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Old 05-11-2011, 02:23 PM   #1
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replacing/altering cast iron supply & return lines?


i'm a forum newbie, part time home renovator (mainly a hobbyist who's too cheap to pay contractors, and too interested in the workings of older home retrofits to let someone else have all the fun) looking to finish a 100+ yr old basement. i'm hoping to convert it into a separate usable rental suite.

for an old house, especially in this area (northern ontario), i'm amazed at how high the basement ceiling clearance is. 7-8ft....with one caveat; the cast iron supply/return lines for the boiler hang around the 6ft mark. when i bought the house, the entire basement was unfinished apart from a few small bathroom renovations in the 60s or 70s, and was used only for storage.

since i'm hoping to fix up the basement, it may involve raising these cast iron pipes that heat the rest of the house to a height that they would be out of the way/above a suspended ceiling (fwiw - the basement is currently unheated, and i'm thinking of electric radiant in-floor heat. that's decision for another thread).

MY QUESTION: how much of a task would it be to cut about half of the supply/return cast iron pipes, and raise them a few feet, so they're not at or just above eye level? as all the lines funnel down toward the boiler, they are met by lines coming from other parts of the house, creating larger diameter sections. however, all the lines are either 1.25 or 1.5 inch.

also wondering if i should use steel or pex to just replace the cast iron, as it seems chopping existing old & brittle pipes, then using dies to cut new threads - purely just to reuse the same old piping - might be a nightmare in itself. i would assume a newer replacement pipe might be easier/more cost effective than dealing with potentially wrecking the old pipes.

i'm planning on doing the basement bathroom plumbing with pex, and as i understand it, pex can handle up to 200f. my new boiler caps at around that temperature, but with a bit of pressure in there, i'd guess the heat is a bit higher. not sure if pex would be a good idea for piping hot water under 15-25lbs of pressure.

any suggestions or advice?? it would be greatly appreciated!!

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Old 05-11-2011, 07:03 PM   #2
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replacing/altering cast iron supply & return lines?


Use copper pipe, type M.

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Old 05-11-2011, 07:33 PM   #3
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replacing/altering cast iron supply & return lines?


Be prepared for an awful mess when you drain that system/cut into those pipes. Wasn't there a Doobie Bros. song "O Black Water". THat stuff stains the floor forever and stinks.
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Old 05-12-2011, 05:07 PM   #4
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replacing/altering cast iron supply & return lines?


thanks for the replies. i guess my biggest concern is whether or not i can cut new threads onto the old pipe, after i cut it...apart from the cost of a bunch of new copper/steel/pex/whatever, i'd be up sh*t creek if i couldn't end up connecting into the existing system.
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Old 05-12-2011, 06:10 PM   #5
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replacing/altering cast iron supply & return lines?


What you are proposing to do is a HUGE difficult complicated task. Not possible to just tap and die onto pipes hanging in the air unless you are built like Lou Ferrigno. You cannot just spread them and put in a union to join them in the middle. Would have to strip them backwards from the boiler etc etc. Cast iron and galvanized are NOT easy pipes to seal and if you don't know the old school methods to work with them you may refill the whole system and have leaks. If it ain't broke don't go fixing it. You also need to find out if the insulation on the boiler and those pipes has asbestos in it.
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Old 05-12-2011, 06:14 PM   #6
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replacing/altering cast iron supply & return lines?


Quote:
Originally Posted by yuri View Post
What you are proposing to do is a HUGE difficult complicated task. Not possible to just tap and die onto pipes hanging in the air unless you are built like Lou Ferrigno. You cannot just spread them and put in a union to join them in the middle. Would have to strip them backwards from the boiler etc etc. Cast iron and galvanized are NOT easy pipes to seal and if you don't know the old school methods to work with them you may refill the whole system and have leaks. If it ain't broke don't go fixing it. You also need to find out if the insulation on the boiler and those pipes has asbestos in it.
yea i figured it might be more work than it's worth. no insulation on any of the pipes, was a little section that was still insulated when i moved in, but was told it was horse hair, and it's since been removed. the boiler's new, as of a year and a half ago.

i will probably just have to deal with the low-hanging pipes. thanks again for the reply!

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