Steam boilers: Italianate farmhouse in Thurmont, Maryland

This beautiful Italianate farmhouse was built in 1860 and has been in the same family ever since. It’s located in Thurmont, Maryland, just north of Frederick.

Italianate farmhouse in Thurmont, Maryland.


Side view.

The current owner’s father was a steamfitter and installed the steam heating system in the 1940s. The home originally had two Kewanee steel oil boilers. We replaced one several years ago and returned again to replace the second boiler.

Before: 1940s vintage Kewanee steel boiler installed by current owner’s father, who was a steamfitter.


Custom fabricated one-pipe steam radiator.

We specified a Burnham Mega Steam cast iron oil boiler with a Beckett burner. Our lead fitter Brian Golden, technician Slavko Nisevic, and their talented crew did a masterful job piping this boiler, with two risers feeding a drop header to slow down the velocity of the steam in this one-pipe system. We also added new main vents and radiator vents to complete the restoration of this old system.  –Dan Foley

After: Burnham Mega Steam cast iron boiler with Beckett AFG oil burner. The dropped header was installed to manufacturer specifications using two risers.





Steam boilers: Returning another system to its former glory

Steam boilers are one of our specialties here at Foley Mechanical. Steam heating systems haven’t been installed since the 1940s, but they’re still out there in the basements of older buildings all across America. Repairing and maintaining them is a dying art, which is why we see many botched systems out there during the course of our work.

steam hydronics maintenance repair

This is a 1920’s vintage Dunham Vapor system in an old farmhouse near Warrenton, Virginia. The existing boiler is only about eight years old and has cracked the sections twice due to improper piping.

steam hydronics maintenance repair boiler

BEFORE: Dunham valve with cracked union nut.

We performed a re-pipe and re-install of this boiler to fix the problems. We re-piped the header and Hartford Loop to manufacturer specifications.  We also flushed out the wet returns, replaced the crossover vents, and added a main venting system.

After the piping was complete, we cleaned and skimmed the boiler to remove dirt and oil.  The fuel filter and nozzle were replaced and the burner was tuned up using a digital combustion analyzer.

steam boiler hydronics maintenance

AFTER: New 3″ dropped headed piped to manufacturer specifications. New brass control header with cleanouts.

steam system, hydronics, boiler, maintenance, repair

AFTER: New 2″ equalizer, skim tapping, and properly piped Hartford loop.

Steam systems are finicky and notoriously difficult to work on.  It’s very satisfying when one is restored to its original glory, like this one was.

— Dan Foley

Fort Scott Residence

Arlington, Virginia / 3,000 sf new residential construction / mechanical package including Lochinvar Knight gas boiler, stainless indirect DHW tank, radiant heat, Unico chiller, four high-velocity AC zones / David Jameson Architect / LifeCraft, Inc. general contractor / photo credit Nic Lehoux