parlor drywall finished - note new (old) front door/sidelights for foyer
Monday, January 29, 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007
original under later floor
Maybe the original floor was damaged? I did a thorough inspection from the basement and I could not find one spot of water damage or holes other than what was through the second oak floor. So next I had to decide do I go with what I have, or do I spend the extra work and time to expose the original, with the chance of finding it damaged beyond repair. After doing a poll of people, the majority said take the second floor up and go with the original (of course they're not doing the work!). So with fingers crossed I started taking up the floor... and knew there was no easy way of turning back.
original floor exposed
In the end - I got lucky. No damage, in fact probably better than the second floor since it was damaged by pets. And when I reached the dining room, a big question was answered as well. I guess the installers ran short of rosin paper, so they used a few pages from the Chester Times - dated January 25,26 1942 - just as WWII began. So apparently old Lloyd had the floor done for a remodel - but why?? Only guess I have is that the original is not as tightly joined together as the later flooring, other than that, your guess is as good as mine!
what do we have here?
So we have a house with almost all the original trim gone - but two layers of oak hardwood floors! And now 500 square feet of extra flooring to use who knows where - too bad it's not 4 inch wide or I could use it to mill new trim. You never know what you'll encounter next!
original floor in dining room and 1942 newspaper
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I had an unexpected surprise when I pulled the floor up, which I'll get into in my next post. But any who, with the floor up and a hearth base built, next was adding reinforcement for the chimney supports. There is a main support that mounts to the wall just above the clean out Tee that support the entire chimney, so this had to be anchored to some substantial wood. Also had to build a support box in the ceiling for the fire block. Each floor has to have a fire block that the chimney run through. I am using Duratech piping system made by Duravent. They have several variations but I'm going with the best line they have. It's double-wall stainless steel, and not cheap - but I'm not going to play around when it comes to fire. It's actually quite easy to install, the 4 foot sections twist and lock together. As far as building a chase, only 2 inches clearance is required.
The design is a cross between the fireplace at the old house, and the fireplace in the Swarthmore house we almost bought. The "fireplace" is just a chase for the stove piping, but will give a more authentic appearance then having exposed piping or a small chase surrounding the pipe, plus allows us to have a mantel. Basically when done will appear to be a real fireplace with a stove inserted in the hearth like our old house was. The walls of the structure will be covered in cement backer board, then covered with a brick veneer, inside and out. This will meet code and give an authentic appearance. The hearth will be either tiled or slate. Would love to match the green arts & crafts tile in the foyer, but way to expensive. I made sure to add a nailer around the mantel level, which will be oak and wrap around the sides and end against the back wall.
Looks good so far
Monday, January 22, 2007
The panels were repainted. The cast iron front door assembly was sandblasted, repainted, the original sight glass repaired, and gaskets added to the doors. Some vent holes from its coal days were sealed to stop any unwanted drafts through the boiler. The cast iron exhaust elbow had a crack repaired and an early unused damper sealed and new plate made for back cover. The expansion tank was flushed and repainted. I repacked the original valves, went over the old gauges and rewired everything. Most important, I added a local emergency disconnect on the side of the boiler and at the top of the basement stairs - both must be in the on position for boiler to operate.
With the main boiler reassembled and thoroughly cleaned inside, next was the oil burner. It's a Beckett burner, the Chevrolet of oil burners. I went through a complete rebuild making it like new condition. The tip was OK which I cleaned and reused - I wish I had noted the size as you'll see later though. With the burner done I needed to come up with a better mounting solution. My dad and I came up with a design and he fabricated it out of stainless steel plating. It's basically a big L, with a base plate with lock downs to hold the burner and a vertical plate that covers the opening of the boiler with a hole to allow the burner to poke through. Everything is sealed with high temp gaskets. An in line filter was then added and the assembly installed.
With everything fitting together as designed, the front disassembled one more time to install a new firebox, which was in desperate shape. I found a universal one on EBAY that worked perfect. I was able to center the new one better inside the boiler with just the tip of the burner entering. You don't want the flame to close to the back wall of the firebox which will disrupt the flame pattern.
Old and new fireboxes
So I'm sure at this point you're saying Hey, great, now it's nice looking ancient oil hungry beast. Well you'd be surprised. The paperwork with the boiler had the burner measured in the mid 80% range. But, then there's the efficiency of generated heat and transfer of that to the system?? Yes, I thought of that too. The biggest problem with these old coal units is you have this huge firebox that you throw heat into, which quickly is drafted into the flue and up your chimney taking probably 50% the heat you just made with it. So the question is, how do modern boilers slow this down and increase the transfer? Well one of the main ways is adding baffles, creating a "torturous path"for the heat and gases. Basically the longer the heat and gases created by the burner stay inside the boiler, the more that will get transferred to your water. Also the sizing of the firebox area is much smaller, concentrating the same heat to the boiler tubes at a much higher level than the early boilers - you don't need all that room for coal anymore. Well what we came up with was a self designed baffling system to obtain the same modern solutions. Firebricks were stacked in the corners supporting 1 inch square stock steel running across the front and back walls. Then two plates were made that sit above the firebox in the middle and lean against the outside "water wall" tubes - the initial and highest point of heat transfer in a boiler - basically creating a V shape. What this now does is re sized the firebox area to about 1/3 the original area, and forces the heat created against the sides of the boiler where the tubes are and then up to the secondary stages of the boiler. Also the small opening left for the heat to escape to the secondary stages slows down the draft. Will it work???? You'll see....
Baffle plates sitting above firebox
Sunday, January 21, 2007
- Count me as another traveller of the bunch. In high school I did a 6 week exchange program in Germany, lived with a family, went to the school, the whole bit. That started the travel bug. Then when I was 25 between school and a career I finally one day decided I was going to backpack Europe. Month and a half later I was on a plane to London, armed with a rail pass, a credit card, about 5 days of clothes, a return ticket for 7 weeks later, and about 5 days worth of travel plans - oh yea, and I was by myself! By far one of the best times of my life: Belgium, Amsterdam (Netherlands), Germany, Prague (Czech Republic), Austria, Italy, skydiving and hang gliding in the Alps of Switzerland, France including the D-day beaches, England, and Scotland. Where to next?
- I am fascinated with the story of the Titanic... and no, it was long before the movie came out. It probably started when I was 7 or so, by age 10 I was a member of the Titanic Historical Society. At age 12 attended a convention in 1987 where I got to meet 9 survivors and Robert Ballard who discovered the wreck - what stories they had to tell! Over the years I have accumulated quite a collection including original newspapers from everyday for a week after the sinking (one claims still afloat and everybody safe - whoops!), original books, magazines, etc. from right after the sinking - and my most prized - 15 passenger signatures (6 obtained in person) and 3 who were victims. When the movie came out I was asked to do a talk and display for my old school - my old teacher remembered the "Titanic Kid". How ironic it was to be considered a geek by other kids for my interest, then 15 years later.....
- Another passion is old cars. I had a 1963 Impala I bought with paper route money when I was 15. Later on had a 1963 Mercury Meteor - little old ladies car. My dad has about as much vision with cars as I do with houses. His latest project is a 1950 Chevy convertible that sat in a field for 20 years, bullet holes and all! When the house is finished (yea right!), I hope to find another cruiser to escape from the house in.
- I have a really bad addiction with collecting old radios. It started out innocently, but now I probably have 60 or so in the basement. The table ones aren't so bad, but there are about 20 consoles. I have at least limited myself to pre-WWII Philco and RCA-Victor sets. It's also spawned a few other collections, 3 jukeboxes, candlestick phones, cameras, victrolas, just about any early technology - I'm game. This is why the basement is referred to as "the museum". And the state of my addiction - still no cure!
Oh well, thats only 4. Well, I'm supposed to spread the five facts flue to five more victims - but at this point it's an epidemic. If I can track down any who haven't been caught I'll pay it forward.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I did manage to get it working for the winter with a bunch of help from my buddy John, but I knew changes were in order - and soon. There were actually two problems: one was the boiler was just ancient and neglected, and two even if I could make heat, getting it through the house was a big problem. It didn't take long to realize that major changes had been made with the radiators. During the apartment conversion, for some reason the original rads in the foyer, parlor, and dining room were replaced with newer thin wall rads about half the capacity of the originals. The kitchen had an original that I think came from the old mudroom, and the powder room had one that wasn't even piped in! On the second floor three bedrooms had their originals, but the old 4th bedroom lost its rad during conversion to a kitchen. The bathroom lost it's unit as well. Finally the 3rd floor had its one original. So all in all I had lost at least 3 and 3 more were cut to half capacity.
The search was on and the heater gods must have been smiling on me, cause not even a month after buying the house, I found 4 rads on EBAY, the right style AND the right sizes that I needed. And managed to grab them at $25 a piece! Well finding a sucker.... I mean friend to help me get them was a chore, but the adventure getting them was even better. They were out in a field (yes... a field) next to a barn in NJ. Apparently the guy had to tear down the old house on his property, due to condition and lack of funds to fix it, township on his butt about it, etc. Well the ground was soft and they kept sinking in the mud. He had a 1940's tractor with a home made hydraulic lift that leaked more than lifted. We did manage to use the tractor to stage them at the back of my truck, and an engine lift I brought to get them in the bed - all while it was dark out in this field in the middle of nowhere - poor Butch thought this was straight out of a horror flick and that we would be in the next days news reported missing and found 10 years later in a tomato field somewhere in southern Jersey. Well we got em loaded up and I think I took a few years off the old Chevy getting them home.
So fast-forward six months later and the new old radiators are ready to be put in their new home. That's when you find out who your real friends are.... "so how's the house coming".... "well I'm ready to carry the new radiators in the house...... (click)....hello??.....hello??" Guess I'm out of friends and poor Butch is still in therapy suffering from a radiator phobia after the NJ adventure and the creepy guy in a dark field in NJ.....
The NJ radiators - first one ready for it's new home
So how does a 5 foot 6, 150 pound weakling get 4 radiators twice his weight into the house by himself?? Well first he gets a chain fall and rigging so he can lift them off the ground in the garage - oh and don't forget to brace the beam your lifting from that is starting to split in two. Then build a cradle that will sit in a dolly that will support them upright while I wheel them to the back door. Don't forget to make ramps to roll off driveway and across the lawn.
Lifting into the house
Next step took some forethought. When re constructing the walls in the back, I added a reinforced header above the door so that I could rig up the chain fall and hoist up and through the back door. So after taking the chain fall from the garage and setting up again above the back door, you can see the results. Actually worked quite easily.
Setting in place in the Parlor
Once through the door the radiator had to be placed back on the dolly and then rolled through the house. Then I staged it for lifting again where it would be installed. This had to be done before the drywall was up since I had to use the above joist to rig the chain fall again. Next I picked it up off the dolly and set it down where it would be hooked up. I did have to hang the drywall behind the rad now or else would be very difficult later.
... again for the foyer
... and the dining room
The last NJ rad went in the corner of the kitchen next to the stove. Another (the long short thin tube from the parlor) will be installed under the large kitchen window. Finally the mystery radiator that was found never even piped will finally get it's very own piping in the powder room.
powder room with sneak peak of new old tub
Well I cleared the first hurdle unscathed.... but, how do I get two more upstairs... by myself?? After some thought and more busy signals on the phone, I came up with a plan. Out comes the old chain fall again, this time mounted above the butler stairs doorway in the kitchen. Well I am able to hoist on the landing but now the hard part. I turn the corner on the landing and lay scrap plywood on the steps as a ramp. Then I get two 2x6's sistered together and nail across the opening for the stairs on the 2nd floor. Now I use this to rig the chain fall to and slowly ramp the radiator up the incline, then work into the hall. Finally I'm able to slide this one on plywood (to protect the floor) into the kitchen and stage for piping. Then it was repeat for the 2nd that will eventually go in the bathroom.
Piece a cake!
After all that, I then got to spend the next 4 weeks piping all these bad boys into the existing system. I was able to borrow a pipe stand, ratchet threader and pipe cutter, which made work a little easier. I won't bore you with the whole process, but it was just basic measure, cut, thread, dope, and install - aaaand repeat. And sweat like a hog cause it was July and 90's the whole time.
New piping through first floor kitchen to added upstairs radiator.
Friday, January 19, 2007
All of the piping is in the walls now and run down to a common header running along the center beam. Later on when I buy the vacuum unit i will locate it near my service panel, then tie in the pipe and wiring. But for less than a $200 investment the system is in the walls and ready when I am.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
I tried to keep some order to my wiring runs, as you can see in the above, photo. All of my circuits come out of the panel and either run along the outside walls towards the back, or run straight to the middle beam and then towards the back. High voltage and low voltage wires are separated. Sometimes stray voltage can be induced into coax when running to close to your circuits, causing interference in your cable signal. This also makes life easier when tracing wires.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
With the back walls now completed in the kitchen modification, it was now time to focus on the floors in the back addition. There were three issues that needed to be dealt with.
- First of all the flooring was a patchwork of 4 inch heart pine in what was the pantry section, then became 3 inch heart pine in what was the original mudroom section, a plywood patch in the later bathroom area, and yes the tried and true soup can lid patches where the old radiator and sink pipes were removed!
- Second was that the floor had over a 1 inch slope from the main house to the outside wall - and apparently was constructed this way on purpose.
- The third major issue was that where the original porch was located, originally you stepped down to a lower floor when you went out on the porch from the mudroom. When the porch was converted to a bathroom, another floor was built on top of the original to even the floors out. Unfortunately they did a piss poor job of it.
With the flooring removed (and yes, salvaged for other projects) I first needed to reinforce the point of transition from the old kitchen to the newer section. First I made a nice straight clean cut for the transition. Then a filler piece was cut to fill the gap between the sill on the main foundation and the ends of the floor boards. Once everything was nailed in place, I had a rock solid edge and plenty of meat to nail a 2x6 leader to support the edge of the new sub flooring at the transition. Then after marking a level line to the outside wall, I found that each joist dropped another 1/4 inch from the previous one. So to shim everything up, 1 piece of lathe (I have plenty!) was added to the first joist, then two, and so on till I reached the wall.
Next I had to add 2x6's along the outside perimeter so that I would have support along the edges for the new sub floor. As an added support, cross pieces were added to take any twist out of the original 2x8 joists since they're about a 16 feet long run with only one support point in the middle. They also help support the floor insulation. With the framing for the floor complete up to the old porch I could start adding floor insulation and 3/4 sub flooring.
Once I reached the old porch floor it was time to demo what remained of it and start building a new floor flush with what I just finished. In the original porch floor you can see where the first bathroom was added ( I think in the 1940's), that only part of the porch was sacrificed for. The 1971 conversion would make this entire area into a bathroom.
I continued adding support around the perimeter and for the center joists, I sistered them to the others and extended to the south wall. Cross bracing was also added here as to prevent twisting as well as for support where the dividing wall will be located and toilet/tub locations.
I continued with the sub floor installation, but held off on insulation until the plumbing is complete. I added 1/4 inch backer board to the sub flooring in the powder room area for a tile floor and then built a dividing wall to form the powder room. The ceiling framing you see was from the 1971 bathroom, which I demoed only up to this point. It was pretty straight, so this saved me building a flat ceiling in there.
Now I have a new solid floor with a smooth transition to the old kitchen and to our new powder room. This completes the structural changes for our new kitchen/powder room. Whew!
Structural changes complete - staging items for new layout.