Locating and fixing baseboard leak


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Old 01-24-16, 04:00 PM
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Locating and fixing baseboard leak

I remodeled my upstairs bath about 6 years ago and replaced the heater with a baseboard. Have never had a leak.

Fast forward to last week and I find the ceiling sheet rock is wet in the bathroom below that I'm remodeling now.

I traced the source to the upstairs bath baseboard. It was about a half a quart of water that made its way to the floor. It was a fairly big puddle.

The heating system uses Venturi valves that have 1/2" bent copper coming out. In order to replicate the path with strait pipe I had to use several 90 degree fittings.

To purge air, I have an automatic bleeder on the baseboard. I always keep the cap closed tight as I heard people have had issues with them leaking.

So, I'm not sure if the leak is in one of the soldered joints or related to the valve. What's frustrating is there has been no issue for 6 years and it has been bone dry since I found the water last week. In other words, I can't replicate it.

Of course this had to happen after I installed the new ceiling. Here are my questions:

1) why would it leak so much then stop and not come back?

2) from the pics, can you tell where the leak might originate? It does not appear to have gotten wet other than above the hole where the pipe enters the floor above

3) If I have to run a new line, is PEX an option? I would have to rip open the ceiling otherwise. I have a small space to work in the adjacent room (pic with the Venturi valve)

Thanks for any ideas!

Venturi valve and bent copper pipe


Pipe going up to the heater. The water ran to the right along the joist



Pipe to baseboard and air bleeder valve pipe
 
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Old 01-24-16, 07:34 PM
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A one-time leak in six years leads me to think it is more likely that someone spilled water on the floor and it ran down the pipe to create the puddle that leaked through the ceiling. I don't think I would do anything at this point in time but to watch it carefully.

AS for using PEX to re-pipe it...yes, but. You cannot use regular PEX but must use PEX that has an oxygen barrier. One type is PEX-AL-PEX that has an aluminum barrier layer. There are at least one, maybe two other types as well. If you use regular PEX then atmospheric oxygen will diffuse through the plastic and into the water. This will then corrode any iron-containing parts in the system and cause no end of troubles.
 
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Old 01-24-16, 07:54 PM
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I would agree with you but I was the only one home at the time. I was in the room wednesday night and went down Thursday when my gf came back home and was all wtf?

I suppose I can put a tray under it to see if it leaks again.

As far as the pex I would intend to use the Orange stuff. Probably the strait pipe with a 90 degree. Not sure how it connects to the heater though.
 
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Old 01-24-16, 08:00 PM
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Oh and I checked all the other plumbing in the room above (shower, toilet) both were bone dry. If not for the discoloration on the paper I never would have found it. It ran down the inside of the sheetrock covering the pocket door and pooled on the floor.
 
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Old 01-25-16, 05:42 PM
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I've had automatic vents (looking just like the one in your pic) leak some water - seemingly out of nowhere - and then not leak again for quite a while. I suspect it's the little discs inside them that aren't sealing quickly enough after allowing for the venting of some air.

Some knowledgeable people on this board recommend manual air vents, in lieu of the auto air vents, when they are located inside (or above) a finished room.
 
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Old 01-25-16, 06:56 PM
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Did you have the vent open at the top? Mine was closed so I'm not sure where it could have leaked.

I'm happy to change to a manual bleeder as this is basically manual because I close the cap unless I'm bleeding.

Is there a manual bleeder that fits the same threads?
 
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Old 01-25-16, 07:21 PM
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Did you have the vent open at the top? Mine was closed so I'm not sure where it could have leaked.
I missed that in your original post. Looking at your pics again, it does appear that your auto vent may have leaked at a location other than the capped opening. But I don't think that would alter the diagnosis...the vent is shot.

I've seen basic manual vents on the shelf at the home centers around here that will fit your application, they look like this:

http://www.hciterminator.com/products/img/TV.jpg
 
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Old 01-25-16, 07:58 PM
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Cool thanks. I'll check out lowes / hd for the bleeders.

Only downside is I spent a fortune on these bleeders.
 
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Old 01-25-16, 08:06 PM
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Only downside is I spent a fortune on these bleeders.
10 bucks???? Sheesh...

The pic looks like it leaked under the cap... ( that brown mark).. And I may see streaking...

Put in manuals.....



 
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Old 01-26-16, 06:00 AM
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I wasn't sure if that was a weld mark but I'll get the manual today.

They cost me $15 x every radiator in the house. A small fortune to be sure

I'll get the manual today.
 
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Old 01-27-16, 05:42 PM
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In an effort to confirm the leak was from the vent before I replace it, I put a paper towel under it.

The towel was dry but the sheetrock underneath the room got wet again. I'm having a hard time tracking down where the leak is from. I sprayed the caulk surrounding the tub and got nothing. Nothing from the tub drain or the toilet flange.

Looking at the new leak it seems it's from that area near the heater but not the vent or pipe.

Is there a trick to finding a leak I may be overlooking?
 
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Old 01-27-16, 06:20 PM
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Is there a trick to finding a leak I may be overlooking?
Try and narrow things down. Like, is there any way to know if the leak is a slow constant one, or if it only happens when someone uses a particular plumbing fixture in the upstairs bathroom? The latter might suggest a leak in the drain/waste piping, while the former might suggest a leaking shower valve connection. Just as an example.

If you do confirm that the problem is not related to the heating system, then you might want to check out: Plumbing, Piping, Water Heating, Wells, Air & Water Filtration and Conditioning - DoItYourself.com Community Forums
 
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Old 01-27-16, 06:55 PM
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Thanks rockledge. I cut a hole under the tub and toilet and both are dry which led me to the shower.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason. The first time I noticed it was 15 hours after I took a shower. Then there were 3 shower of nothing and then I noticed wet drywall the next day.

I've run all the fixtures in that location while I had my head in the ceiling and nothing. I'm only making guesses by watermarks in the drywall / joists.
 
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Old 01-31-16, 08:42 AM
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Confirmed the leak

Ok I found the leak. It was coming from the top of the bleeder:



I replaced it with a manual bleeder but that is leaking at the threads (and it is tight). Should I have wrapped this with Teflon tape? Also, any trick to doing this without draining the system? I got soaked trying to do without draining.



Thanks!
 
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Old 01-31-16, 09:24 AM
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Ok I found the answer in another thread. I turned off the water to the boiler and drained off enough to take the pressure to zero (or close). I wrapped the fitting with Teflon tape and everything seems to be working well.

I took apart the old auto bleeder and noticed that it has a screw top. Is it possible it was not on tight enough?

I ask because I wonder if I should change all the auto bleeders to the manual type.

The other question I had, when I take the boiler down to zero psi and shut the water off, should there be a need to bleed all the baseboards? I didn't seem to have to do it just now as they seem to be working fine.
 
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Old 02-01-16, 04:10 PM
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Good to hear you found the leak. Sounds like you have things under control.

The auto bleeders are known to leak eventually. But it might be a better summer project to replace all the old bleeders with new ones, just in case you run into some unforeseen problem. You can take the time to bleed all the baseboards at that time.

The other question I had, when I take the boiler down to zero psi and shut the water off, should there be a need to bleed all the baseboards? I didn't seem to have to do it just now as they seem to be working fine.
If the baseboards are giving off the same amount of heat as before, then you're fine.
 
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Old 02-01-16, 06:08 PM
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Thanks again for the help!

One final question, are these auto bleeders below prone to failure as well? When I last worked on my heating system it was helpful to have all of the bleeders open for a while. The air would escape out periodically over an hour or so.

I'm trying to figure out how to accomplish the same with manual bleeders I would have to shut off and move to the next rather than just leaving them open and letting the air eventually work its way out.

I have to replace the baseboard in the downstairs bath I removed as part of the project so I will be introducing air in the system.

 
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Old 02-02-16, 03:59 AM
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In my opinion those bleeders you pictured in post #17 are absolutely useless except as manual bleeders that are prone to leakage. They contain a "hygroscopic" disc that is supposed to let the air pass until the first drop of water hits it and causes the disc to swell up, stopping all air passage. I have found them to release air so slowly as to make them no different than no vent at all.

Of course, I have never had a problem with the float-type vents so what do I know?

Truthfully, a properly designed and installed system should NOT have air problems after an initial fill and bleed so totally manual vents are not only the least expensive but the most reliable way to go.
 
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Old 02-02-16, 06:42 AM
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Furd - thanks. I have been replacing the convection heaters with baseboards as I remodel rooms. In the bathroom referenced I removed the convection heater and have not put the baseboard back yet. After that room I'm going to do my office.

Unfortunately I end up having to bleed more than I would like.
 
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Old 02-02-16, 07:37 AM
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Unfortunately I end up having to bleed more than I would like.
Exactly (more or less ) is more than you like? Once a year? More often? Unless you have a poorly designed system OR have leaks that require making up for the leak(s) by adding more water you should be able to go many years without having to bleed any air.

Any joint, be it threaded, soldered or otherwise made, that shows any corrosion is most likely leaking. New water that is added because of a pressure drop allowing the pressure reducing valve to open and adding water will also admit air that is dissolved in the incoming water. Stopping all the leaks will stop the pressure from dropping and will stop the addition of new water.
 
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Old 02-02-16, 09:24 AM
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No, I meant that I'm forever replacing parts on the system which require me to bleed. Seems like every year I've got s new project that requires me replacing a heater as part of the remodel.
 
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Old 02-02-16, 10:19 AM
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I've worked on everything from small (40,000 BTU/hour) residential systems to 80,000,000 (yes, 80 million) BTU/hour systems and the one thing they ALL had in common is a necessity to bleed air when the system is opened for repair. It is just the nature of the beast.

One method, which is probably more time and money than what it is worth, would be to run 1/4 inch copper tubing from the vent locations (eliminate the vent valve proper) to a central location near the boiler and terminate the individual vent tubing with needle valves. This would allow you to easily vent any or all sections while still keeping an eye on the system pressure at the boiler. I had considered doing this in my parents home except that other than when I would dump the entire system it never required bleeding. Maybe the float vents were the reason but I think it was mostly because it didn't leak anywhere.
 
 

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