Opinions on replacing cast iron rad? Is GC right?

la_koalaSeptember 19, 2011

Hi all,

I'm having our kitchen/mud room space remodeled. There is a cast iron radiator in the kitchen that I love. It puts out a lot of heat, is wonderful to put your mittens on when you come in from shoveling snow, or for warming them up before going out to shovel. :-) This is hot water heat (not steam).

For the new kitchen layout, I want the radiator relocated to a new spot. The GC is suggesting instead to replace it, because sediment has likely built up in the bottom and makes the radiator less effective.

However, I grew up in a house that had one 5-foot long baseboard heater to heat the kitchen, and it never did an effective job (still doesn't actually. My parents still live there). I can't help but think that this big cast iron radiator will still heat better even with sediment in the bottom than a new baseboard heater. And it got hot just fine over this past winter.

Plus, my radiator looks nice--it's painted white, got curved sections, with just a few chips in the white paint showing the metal underneath, not shabby at all (imho, and did I mention that I love it? :-))

So, what are your opinions about the possible sediment? Is sediment build-up a good reason to replace it with a baseboard hot-water radiator, now that this remodeling is being done? Is sediment likely to mean it'll fail in two years, and I'll have to replace it then anyway?

(I think he's suggesting a brand new radiator, and not going out to find a replacement cast iron one with less sediment.)

Thanks in advance!


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This is a photo of the radiator in the existing kitchen:

I don't have a close up pic online, but you can get an idea of the size of the radiator.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 11:11AM
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Of course he wants to replace it--they are heavy and he'll make more money buying a less satisfactory replacement.

Since you are relocating it, you will have the opportunity to flush it out and that will get rid of a lot of sediment, if any is really there. I'd say, it's worked fine this long with no problems, so don't let him scare you.

You may have to touch up the paint, or not, since you don't mind a few chips. :)

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 1:52PM
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There is a company in our city doing a booming business recycling old cast iron rads in great demand for renos. My most comfortable home had these rads, which once the boiler was properly adjusted, provided the most comfortable heating of any home I've lived in.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 4:13PM
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I replaced a giant (3+ feet tall, 9 section) In the way of my cabinet layout with a fan-forced toespace hot water heater. It is the equal in output of the 400 lb. beast. Can't warm (or dry) mittens, but it puts out the heat right at my toes, and keeps the kitchen warm just as well as the old method.
If you can find a plumber who will repipe it to have the same efficiency of water flow through it will put off the same heat, but the piping is crucial with these circuitous systems.
Sediment was not in evidence in mine, which probably was installed in the twenties(?). Just filthy blackwater from the iron.

Here is a link that might be useful: Toespace hydronic heaters

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 8:05PM
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Thank you all! Especially for giving me the confidence that I shouldn't be scared of keeping the radiator. :-)

Casey, I am impressed that you got a forced-fan toespace heater to match the output of your giant radiator. If I had piles of money, I might spring for the radiant heating in the entire floor, and relocate the "old girl" to hook her up in another room. A few years ago, I was talking to a plumber who put it in his own house, and couldn't stop glowing about it. Of course, he added that it was cost effective for him as he was doing all the work. :-) It's good to hear that you didn't find evidence of sediment in your radiator.

columbusguy1, that's a good tip about flushing it out. It's going to be sitting for a space of time during this project, so I might as well do that.

Oh worthy, I can certainly see how that company would be doing a booming business! Some of the detail on those radiators is just gorgeous when the paint is spruced up. Of course, you need the gear to transport them. :-)

Thanks again! I really appreciate it.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 9:15PM
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I'm not fond of GC's advice when it comes to old houses unless they specialize in old houses. I find too many are of the mind set old is always bad new is always better.
Those radiators have been heating your house for decades and are probably the best source of even heat you are going to find. I'd stick with them.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 10:02AM
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I agree w/others about GC's and the lack of knowledge when it comes to old houses.

There should be a few things considered -
Placement of existing vs proposed & that you will get the appropriate heating of said location
- condition of existing rad - make sure it does not contain any leaks
- Is it steam or hot water & is it fed by well or city will all factor into the condition of existing

We had to replace one beasty cast iron rad in our kitchen remodel and put in 2 toe kick heaters - if this is done, a calculation of room requirements

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 7:30AM
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