full repipe is not in the cards/budget. I’m
hoping a more modest fix can improve things substantially. What do you think
about this:

(see "after")

Basically, cut out the 1 ¼” pipe and replace with full size
2 ½”. Add a drip to keep the line free of quite so much boiler water. While I’m
wary of zone valves on steam (especially in a case like this that was so
obviously hacked) the church happens to have a 2 ½” zone valve body we could
have swapped in essentially for “free.” If it proves unnecessary we can disable
it, but we wouldn’t want to have the piping redone to add it back. I also don’t
like having the valve on the horizontal and wonder if it could/should be put on
the somewhat vertical bit where the main rises 10” or so.





Steamy Pix!

@ November 7, 2013 7:56 AM in Steamy Pix!

Well, most of them are hot water. But pretty terrific all the same.



@ August 28, 2013 2:03 PM in PVC elbows for pipe insulation necessary?

That came out awkwardly. I didn't use the wall insulation with mastic but instead of it. Given that the header is one crazy mass of enormous 4" fittings I thought it would take quite a lot of mastic (applied with a mop? ;) )and as I said, the pocketbook was pretty light at the time. With the aid of a utility knife and some "duck" tape the wall insulation easily conformed to all the twists and turns and seems to do a great job of keeping in the heat.
It is, I'll admit, ugly as sin. Handsome and respectable as a nice mastic job looks (I'm thinking of Gerry Gill's photos) I've got a long list of projects that are taking priority over my quick and dirty (and cheap) insulation job.
Good luck,

Hidden pipes?

@ August 27, 2013 8:21 AM in PVC elbows for pipe insulation necessary?

You mentioned a drop ceiling- does this mean the steam pipes are hidden from view? Let me throw this out.
The formed fiberglass insulation is indeed nice and gives a tidy appearance. But if the pipes are hidden, you really don't benefit there. And the PVC covers also look sharp and offer a degree of protection for the somewhat delicate insulation. Again, this shouldn't be an issue above your drop ceiling. Finally, 1" is really a minimum here- 1 1/2" would be better and 2" would be great, but the price jump is pretty outrageous. Plain ol' fiberglass stud bay insulation however works great and is dirt cheap. I used it on my 4" drop header (aside from a few gallons of mastic and a mop it seemed like the most practical solution!) and it's a wonder. Stays cool through firing, but if you peal away the insulation you'll find the iron is still rocket hot an hour after. When I re-piped my mains I went with all Ward fittings and couldn't convince the boss to spend several hundred more on snazzy form fitting insulation to suit. I swallowed my pride and used more cheap insulation. I daresay it works better than the 1" stuff (I had a bit left over from the old mains and compared).
With that diatribe out of the way- YES, you should definitely insulate your fittings as well. But the even more pricey PVC fitting covers were the last nail in the coffin for me. While I'm sure no one is getting rich manufacturing the darn things, the price just seemed far too high for what you are getting. But there's the rub- If I was going to buy the form fitted fiberglass because I had exposed pipes in a finished location I'd surely want to spring for the protective wrap, and of course I wouldn't want to spoil the look with "homemade" covers on the fittings. Kind of an all or nothing deal.
If your pipes are hidden, I'd suggest using the cheap insulation, and wrap all your fittings. Then replace the drop ceiling, take yourself out to several steak dinners with the savings, and never think about it again!
Good luck,


@ July 11, 2013 2:50 PM in "P-trap" on dry/wet return

Will do. Glad I asked!
Now that you say it, it makes sense that this radiator wasn't plumbed with a shutoff valve. We'll keep it that way.
Thanks for your help, Dave.


@ July 11, 2013 1:19 PM in "P-trap" on dry/wet return

Hi Dave,
No, the mains are not trapped before entering this "dry" return.

You asked: "Or, if not, is this return line charged with steam when the boiler is
running and steam has been established throughout the system?"
I'm not sure I follow the question, but maybe this gets to the point. There are main vents at the end of the mains, not on the "dry return." I suppose that (minus this "p-trap") the radiator in question would act as a vent on the dry return, but beyond that there's nothing that suggests steam would be encouraged to travel very far down the dry return. Where this rad drips into the dry return is a good 50' downstream from where the mains drip into the dry return.

Boiler pressure: An earlier problem with the boiler was the pressuretrol. The boiler would get up to 5+#. This is in check now, but as I said, it didn't seem to be causing any water hammer or other problems with the radiator.

The "trap" is probably about 6"-10" high. I was viewing it from above (it's currently behind some paneling) and so I'm not of this measurement.


"P-trap" on dry/wet return

@ July 11, 2013 10:36 AM in "P-trap" on dry/wet return

Hello all,
Yes, it's as convoluted (too me, anyway) as the post title makes it seem.
We're doing some renovation work on our church and need to reposition a one pipe steam radiator. The situation gets a bit odd from there- I'll try to be clear.
The boiler for the church is actually in the second building downhill from the church. The condensate returns in the church- though they run close to the floor- are actually dry returns within the church. As they travel downhill to the boiler, they become wet returns. Make sense so far?
This radiator in question is in the church basement, so while the main feeds most of the radiators (upstairs) upwards, this radiator is fed downward. A second pipe handles the condensate and connects to the "main" return back to the boiler.
Now here's the final wrinkle: someone piped in what amounts to a p-trap between the radiator and condensate return. In having the radiator moved we don't want to screw up whatever benefit this "trap" provides, but it also presents an opportunity to correct what might have been a bad idea in the first place.
I'm guessing that the "trap" is meant to prevent steam from short circuiting up the (dry) return. If so, is this an appropriate method to handle the situation? The radiator does heat up and produces no water hammer. In other words... it ain't broke.

Heavy venting

@ March 22, 2013 11:08 AM in Venting 2-pipe

So go heavy on the venting and all should be fine?
Any thoughts out there as to removing bellows etc. from the vestigial traps?


Venting 2-pipe

@ March 20, 2013 9:29 PM in Venting 2-pipe

Trying to save a few bucks and keep things running well with the steam systems in our church.
The church rectory is a two pipe vented system. That’s right- except for a couple of errant“one pipe” radiators, each radiator is dripped to the wet return and has a radiator vent.
Several of the radiators also have traps, suggesting that at some point in the system’s history it was standard two pipe.
There are no main vents (no old traps, either). Adding main vents seems like a no brainer, except that the main piping is spaghetti (see diagram). Given the smallish diameter of the mains and the weird bullheaded t’s and such I’m antsy about creating a situation where one portion of the main is favored over another, or some other weird situation.
Many factors make these calculations messy (the main starts off at 2” but reduces to 1 ¼” in most places) and there are a bunch of runouts involved, but I’ve measured roughly 101’ of main. By divvying up the shared piping, I’m assuming:
Boiler to Drip A = 29% of the total venting needed
Boiler to Drip B = 17% of the total venting needed
Boiler to Drip C = 23% of the total venting needed
Boiler to Drip D = 32% of the total venting needed
· Given the current configuration, how would you vent this system? Size and placement of vents?
· In “as few moves as possible” what changes would you make to the piping in the future?
· Would you recommend removing the guts from the (now useless) radiator traps to, say, ensure they don’t fail closed and force condensate to drain via the (undersized for one-pipe) steam side?

Patrick North

Start in the basement.

@ March 1, 2013 2:02 PM in Radiator refinishing...

Sounds like a good time to evaluate how well your mains are suspended in the basement. In my limited experience this is frequently lacking. Recently repaired a leaking flange union in our church's main caused by inadequate main support.
Good support in the basement keeps stress off the pipes, help to maintain proper pitch, etc. etc. With adequate support at the mains I wouldn't worry much about support at the radiators, though the suggestions already mentioned are good belt-and-suspenders measures.
Good luck.

Thanks, gents

@ February 19, 2013 12:47 PM in Best rad vents for draining condensate?

Good thoughts all round. I'll give it a shot. Hopefully this will help buy some time as we sort out the thornier, more expensive problems in the basement.

Best rad vents for draining condensate?

@ February 19, 2013 9:24 AM in Best rad vents for draining condensate?

Hi all,

I've found the Hoffman 1A angled vents are terrible with holding onto condensate and quickly become "waterlogged" and useless when forced to deal with wet steam. Any votes for a vent that does well under such circumstances?
I've considered using vertical mount vents and then adding my own nipple and 45 to the rad, theorizing that this would maximize a vent's draining capability. Thought on this?

And yes, we're trying to address the root of the wet steam, but it's a slog- a much abused 2-pipe vented system in  my church's rectory.

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