September 2015

How To Bolt Flanges

According to the Fluid Sealing Association (FSA,) incorrect tightness is the leading reason gasketed joints fail. This can be prevented by following good bolting practice.


After installing a new gasket or seal it’s essential to tighten the fasteners with a torque wrench that’s been recently calibrated. Without this it’s impossible to know if the joint has been tightened to the required level.

Friction between the nut, washers, flange faces and thread increases the torque measured at the wrench, possibly resulting in insufficient clamping force being applied to the gasket. Avoid this by applying a thin, uniform coating of high quality lubricant to the underside of bolt heads, nuts and washers and the thread itself. Take care to keep it off the gasket.

Tightening sequence

The gasket must be compressed uniformly to avoid material displacement. It’s also important to avoid deforming the flange faces. There are two aspects to consider: the bolt pattern and the tightening sequence.

Bolt pattern

To bring the joint together, fasteners should be tightened in opposite pairs. Start at 12 o’clock and then move to 6 o’clock. Then halve the angle between them, moving to the 3 and 9 o’clock pair. Halve the angle again, going to the pair closest to 1:30 and 7:30. Keep repeating until every bolt has been tightened.

Tightening sequence

  1. Following the pattern described above, insert the bolts and run up the nuts by hand.
  2. Set the torque wrench to 30% of full torque and, using the pattern, tighten each fastener.
  3. Repeat with the torque wrench at 60%.
  4. Repeat again with the torque wrench at 100%.
  5. Make a final pass, this time in a circumferential direction, ensuring each fastener is at the required torque.

Do the job once

Replacing gaskets and seals can be expensive, so whenever joints are made in pipes and ducting it’s important to ensure they don’t leak. One factor in achieving a good joint is to follow good bolting practice. Control the torque applied, the bolting pattern and the tightening sequence to avoid leaks.

Understanding Gasket Compression Curves

Selecting gasket material requires knowledge of how it’s going to perform in the joint. There are a number of material properties that designers or engineers use to guide their choice for the fabrication of a custom gasket. One of those is compressibility. Essentially a measure of material stiffness, compressibility is defined as the percentage reduction in thickness that occurs under the application of a given load. It’s often presented graphically with thickness reduction along the x-axis and load in pounds per square inch on the Y.

All non-metallic gasket materials compress or densify under load. It’s how they adapt to the mating faces, filling hollows and compensating for poor parallelism. (Metal gaskets are usually designed with compressive features for the same reason.) In general, a softer gasket material is going to deform more easily, so resulting in a leak-tight joint at the lowest possible clamping force.

Complicating the selection process, softer materials often have a tendency to flow or extrude. Bolt loads push material out through the bolt-to-hole clearance and from around the flanges. Internal loads can also lead to the material extruding out, ultimately creating a leak path.

Another issue is relaxation. The compression curve shows the initial load to create a given deflection. However, as with most materials, gasket materials undergo both elastic and plastic deformation. Elastic deformation is temporary: remove the load and the material springs back. But plastic deformation is permanent: the material takes on a ‘set.’ So when the joint is first made the compressive force is high, but over time, (minutes rather than days,) it reduces. This stress relaxation is another important material property for the designer to consider.

Plastic deformation has implications for gasket life too. When a joint is undone some of that initial compressibility has been lost, which is one reason why gaskets shouldn’t be reused.

Gasket compression curves indicate the stiffness of a material. They should be used as an aid to selecting the softest material for an application, having given regards to the other properties needed. If in doubt, it’s always best to consult a specialist!  Contact Hennig Gasket & Seals today for fast quotes and accurately cut parts.