How to clean, align, install, lubricate and tighten gaskets for ideal results.
by Chett Norton

Gasket failures can be problematic, causing unwanted downtime, revenue loss and safety concerns. Failure analysis shows that up to 85 percent of all gasket failures are due to faulty user installation, though it is important to note that with proper training and installation procedures, most of these failures are preventable. ASME PCC-1 is a post-construction guideline for pressure boundary bolted flange joint assemblies, and the bulk of gasket manufacturers derive their installation procedures from this guideline. For the end user who does not have an installation procedure, it is a great resource to have; however, the book is more than 99 pages and is not suitable to carry around in the field.

To help with this, the Fluid Sealing Association, (FSA), in conjunction with the European Sealing Association, (ESA), have created a Gasket Installation Procedures pocket book (available in nine languages on the FSA and ESA websites, fluidsealing.com, europeansealing.com) to help installers focus on the key points of proper gasket installation. Following is a summary of the six principal areas of focus in sequential order.

Circle tightening illustrationFigure 1: Legacy method or cross-bolt tightening pattern (Graphics courtesy of FSA)

Prior to starting any installation, it is important to follow all company safety procedures and policies to ensure the system has been depressurized, drained and de-energized (lockout and tagout procedures) and have all the necessary personal protection equipment (PPE) and tools to help the job go as smoothly and as safely as possible. At minimum, equipment should consist of:

  • calibrated torque wrench or other tightening device
  • wire brush
  • hard hat
  • safety goggles and/or face shield
  • lubricant
  • other plant specified equipment

Step 1: Clean and Examine

Once the gasket has been removed from the flange, remove any foreign material or gasket debris from the sealing surface. Using a wire brush, physically remove any material embedded in the sealing face or flange serrations. Be careful not to use a grinder, hammer and chisel, or abrasive material that could further damage the flange sealing surface. Inspect the sealing face for dents, dings, mars or pitting that could cause sealing issues. If there is any noticeable flange face damage, you can refer to ASME PCC-1 Appendix D—guidelines for allowable gasket contact surface flatness and defect depth, to determine if repairs to the flange are required. Inspect fasteners such as bolts, washers and nuts for defects, cracks and burrs. If fastener components are determined to be defective then discard and replace.


Examination Tip:

When inspecting bolts and nuts, make sure that nuts run freely over the threads prior to installation to ensure there is no damage to the threads.

Step 2. Align Flanges

To create an effective seal, the installer must ensure that the flanges are parallel as they are brought together. This gives the best chance of applying a uniform maximum gasket load, creating the best seal. ASME PCC-1-2013 Appendix E—Flange Joint Guidelines, gives the recommended allowable limits for:

  • flange parallelism
  • centerline high/low (the alignment of inner diameter (ID) of the flange bore or outer diameter (OD) of the flange meet)
  • rotational-two hole (rotational alignment of bolt holes to allow the insertion of fasteners without binding)
  • excessive spacing, which is defined as when the distance between the two flanges is more than twice of the gasket thickness selected

If the system piping requires more than normal force to bring the two flanges together, contact or consult with an engineer. Do not try and overtighten the bolts in hopes of bringing the flanges together.


Alignment Tip:

Avoid using a pry bar or screwdriver to align flanges. Proper tools are available to help with both linear and rotational alignment that are safer and easier to use.

Step 3. Install Gasket

Before installing, inspect the gasket to ensure that it is free of defects and that it was cut cleanly with no rips or tears. Carefully insert the gasket between the flanges, making sure it is centered between the flanges. In the case of difficult or horizontal installations, never apply release agents or joint compounds on the sealing surface of the gasket. Doing this causes two main problems:

  1. The joint is now lubricated making it easier for the gasket to extrude from the flange as a result of internal pressure and hydrostatic end forces that are acting upon the joint.
  2. The material can cause a chemical attack on the gasket, compromising the gasket properties and its service life expectancy.


Installation Tip:

For full face gaskets, inserting two to three bolts through both flanges and gasket will help locate the gasket and keep it from moving while bringing the flanges together, reducing the risk of pinching or damaging the gasket.

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