Saturday, January 20, 2007

Adventures in Heating

The time had come for my next project on my "system" upgrades list - the heating. From hour one the heater and I went to battle, though I have to admit that it wasn't the heater's fault that the PO left me with an empty oil tank on the day before New Year's (thanks pal!)

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.


Patricia W said...

The radiators look great. What a deal!

Just an idea on the radiator size. I learned this at In the old days before insualation radiators had to be big to keep enough heat in a room. Nowadays, with insulation, the rads *can* be much smaller and still keep a room toasty. This is probably what the PO's did. Although I can't imagine pulling out an original to stick in something else?

Anyway, I'd want something like the originals myself. You did great!

mike & rachel said...

I had read about the resizing with better insulating, etc. But when I couldn't get the first floor out of the 50's on cold days, I knew that wouldn't be an isue. About the biggest change would have been dropped ceilings added. They also looked odd having these little radiators sitting on much larger wood bases in the hardwood floors. Adding these new "old" rads just started the fun as you'll soon read.

Great site by the way! Keep up the good work...

Di said...

You've been tagged by a fellow houseblogger! If you don't know what I'm talking about, see my post on January 19. :)