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.

Preparing Flanges for New Gaskets

Preparation is everything they say, and that’s certainly true for flanged pipe connections. As flanges are brought together and the bolts tightened, the flange gasket compresses and flows into surface irregularities. If those are too severe for the gasket material to fill, the joint will leak. Here’s some advice on flange preparation.

Step 1: Inspection

Examine both flange faces carefully for damage like cracks, dings, burrs and radial scoring. Scoring is the worst problem as this will almost certainly create a leak path. Also check for alignment and verify that the faces are flat and parallel. (It’s possible for flanges to warp if the bolts are tightened in the wrong sequence.) Some softer gaskets will tolerate flanges being slightly out of parallel, but this does depend on the material being used.

Also check bolts, nuts and washers for signs of damage or corrosion. If in doubt as to fitness for purpose, opt to replace.

Step 2: Clean the Mating Faces

It’s common for traces of the old gasket to remain on the flange surfaces. These can be removed with a wire brush or scraper. However, to avoid damaging the flange face, this must be made from a softer material. Brass is usually a good choice. Always brush in a circumferential direction and not radially.

Step 3: Preparation

Inspect the new gasket for damage and ensure that it’s the correct size for the joint. Don’t use any kind of sealant on the gasket or sealing faces unless specifically advised to do so by the gasket manufacturer.

Proper torque tightness is essential to deform the gasket and seal the joint. If there’s excessive friction bolts will seem to be at their torque limit when they’re not, resulting in leaks. This can be avoided by lubricating the threads and under the heads of the bolts. (Ensure the lubricant is compatible with expected service conditions.)

Do it once

Inspection and cleaning may seem time-consuming, but doing a job once is better than having to fix a leak. That’s why thorough preparation of flange surfaces is so important.  Contact Hennig Gasket & Seals for custom manufacturing of flange gaskets to your exact specifications.

Food Grade Gasket Manufacturing

Food grade non-metallic gaskets are made from materials approved by the FDA for repeated and demanding contact with edible products. They must withstand high pressures, have a wide temperature tolerance and be extremely resistant oils, acids and chemicals without degrading or becoming susceptible to bacteria formation—for the obvious reason that food-grade gaskets and seals must not impact food quality or safety whatsoever. FDA-approved food-grade non-metallic gaskets are also used in pharmaceutical and cosmetics manufacturing for the same reason.

There are several materials that we can use to fulfill food grade non-metallic gasket orders:  

White Nitrile (Buna-N)—Commonly used in food processing because it remains durable and flexible when cycling between temperatures of -31°F to +230°F. It is highly resistant to petroleum, mineral and vegetable oils, acids and a wide range of aromatic hydrocarbons.

White Neoprene—Works well in food-processing and packaging environments, as well as pharmaceutical, commercial kitchens, cosmetics plants and grocery store applications with a temperature tolerance of -20°F to +180°F.

Red or White FDA Silicone—Have a temperature tolerance between -94°F to +392°F and are often used in everything from food processing to laboratory and surgical applications because of its low volatility and durability. Resists oils and acids well.

EPDM—Food-grade EPDM has a temperature tolerance of  -20°F to +230°F. It’s smooth, resists abrasion, is color-stable, non-marking and odor-free; for these reasons, it has earned the additional approval of the USDA for poultry and meat processing.

PTFE—As one of the most chemically-resistant plastics available, FDA-compliant PTFE is extremely common in food and beverage processing, cosmetics and pharmaceutical manufacturing. It also has an outstanding temperature tolerance of -328°F to +500°F.

Gylon®—This is a specific brand of PTFE with a 450°F to +500°F . It is extremely chemical and temperature resistant with reduced creep relaxation qualities.

While all of these materials (and a few others not listed here) are FDA-compliant, not all of them are suitable to all food, cosmetics or pharmaceutical production processes. Please contact Hennig Gasket and Seals, Inc. at 1-800-747-7661 and we can discuss which food-grade, non-metallic gasket material would be best for your needs.

Dealing with Expansion and Contraction of Flange Gaskets

A gasketed joint is rarely static. Changes in temperature can cause mating flanges to move apart or closer together, creating a variable gap that the gasket has to fill. That’s why understanding the influence of temperature helps when selecting the gasket material for flange gaskets.

Flanged joint dynamics

In service a gasket is compressed between two flanges. Sufficient load must then be applied to hold the joint closed, regardless of how conditions change.

Fluid moving through the pipe creates hydrostatic end thrust that opens up the joint. Internal pressure also creates side loading on the gasket, trying to extrude it out between the flanges. And changes in temperature result in expansion and contraction of both the piping and the fastening bolts.

Temperature influences

Temperature changes have two sources: the temperature of the fluid being transported, and the environment through which the pipe runs. In a continuous process media temperature may vary very little, but a pipe exposed to hot desert sun could experience a range of 80 deg F or more over a twelve hour period.

The influence of media temperature changes, (perhaps at start-up or shut-down,) will depend on the details of the pipework installation. However, most likely higher temps will act to close the gap between mating flanges.

Higher temperatures will make the flange bolts grow, so reducing the clamping force. Tightening to recommended torque levels creates some elongation that compensates for expansion, which is why proper jointing procedures should always be followed.

Of lesser importance, gasket materials and piping usually have different coefficients of thermal expansion. This may cause differential movement between flange and gasket which could, in marginal situations, open up a leak path.

Material selection impact

The ideal gasket possesses both good compressibility and good recovery or resilience, enabling it to maintain a seal as the gap between flanges changes and the compressive load varies. Natural rubber is one of the most effective materials, but is not always suitable.

The prudent approach is to discuss the application with the gasket vendor, being sure to make them aware of the various temperatures to which the joint will be exposed.  Contact Hennig Gasket & Seals today to discuss your flange gasket application.

How Hot is too Hot? Choosing the Right Gasket Material for a Non-Metallic Gasket

For non-metallic gasket applications, the operating temperature of the finished product is a major consideration. You need to know the temperature range (and other strengths and weaknesses) of potential materials so you can get the most durable custom gaskets and seals. Otherwise, they could prematurely harden, crack, deform and lose strength, elasticity and resilience, etc.

The following is a list of common non-metallic gasket materials, their properties and their most stable operating temperature ranges (in Fahrenheit). Understand that while there may be wiggle room on either end, it’s best to aim for somewhere in the middle of each particular material’s temperature range so that the gasket or seal performs optimally for the longest period of time before replacement is needed.

Nitrile: -30 to 250F (very resistant to oils, aromatic hydrocarbons, fuels and solvents).

Neoprene: -35 to 225F (resistant to weather, water, combustion and a long list of chemicals).

Polyurethane: -35 to 225F (resistant to oxygen, ozone, cracking, abrasion, cuts, grease and heavy loads; frequently used in machine mounts, electrical equipment wear pads and applications needing shock absorption).

Ethylene Propylene: -70 to 250F (resists severe weather conditions, acids, oxygen, alkalis, hot and cold water and ketones; not suitable for use with oils or fuels).

Fluorocarbon: -15 to 400F (its low friction and resistance to wear and tear make this a good material for gaskets that endure movement, a wide temperature variation and frequent reassembly).

Silicone: -65 to 450F (very resistant to hot, cold and oxygen, but poor resistance to oils and fuels; frequently used in food processing and medical applications).

Polytetrafluoroethylene: -238 to 574F (extremely wide temperature range, also stands up to harsh conditions of all sorts; frequently used in food processing, pharmaceutical, laboratory, semi-conductor, petrochemical and chemical and electrical applications).

Temperature range is, of course, just one aspect of a non-metallic gasket material that you will need to consider before project implementation; nevertheless, temperature tolerance is crucial. If you need custom gaskets and seals for your project, please call us at 1-800-747-7661 to discuss your needs with us.

Properties of Neoprene Gasket Material

Neoprene, which is also known as “polychloroprene,” is a type of synthetic rubber produced by the polymerization of chloroprene. Neoprene gasket material has become very common due to the fact that it resists the likes of ozone, sunlight, oxidation and many petroleum derivatives. Additionally, neoprene is characterized as being weather-, combustion-, water- and chemical-resistant. As you can see, it’s popular because it is resistant to many types of damages. What’s more, it’s also resistant to damage from twisting and flexing.

Here’s a closer look at the properties of neoprene so you can judge whether or not it’s a good material for your application:

  • Stretch and cushioning properties: Neoprene is elastic and form-fitting, able to conform to various sizes and shapes. It’s also cushioning, able to absorb shock.
  • Various grades available: From cloth inserted neoprene, which is reinforced with nylon for additional stability, to flame retardant neoprene, which passes a variety of flammability specifications, there are several grades available to suit any application. Other popular grades include commercial, FDA approved, diaphragm and high tensile strength.
  • General gauge thicknesses vary in size from 3/32-inch up to 2 inches.
  • Hardness ratings vary from 40 to 80.
  • Plate finish.
  • Neoprene can withstand temperatures ranging from -20 degrees F to 180 degrees F.
  • Tensile strength ranges from 900 to 1,000 PSI.
  • Elongation ranges from 350% to 400%.
  • Finally, widths are 36 inches, 48 inches or 72 inches.
  • Pressure sensitive adhesive, or PSA, are available upon request.
  • We fabricate neoprene gaskets through proven manufacturing processes that include waterjet cutting, flash cutting and die cutting.

One other neat feature about neoprene is that it’s impermeable, meaning that it can work as a tight barrier to prevent the escaping of gases or liquids.

For more information on the neoprene material and neoprene gaskets, and to speak with someone about placing an order, contact us today.

Three Ways to Make Gaskets Last Longer

Replacing gaskets is often costly. Unplanned downtime and maintenance hours dwarf the actual price of the gasket or seal, so you need it to last as long as possible. Gasket life depends very much on service conditions but there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of premature failure.

1. Match the gasket material to the job.

Start by considering “TAMP.” This memory-jogging acronym stands for temperature, application, media and pressure. Specific factors to consider are: temperature of media (which should include any cleaning processes,) and the external temperature range, internal pressure, and the nature of the media itself, particularly whether it’s corrosive.

Look at the gap being sealed. Is it uneven? How often will the joint be opened? An enclosure gasket for an indoor electrical cabinet sees very different usage and conditions to what boiler seals endure.

Then select the gasket material. Conformable elastomers like NBR are a popular choice but are limited in temperature and pressure capability. EPDM and neoprene are often used for food grade gaskets as they clean easily. PTFE holds up well to corrosive media, graphite is soft and handles high temperatures.

2. Store gaskets correctly

Avoid exposure to sunlight as UV accelerates aging. Temperature extremes will do the same, so keep them away from heat sources and in winter protect them from freezing. Humidity can damage some materials too.

Don’t hang gaskets because they’ll stretch. Don’t place loads on them as the material may take a compression set. Rubber ages, so if possible, use date codes and discard after four years.

3. Use best-practice installation techniques

Clean surfaces thoroughly, then inspect for damage, especially any scoring that creates a potential leak path. Clean and lubricate bolt threads and heads to avoid making torque appear higher than what the joint actually sees. Seat the gasket carefully, then bring the joint together and follow best-practice methods for tightening.

Premature gasket failure often forces unplanned downtime, disrupting schedules and hitting capacity. Careful attention to gasket material selection, storage and installation reduces the likelihood of premature failure and all the costs that go with that.