Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Beast

Last year when we first started looking for a bigger house to accommodate our quickly-growing family, we knew that our dream house was something old in the College Hill area. There was an open house just two blocks from our friends' place, and it was in our price range, so we thought that was an obvious place to start.

There were several problems with this house (just one example: we referred to it as "the Cat Pee House" during the rest of our house search), but we found the big deal-breaker in the basement:

The Beast

This thing scared the crap out of us. I didn't know anything about boilers or radiators or steam heat; all I saw was this ancient monstrosity that was sure to break down, or worse, blow up at any minute. The previous owner said that it was the original boiler, installed when the house was built. But we suspected that it was, in fact, older than the house. It was probably sitting there since the beginning of time in a largish hole that would eventually become a basement, and some clever developer in the early 1900s walked by and said, "Hey, let's build a house around that thing!"

In the end, through reading posts on the Old House Web forums and talking to people who have had steam heat, we realized that maybe the old boiler wasn't such a bad thing. Eventually, the steam heat went from a major drawback to one of our favorite features.

As far as I can tell from a little research, the size designation below means that it's a 28" round boiler, which (I think) means it puts out around 225,000 BTUs. I've been told that our house probably requires around 150,000 BTUs. We do love overkill.

Storm Windows Part II

Here's how I spent part of Thanksgiving break:

A craft-store embossing gun worked well for softening the rock-hard glazing compound. It heats to 650 degrees (F), so I had to be careful not to crack the glass.

With the new glazing compound in place:

First coat of paint on:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Storm Windows

We have been considering getting aluminum storm windows ever since we moved into this house; it has the original windows with the wavy glass, which we love. But it also has the original windows, with drafts so strong they'll muss your hair, which we don't love so much. the storms obviously would help our outrageous heating bills, but the thought of covering those old windows with modern aluminum monstrosities didn't appeal to us any more than the $3500 estimate did.

I knew there were wooden storm windows out in the garage (two things tipped me off: the previous owner told me so, and the huge stack of storm windows out in the garage), but I had never looked at them. They were taken off the house last year when the previous owner had the trim of the house painted (I assume they paid extra for the security provided by painted-shut windows). He told us that the people who had painted the trim had told him that the windows were all rotten, so there was no sense putting them back up.

A few weeks ago, I went out and looked at the storm windows. They were fine. They needed new glazing compound and new paint, but the wood and glass were fine. My dad came over and we started working on them, but unfortunately the cold weather moved in faster than we'd expected. Now I'm working on them one at a time in the basement.

Because I work with some of the greatest people in the world, my coworker Terrell volunteered to help me out with the storm windows. He loaded eight of them into his truck (a truck that he bought from my dad, who bought it from me, who bought it from my dad in the first place) and took them home for Thanksgiving vacation. Doesn't that sound like fun? Sweating over a bunch of windows that won't even go on your own house? During Thanksgiving? He is a saint.

Here are few pictures of the windows at Terrell's place:

Getting the glazing compound:

Slight power-washer-related mishap:

Painted and almost ready to keep us warm: