6 Tips for Preventing Gasket Blowout

Gaskets in flanged joints fail in two ways. Either they allow a very slow leak or they blow out. A blowout can be quite spectacular, but also dangerous and expensive. As it’s something to be avoided, here’s an explanation of what causes it and some ways of making sure it doesn’t happen.

Recognizing a Blowout

A blowout occurs when the gasket material fails catastrophically. This can happen when the gasket is resisting significant internal load. A steam system might be one example but it could be any application where the media being sealed against is under pressure. When this pressure exceeds the strength of the gasket the material is likely to fail fast, forming a hole that releases the media.

In a steam system, this results in a dangerously hot jet. In other situations, it could be acid or a flammable fluid that escapes.

Blowout Prevention

One factor is the tensile strength of the gasket material, but a flange system is more complex than that. The gasket is held in place by the clamping force. This creates friction between the flange surfaces and the gasket, and that resists movement.

Analysis of the forces in a flanged joint shows that clamping force is a bigger factor in blowout prevention than material tensile strength. (The full analysis is available on the Fluid Sealing website.) Thus anything that reduces clamping force can cause a blowout. Here are six tips to prevent that happening.

  1. Follow best practices when bolting flanged joints together. Use the recommended tightening pattern.
  2. Don’t overtighten. This makes the flanges rotate, compressing the gasket at its outer edge while there’s little or no contact on the inside. It can even crush the material, guaranteeing a failure.
  3. Minimize vibration through the joint.
  4. Choose gasket materials with low creep. (Silicone and nitrile rubber are particularly good.)
  5. Consider the effect of temperature. High temperatures will lengthen bolts, (which reduces clamping load,) and let gasket material creep. Conical spring washers may help.
  6. Use the thinnest gasket possible that handles unevenness in the flange faces.

Where to Buy Gasket Material

Gasketing is complicated. Every application has a unique combination of temperature, environment, media, and pressure to consider and there’s almost never a ‘one-material-suits-all’ solution. As a result, even a small HVAC, food processing or chemical application might need gasket materials ranging from nitrile rubber to EPDM, silicone, fiber and even PTFE.

Many companies will sell you some of these. The danger is that when they don’t carry a full range they’ll propose a material that’s not ideal for your application. Here’s some advice for deciding where to buy your gasket material.

Consider Material Range

Stocking nitrile rubber and neoprene foam does not constitute a full range. You should look for a vendor that carries all these types of gasket material:

  • Fiber
  • Felt
  • Cork and cork/rubber
  • Fiberglass
  • Compressed Non-Asbestos
  • Various types of rubber
  • Closed and open-cell foam
  • Graphite
  • PTFE
  • Specialized brand name materials like Viton and Santoprene

Look for Rapid Turnaround Capabilities …

It’s rare to have the luxury of buying gasket material just to put into storage. Usually, there’s an immediate need, and you can’t wait for delivery. Keeping a full range of gasket material in stock ties up money and space though, so some businesses don’t want to do it. Always look for a material supplier who maintains a comprehensive inventory.

… And Gasket Cutting Services

Material is one thing, but you still have to cut gaskets from it. A stockist with waterjet cutting capabilities can produce installation-ready gaskets in just a few hours, sometimes faster. That saves you time and results in a more accurate gasket with better edge quality.

Location is another factor to consider. Today’s rapid delivery services mean material can ship almost anywhere in the country in 24 to 48 hours, but there are still advantages to finding a local vendor. Closer is faster, and likely cheaper too.

Range and Speed

When searching for gasket material, similar isn’t good enough. It’s essential to buy the right material for each application and get it without a long wait. That’s why you should look for a supplier with a broad inventory and the ability to deliver quickly.

Cutting with Water: How the Waterjet Machine Works

Waterjet cutting produces small or large gaskets in just minutes. There’s no tooling, it’s fast and edge quality is extremely good. Waterjet eliminates the wait for tooling that goes with steel rule die cutting and it avoids the heat and fumes of laser cutting. That’s why we prefer it for many different gasket materials. Here’s how it works and why we’re such fans.

High Intensity

A jet of water from a garden hose can sting the skin. In a waterjet cutting machine that jet is far thinner and traveling at supersonic speeds. The water is powered by an intensifier pump that produces 60,000 psi or more. This forces the water through a 0.006” diameter hole in a piece of sapphire.

With such high pressure and velocity, the jet of water slices through material like a knife. For cutting harder materials, adding an abrasive powder to the water increases cutting speed.

Machine Operation

The cutting head is mounted on a gantry. This spans the machine bed, which is where the material being cut is placed. Here at Hennig Gasket we can handle sheets up to 8′ x 6′. The gantry provides one axis of motion and the sheet moves under the gantry for the second. By interpolating motion between the two it’s possible to cut incredibly intricate shapes.

Waterjet machines are programmed directly from CAD files and there’s no special tooling needed. The programming package helps maximize material utilization by nesting gaskets efficiently. This, plus a very small kerf (the cut width,) helps minimize waste.

Types of Gasket Material

Cutting speed and maximum material thickness depend on hardness. Speeds of up to 500”/minute are possible, but this drops as thickness increases. Sheet EPDM, neoprene, cork and silicone gasket material can be cut quickly and accurately, and maximum thickness can be up to 6”.

Fast Turnaround

Using a waterjet to cut gaskets from sheet material is fast and cost-effective. Perhaps the biggest benefit though is the speed with which we can satisfy an order. Curious how fast that is? Put us to the test.

What UL Ratings Mean for Gasket Materials

Industrial enclosures often have to meet NEMA and IP standards for ingress protection. These aren’t the only standards designers should consider though. There’s also UL50 and UL50E. Established by Underwriters Laboratories, these were developed to ensure that electrical enclosures would be safe. Safety depends at least in part on the gasket, so there are UL standards for gasket materials too.

The UL difference

Achieving NEMA or IP certification entails passing some stringent tests. However, these tests only verify dust and water resistance. They don’t explicitly test the gasket material. UL testing does.

Gasket material is tested because environment and use affect how long it lasts. Some gaskets are exposed to UV outdoors. Others, especially if near high voltage equipment, can be attacked by ozone. Some enclosure gaskets will endure periodic recompression when the door is repeatedly opened and closed. Other are in continuous compression, as might be the case around an electronics assembly.

These variables place different demands on the gasket material. Many gaskets might hold up to NEMA and IP testing but the material could degrade slowly and reduce the protection the enclosure provides.

Gasket Material Certification

To address the impact of use and environment on enclosure performance, UL developed tests for gasket material. These are defined in UL157, “Standard for Gaskets and Seals”. This covers both foam and solid elastomeric and composite gasket materials.

Materials passing UL157 can be considered as “UL Recognized Components”. Using components certified this way in an end product simplifies the process of getting UL approval. (Other UL standards may also be applicable.)

Buy UL-Rated Gasket Material

When designing equipment, using UL-rated materials will save time and money in testing. And later, when gaskets are being replaced, it might also be prudent to stick with UL157 materials. These range from neoprene and EPDM foams to silicon and even cork. (But note that adding a pressure sensitive adhesive nullifies any prior UL rating.)

Finding the right UL-rated gasket material for a specific application can be difficult. If unsure what to use, consult a material specialist at Hennig Gasket.

Gasket Material to Dampen or Attenuate Vibration

Yes, your next gasket should seal, but it could do more than that. A gasket is an excellent way of reducing the transmission of sound and vibration. That can extend equipment life and improve performance while creating a better environment for those nearby.

Gasket Material Properties for Vibration Dampening

The goal is to have the material acting like a spring: compressing and springing back in response to the excitation force. In other words, they need a combination of resilience and compressibility. Closed cell foams do this particularly well as the gas in each cell compresses and then expands.

Compressibility also depends on the nature of the material used. Softer elastomers like some grades of silicon or the urethane foam used in PORON® compress under relatively light loads. Others, like some nitrile rubbers, need more force to achieve a given level of compression.

For effective vibration dampening, compressibility, resilience and also thickness must be related to the excitation frequency and amplitude. Clamping force also plays a part as compression alters the material’s vibration response.

Vibration Dampening Gasket Materials

Silicone rubber and foam, nitrile sponge, and urethane foams can all attenuate vibration effectively. Less well known is that both felt and rubber-bonded cork material can also be used to cut or even eliminate the transmission of sound and vibration. Remember that the addition of a pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) makes the material much easier to install or apply.

Situations benefiting from vibration dampening

Vibration-attenuating gasket materials are especially useful in HVAC systems where they can reduce noise significantly. Industrial machinery also benefits, with less vibration translating to higher quality output and longer equipment life.

Elastomeric gasket material is found in a growing number of electronics devices. Here it improves life by “ruggedizing” the equipment against knocks or drops. Recently a patented was granted for a vibration-attenuating camera mount that utilizes two gaskets for dampening. (US 9,654,692)

Next Steps

Gasket material selection is a complex field where every application is different. If vibration reduction is of interest ask for advice from a Hennig Gasket specialist today.

The Importance of Testing Gasket Material

One cause of leaking joints is fluid-gasket incompatibility. Some materials swell and others become brittle. Elasticity and recovery decline faster than expected and fluid finds a way out. Temperature and pressure accelerate this material breakdown and hasten premature failure.  Testing gasket material for performance becomes a very important exercise.

Your Situation May Be Unique

The published information about which gasket materials to use and avoid with various fluids is always only a guide. The range of fluids to seal is virtually unlimited, and environmental factors vary. The only way to be completely sure any given gasket material will perform satisfactorily is to put it in the application.

Sample Testing

Gasket replacement is often costly, so while there’s no better test than to see how it performs in-service this isn’t a practical approach. The alternative is to expose samples of the gasket material or materials being considered to conditions like those in the application.

The simplest approach is to immerse pieces of the candidate materials in the fluid. Retain a control sample to allow quick comparisons to the initial material condition. Recover a test piece periodically to check for deterioration, or set up multiple samples for a range of test durations. Overall test duration should be as long as possible to replicate the in-service conditions.

If equipment is available, heat or cool the material to the temperature expected. Obviously, temperature cycling is hard to replicate, as are clamping loads. If the gasket material will be used outdoors, and particularly if it’s likely to see sunlight, place one or more samples outside.


Ideally, you would measure thickness to assess swelling, and look at compression under load and recovery. Often though, visual examination and feel are enough to gauge if the material is going to survive in the application.

Ask Hennig

Testing gasket material still doesn’t guarantee a long life, but it does reduce the probability of premature failure. Compared to the trouble of replacing a leaking gasket the effort is often worthwhile. Hennig Gasket is always happy to supply gasket material samples for evaluation. If you’d like to run your own tests, contact us today.

Gasket Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) Protocols

Leaking volatile organic compounds, (VOCs) can cause breathing difficulties for people living or working near the source. Some VOCs, known as volatile hazardous air pollutants (VHAPs,) may even cause cancer or birth defects.

According to the EPA, valves are the largest source of leaks. They account for some 60% of the 70,000 tons of VOCs that escape each year. Next up are flanged connections, responsible for around 30% of “fugitive” emissions. Valves generally leak around the stem or gland. For flanged connections gaskets play an important role leak prevention.

Create a Formal Program

No business wants to be associated with problems like these. That’s why a leak detection and repair (LDAR) program is so important. LDAR is required under 25 different Federal standards, but even if a business doesn’t come under one or more of these, a program still provides benefits.

Leaks are lost product, and that’s wasted money. Leaks tend to get worse over time too, so early detection can prevent a larger problem in the future. Relying on informal, ad hoc inspections is no way to monitor equipment condition. Instead, use a LDAR program to formalize the process.

LDAR Basics

The EPA publication, “Leak Detection and Repair: A Best Practices Guide” explains how to run an effective program. The five key steps of this are:

  • Identify components that need testing for leaks – valves and anything that uses a gasket to seal fluids.
  • Define “leak” in terms of a ppm level. (The EPA suggests using a tighter level than required by applicable standards.)
  • Implement a monitoring program – “Method 21” is a formal process documented in the EPA booklet referenced above.
  • Repair leaks. The EPA recognizes that not all leaks can be fixed immediately but expects prompt action. Either keep gaskets on-hand or find a reliable supplier who can make-to-order and has short lead times.
  • Keep records

Choose Quality

Replacing gaskets can be expensive, but neglecting them could cost more. Buy quality gaskets from an established supplier and install them with care. That way they’ll last longer and you’ll have fewer problems.  Hennig Gasket & Seals has been in the business of manufacturing custom cut gaskets and seals for over 100 years.  Contact us today.

Gasket Material Compatibility Chart for Chemicals

Selecting the right material for a gasket is never easy. Temperature and pressure must be considered, and so too must the nature of the fluid being sealed. Some combinations of fluid and gasket material are just incompatible. Choose wrongly and the gasket will fail prematurely. When purchasing gasket material, mention the intended purpose. That way a material specialist can tell you if there’s a better alternative.  View our rubber sheet gasket material compatibility chart for chemicals.

Learning More About Material Compatibility

Some of the most frequently used gasket materials are neoprene, nitrile rubber, EPDM, silicone and Viton®. (Technically, this last one is a DuPont tradename for fluoroelastomer or FKM as it’s known in the ASTM standards.) Each has strengths and weaknesses in terms of chemical compatibility. “Rubber Gaskets & Seals” on our website provides a summary of what chemicals various gasket materials do and do not work with.

The other way to approach material selection is from the perspective of the chemical. Unfortunately that means identifying every possible chemical, which makes for a very long list. For some commonly used fluids the lists below highlight good and bad combinations. But don’t rely solely on these – always ask advice!

Good Material Compatibility Pairings for Chemicals

  • Acetone (a form of ketone): EPDM
  • Aldehydes (found in many food ingredients): SBR
  • Ammonia: Good choices are neoprene and EDPM gasket material
  • Animal fats: Nitrile, Viton®
  • Automatic transmission fluid: Nitrile rubber (NBR) and Viton®
  • Brake fluid: EPDM and styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR)
  • Ethylene glycol (antifreeze): nitrile rubber, EPDM and neoprene work well
  • Fuels and oils: Nitrile rubber (NBR), Viton®
  • Ozone: EPDM, silicone, Viton®

Bad Gasket Material Pairings for Chemicals

  • Acetone (a form of ketone): Avoid contact with nitrile rubber, neoprene, silicone and Viton®
  • Aldehydes (found in many food ingredients): Nitrile
  • Ammonia: Poor with SBR and Viton®
  • Animal fats: SBR
  • Automatic transmission fluid: Avoid EPDM, SBR and Silicone
  • Brake fluid: Viton®
  • Ethylene glycol (antifreeze): Viton®
  • Fuels and oils: EPDM, SBR, Silicone
  • Ozone: Nitrile and SBR

Seek Advice for Material Compatibility with Chemicals

These lists give only a superficial overview of a complex subject. The only sure way of selecting the correct gasket material for any given chemical is to seek guidance from a material specialist. At Hennig Gasket, if we don’t know we’ll find out.  Contact us Today.

How Flanges Influence Gasket Material Selection

If flange and enclosure door surfaces were perfectly smooth and perfectly aligned, gaskets wouldn’t be needed. In the real world though, uneven gaps are always present and must be sealed to prevent leaks or contamination. Sealing options range from inexpensive red rubber and buna N materials to advanced silicone rubber gaskets, and include materials as diverse as graphite, PTFE and paper.

When replacing gaskets it’s common to use the same material that’s just been removed. If joints never change, that approach is often adequate. But by considering the nature and design of the sealing surfaces or flanges, it may be possible to select a longer-lasting material.

Impact of flange material

Some flanges can’t take high clamping forces, especially as they age. Plastics tend to become brittle and some metals lose ductility as they age, particularly if put through repeated temperature cycles. This means a soft, easily compressed gasket material is needed.

Impact of flange geometry

Bolt patterns or the position of clamps and latches can distort the mating surfaces, leading to uneven gaps. For example, an enclosure door with a single central latch can leave large gaps at the corners when closed. Also, a flange that’s been assembled and dissembled repeatedly for many years will start to distort, creating uneven gaps.

Flange alignment can change over time. After years of service it’s possible that piping will have moved, with the result that flange faces are no longer parallel. Again, the result is an uneven gap. Another problem is surface imperfections resulting from careless gasket removal.

These problems demand thicker gasket material that provides more compression. But thicker material needs higher loads to compress down in the joint, and those loads can lead to more distortion in the flanges.

Things change

Flanges and mating surfaces change over time and products that performed well, perhaps red rubber or buna N gaskets, may no longer be up to the job. When replacing gaskets, consider the condition of the sealing surfaces or flanges. A different material may last longer in the joint.


Interpreting ASTM F36 Compressibility Data

Gaskets seal gaps of varying size by compressing under load. Best practice is usually to keep that load as low as possible, which is why softer gasket materials are preferred. For products like silicone or PTFE gaskets durometer numbers give a good indication of material hardness, (following the ASTM D2240 standard,) but they don’t show how that material will perform in a joint. That means turning to the ASTM F36 test data.

Compressibility and Recovery

When selecting gasket material it’s important to understand its compression and recovery behavior. This is because joints tend to move, whether due to varying temperatures, (media and environmental,) or loads. A material that compresses easily but has no recovery may not do a good job of sealing a joint that experiences a lot of cycling.

ASTM F36 provides a standardized method of testing and measuring compressibility and recovery. The test has two parts. First, the material is put under a load of 5,000 psi for 60 seconds and the reduction in thickness measured. Then the load is taken off and the material given another 60 seconds to spring back before the thickness is measured again. Both compressibility and recovery are expressed as percentages.


The conditions F36 testing is done under don’t necessarily reflect the actual usage conditions as temperatures, pressures and loads will almost certainly be different. Neither do they take time into account, which in reality is a significant factor when dealing with viscoelastic materials, (where properties change over time.) What the numbers do provide is a basis for comparing between different gasket materials.

Typical F36 Numbers

Compressibility and recovery values vary greatly between different materials. For example, expanded PTFE has a compressibility of around 68% but recovery of just 12%, while the same numbers for a neoprene gasket could be 7 to 17% compressibility and 50% recovery. This would suggest the neoprene material would perform better in an application where flange faces are in good condition but gasket loads cycle. Of course, other factors such as temperatures, media and pressures must also be considered.