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#603741 - 05/28/10 11:02 PM Loosening a pipe fitting: suggestions?
Joe Frickin' Friday Offline

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Registered: 07/28/00
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Loc: Ann Arbor, MI (USA)
I'm installing a branch pipe (for a gas-powered clothes dryer) onto the main natural gas line in our house. The main pipe is 1" NPT, and I'm trying to tap into an existing tee, one leg of which has been plugged with a pipe plug which has a square boss on it for wrenching.

That plug was presumably installed in '94, when the house was built - and it's pretty tight. Today I had a pipe wrench on the tee and a 13/16" open-end wrench (that's a "spanner" for you folks in the British isles wave) on the square boss of the pipe plug. The open-end wrench was only about half as long as the handle on the pipe wrench, so I slipped a cheater bar onto it, and shortly thereafter snapped my open-end wrench into two pieces.

Did I mention that the plug was pretty tight?

Thankfully Sears replaced my busted open-end wrench under warranty, and while I was there I bought a second pipe wrench, same size as my first one. But before I start really whaling on this plug/tee connection with a pair of bad-ass pipe wrenches, I'm curious to know if anyone has any suggestions that might reduce my effort, or - more importantly - avoid risking damage to the existing pipe. This would be a major PITA if I have to replace any of the existing pipeline, as there don't seem to be any unions that would make it even slightly easy.

Heat? Solvents? How can I soften the pipe thread compound in that 16-year-old connection?
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#603746 - 05/28/10 11:38 PM Re: Loosening a pipe fitting: suggestions? [Re: Joe Frickin' Friday]
elkroeger Offline
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Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 2388
Loc: Seattle
I haven't done a lot of natural gas lines specifically - almost all water and other pressurized gasses. You didn't mention it but it should be black iron pipe, with some type of sealant (teflon). In case you (or another reader) isn't familiar with it - NPT stands for National Pipe Thread. They are tapered threads, which achieve a seal by getting tighter and tighter the more you wrench the parts together. You can imagine that leaks are a big no-no, so natural gas lines really get tightened down hard. And then there's that sealant. That stuff serves as a lubricant during assembly, and a gap filler. It also hardens up and can be a real bear to crack open. But that's pretty much your only hurdle: Leverage. Use two, 24" pipe wrenches. Maybe have a friend help, or add cheater bars. Do not heat the pipe, unless you want to have a weenie roast. I shouldn't have to say it, but make double sure that the gas is shut off, and you wan't to be super paranoid about leaks upon reassembly. Good luck!
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#603852 - 05/29/10 12:26 PM Re: Loosening a pipe fitting: suggestions? [Re: Joe Frickin' Friday]
JohnnyJ Offline
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Registered: 06/29/08
Posts: 338
Loc: California - Central Coast
An impact driver has saved the day on many occasions for me. I'm sure it would work in this situation if you could get a solid enough grip on the square portion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_driver


If I didn't have access to one at work... I would buy one.


JohnnyJ

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#603854 - 05/29/10 12:42 PM Re: Loosening a pipe fitting: suggestions? [Re: Joe Frickin' Friday]
yabadabapal Offline
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Registered: 06/29/08
Posts: 1932
Loc: Earth, for the time being !
Interesting. Im thinking that this might work. Instead of trying to loosen the connection with your pipe wrench, gently with a rubber hammer, mallet, tap the wrench in the opposite direction as if you were tightening it. Then once you feel the slightest bit of give, as if the threads were giving into the tightening direction, start tapping in the direction you want it to go, loosening. Keep tapping back and forth in opposing directions and the threads and or compound on the threads will start to soften due to friction heat. It might work?
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#603858 - 05/29/10 01:02 PM Re: Loosening a pipe fitting: suggestions? [Re: yabadabapal]
ShovelStrokeEd Offline
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Registered: 04/20/03
Posts: 11539
Loc: SE Florida
Mitch, I was a pipe fitter for about 20 years of my life.

The tee fitting will be malleable iron and the plug a form of cast iron or steel. Might be hollow, might be solid. Depends on local laws.

Two pipe wrenches in opposition are about the only way out of this. You might try tapping rather vigorously with a heavy hammer around the wrenching boss on the tee. Best way is to have another heavy hammer on the opposite side to act as an anvil and keep the rest of the piping from moving.

If all else fails, drill through the center of the plug and use a cold chisel to break the plug out of the fitting. Easy if the plug is cast. Drill large and chip it away, once it splits, it will be easy to remove. Do not be tempted to use the chisel to cut into the opening, you will be sure to damage the internal threads on the fitting. There is a special chisel for this, usually called a round nose or cape chisel.

On assembly of the new stuff, check with a local plumber on the sealant requirements. Varies by local code and teflon is usually verboten on gas lines unless in paste form. The reason you can't find any unions is that they normally only permit one and it will be after the appliance shutoff. Make sure all the fittings you use are malleable iron, not cast or worse, drainage.

BTW, NPT stands for National Pipe, Taper.


Edited by ShovelStrokeEd (05/29/10 01:02 PM)
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#603862 - 05/29/10 01:12 PM Re: Loosening a pipe fitting: suggestions? [Re: ShovelStrokeEd]
JohnnyJ Offline
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Registered: 06/29/08
Posts: 338
Loc: California - Central Coast
BTW... Did you get a permit? grin


JohnnyJ

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#603877 - 05/29/10 02:23 PM Re: Loosening a pipe fitting: suggestions? [Re: ShovelStrokeEd]
Joe Frickin' Friday Offline

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Registered: 07/28/00
Posts: 16931
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI (USA)
Originally Posted By: ShovelStrokeEd
The reason you can't find any unions is that they normally only permit one and it will be after the appliance shutoff.


Thanks for the rest of the advice. If it comes down to drilling/chiseling, that'll be exciting, since there's natural gas on the other side. Sparks, anyone? lurk I don't think I'll go there unless I managed to snap off the square wrenching boss.

Interesting though, why only one union allowed?
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#603887 - 05/29/10 02:56 PM Re: Loosening a pipe fitting: suggestions? [Re: Joe Frickin' Friday]
4wheeldog Offline
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Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 2703
Loc: moved to Tijeras NM
Originally Posted By: Middle-Aged Man
Originally Posted By: ShovelStrokeEd
The reason you can't find any unions is that they normally only permit one and it will be after the appliance shutoff.


Thanks for the rest of the advice. If it comes down to drilling/chiseling, that'll be exciting, since there's natural gas on the other side. Sparks, anyone? lurk I don't think I'll go there unless I managed to snap off the square wrenching boss.

Interesting though, why only one union allowed?


Unions leak.......Natural gas is hard to seal, leaks are not obvious, if they develop, and the consequences of a leak are ......Serious, potentially. Thus the use of left hand/right hand couplings.

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#603889 - 05/29/10 02:57 PM Re: Loosening a pipe fitting: suggestions? [Re: Joe Frickin' Friday]
wolcott Offline
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Registered: 11/07/05
Posts: 907
Loc: Florida
You say you already have one pipe wrench; Ed thinks there's a possiblity with two- get thyself down to Home Depot or Lowes and get a nice Ridgid pipe wrench. They make quality plumbing tools, especially the pipe wrenches. Even aluminum, but aluminum is big bucks. Standard steel will do. Would probably help to get somebody to hold one pipe wrench for you. Or if he's stronger, have him have a go at the plug.

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#603896 - 05/29/10 03:30 PM Re: Loosening a pipe fitting: suggestions? [Re: Joe Frickin' Friday]
Lawman Offline
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Registered: 03/22/04
Posts: 3604
Loc: Joaquin, Texas
Originally Posted By: Middle-Aged Man
Heat? Solvents? How can I soften the pipe thread compound in that 16-year-old connection?


I can't answer your question but I can't pass up this chance to tell a story.. smile
In Houston I was once dispatched to a location where a man had used a traffic flair to heat a gas line to remove an old gas line cap or connection..He was smart enough to turn the gas off but not to consider the gas left in the line..Somehow he managed to cause an explosion at the point of the heat. He blew off most of his right hand, the right side of his face and blew his right eyeball out which was hanging down about where his cheek used to be..

Be careful out there Mitch..
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