To help us learn to look at this house and see beyond peeling paint and warped floorboards, to understand the language of the creaks and cracks and hisses and stains, we began a flurry of consulting with professionals, amateurs, neighbors, colleagues, friends, and family far and near.
In this early period, during the first two weeks of home ownership, T&H weren't even certain, yet, if they wanted to do any of the rehabilitation work themselves or hire it out completely. With every visit of a potential contractor, our knowledge and understanding increased. Neighbors shed light on the shared idiosyncrasies of our houses and utility systems. Information gathered was tested against the intuition of our fathers and aunts and uncles.
The time to make some fundamental decisions was quickly approaching, but our confidence in our understanding of What Needs To Be Done was still shaky. And so it came to be that we engaged the services of a very kind, encouraging, and helpful home inspector named Keith.
We had received proposals of sorts from contractors saying they would test the plumbing and patch any small areas that need patching or leaks that needed sealing. Keith showed us all of the reasons why none of the plumbing could be saved.
On the electrical side of things, we waded in worries, inspired by neighbors relating stories of knob and tube wiring, but Keith tested and confirmed that even the electrical to our weirdest switches passed code.
One of the most exciting parts of the home inspection occured when we turned on the heating system. This system was a huge unknown in our world of cost estimating. The system is driven by a forced hot water boiler, of the cast iron variety, 39 years old. The boiler is located in the basement and is connected to cast iron radiators on upper floors, and to one baseboard-style heating loop on the second floor. From contractors we had heard numbers in every ballpark, but always the same tagline: "We won't know for sure how much it'll cost until we get in there and start working." But Keith turned that boiler on and nothing exploded! No radiators leaked! Everything got hot!
Well, we're going to mess with it.
We spoke to a few plumbers a couple months ago, and the majority of them shied away from working on these old heating systems. Scary strings of words like, "could be a couple hundred, could be two grand, or... (trails off, eyes look to the distance)," and, "every union you crack is an opportunity for disaster," and, "but generally I dislike working with heating pipes," and, "I wouldn't touch the system, myself," had us trepidatious for a while. But subsequently we've spoken with plumbers who like working with heating pipes, and we've read up on others' experiences, and we continue to seek advice. I'm raring to have a crack at these radiators now.
Currently, we are working on finishing all of the bathrooms. Two of the bathrooms I'm working on have heating fixtures that need messing with. Here is a very schematic drawing of those heating fixtures as they relate to eachother and the boiler:
|pink zones = bathroom tile zones|
blue lines = galvanized or brass pipe
orange lines = copper pipe
everything else not shown for clarity
(click to enlarge)
Each bathroom's heating fixture has unique needs and challenges. Let's start with the third floor. Here's a close-up:
Here is a photo collage of the heating fixture in the bathroom:
|don't forget to click to enlarge!|
On the second floor, the "radiator" is a a baseboard heating system that was hidden underneath a long vanity.
A closer look at the connections below the floor:
We know that we must drain the system below the elevation of the unions we will be opening. We know that the unions themselves are pretty straightforward.
What we don't know is this:
What's the best way to go about removing that pipe on the third floor?
Once everything has been removed, what's the best way to cap the pipes to be able to use the rest of the heating system while we finish the bathrooms? (Is that a bad idea in the first place?)
What are the tips and tricks to re-filling the system?
What would you do?