Removing a radiator from the wall to decorate behind it: easy peasy instructions

I don’t want anybody thinking that I am such an OCD painter that I take radiators off of walls willy nilly to paint behind them, every time I decorate. I only do it when it’s completely necessary. In this case, I was starting to upgrade the utility room and discovered that the previous owners had painted straight onto plasterboard which was causing all of the paint work to peel off in strips. It was peeling down behind the radiator too and I knew I was going to have to remove it in order to prep the walls adequately before painting them again.

I should say from the beginning that I am not a trained plumber…in fact, I am not any kind of plumber…and therefore anything I share here today is not reviewed or confirmed by someone who knows better than me. However, what I can say is that when I watched video tutorials online on how to do this before trying for myself, they were all done by tradesmen called things like ‘Steve’ wearing tool belts round their waists and using terms like ‘ratchet wrench’ and ‘lockshield valve’, none of which made me feel remotely confident about being able to achieve this all by myself. So, I wanted to write this content up because if I could do this, then really anybody can. I have roped my Damon in to help me take some photos so you might see some ‘man hands’ in the photos at some points. And, one of the nuts was so tight I just couldn’t manage it by myself, neither of us could, so at one point Damon had to hold a pipe steady while I put my body weight behind a wrench. But that’s the only time I had assistance.

  1. Turn off the valves going into and out of your radiator. We don’t have thermostatic valves, so for us this meant pulling off the white cap from the valve:IMG_20180121_094144.jpgand then using a pair of pliers turned the valve clockwise until it won’t turn any more which indicates it is turned off.IMG_20180121_094128
  2. Once both valves are off there will be no more water entering or leaving the radiator, however, the radiator will still have water inside it and this will need drained out before you lift it clean off the wall. You need to pop a pot or tub underneath the valve on each side of the radiator because once you start to loosen the nuts water can start dripping immediately.
  3. Then you can start to loosen the nuts that connect the radiator to the pipes:IMG_20180121_094229Look how old and dusty and horrible these are…it was no wonder I couldn’t turn this with the strength of only one person, but hopefully yours aren’t so ancient. We used an adjustable spanner, which is the kind with a little roller on it to make the spanner size bigger or smaller depending on the size of your nut, to place round the nut.IMG_20180121_094253 (*by the way, I found out this was called a union nut…the one between the feeder pipe and your radiator*).
  4. You also need a tool to hold on to the vertical pipe at the same time as you try to loosen the nut…if you storm ahead and start trying to loosen the nut with the spanner without applying counter pressure, you run the risk of damaging the feeder pipe. I used a grip wrench which is like an extra strong wrench designed to grip onto things and keep them held still…it has a handle on it that clicks into place to hold something tight:IMG_20180121_094320
  5. Once these are in place, hold onto the gripping wrench (or your chosen tool) to keep the feeder pipe nice and steady and to loosen the nut on the inlet side of your radiator, turn the nut down towards the floor. To loosen the nut at the other side of the radiator pull your nut up towards the ceiling.
  6. When the nut gives, you can down tools and just use your fingers to loosen it the rest of the way. Water may start to leak and drip immediately, but if it doesn’t don’t be tempted to pull the radiator to the side to start releasing it, it may well gush and spit everywhere.IMG_20180121_143339 Instead use a radiator key to open the valve at the top of the radiator and allow some air into the system.IMG_20180121_100226As soon as air gets into the radiator, the flow of it will push out the water at the bottom and you will notice your bowl/pot start to fill up much faster.
  7.  Once the water stops dripping, repeat the process at the other side of the radiator. There will likely be hardly any water at this side because most will have drained already.IMG_20180121_100251
  8. And, you’re basically done. Make sure both nuts are fully loosened and detached from the piping and then you can lift your radiator off the brackets. Be careful!! Because even if you use radiator inhibitor, there will almost certainly still be some horrid black gunge at the bottom of the radiator which hasn’t drained out. Tilt the radiator slightly over one of the bowls/tubs/pots and allow the last of the watery content from inside to come out before setting aside.

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