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1700's Colonial Restoration - Advice appreciated

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Lefty
Lefty Member Posts: 1
Hi all. I'm new to the site but have read a few threads and respect the knowledge that roams here. I am a 30 year veteran contractor but in the field of excavation and masonry and a complete novice in your field, but always look to learn new things. I'm renovating my home that I've lived in for 12 years and, as they usually do, the project has grown immensely from the original scope. I have a few concepts, questions and ideas that cover several topics that I'd like to throw out for your consideration.

I have cast iron radiators (hot water) and an oil fired boiler, which have performed well over the years. I've had to re-route some of the plumbing to a few radiators for various reasons and disconnected all to sandblast and re-finish. My original plan was to just clear coat the bare cast but that needs to be adjusted. I'm finding it hard to get a desirable even tone from the sand blasting, so I'm thinking of painting with a cast iron paint, like Cast Blast. If anyone has any suggestions on a better choice, I'm all ears. I read an article here about how metallic paints adversely affect the performance of the radiator. The science was mostly over my head but I recall that the outer coat was the critical one. Would a clear coat over the metallic paint negate the inefficiency? I plan on replacing all the valves and seats. I'd like to do so with hardware constructed with quality and understated interest. I haven't started this search yet but vendor recommendations would be appreciated. These radiators have been drained for 9 months. Is there a flushing procedure I should go through before putting back in service? I am confused by some plumbing at my boiler. There are manifolds with 4 ports each, for supply and returns. The outlet at the boiler is 2" but it is bushed down to 1-1/4 for spans of approximately 3 feet where they feed 3" and 2" pipes. Should this be a concern?

I gained access to areas after removing crawl spaces and installing new foundation and basement floors. I replaced several 4" cast service lines with cast as to not lose the benefit of sound dampening, as well as staying true to the house. I'm replacing all the plumbing from the pressure tank on. There's a part of me that cringes to the thought of using pex instead of copper. I'd love to know what the pros think.

I'd like to consider utilizing geothermal. If not for the main house, then for some barns that I plan to restore and potentially radiant for a portion of my driveway. I have 6 acres and the excavation equipment. I would certainly seek consultation from an expert in this field.

Thanks for reading my book. Any constructive feedback is appreciated.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,655
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    Before I wander too far off into the weeds, I need to be clear in my own mind about one things: is this technically a restoration, a resto-mod, or a full rehab? It makes quite a difference...

    On plumbing. If you have clear access to spaces, and considerable clearance from any combustible material, particularly, old framing, lathe, etc. copper has much to be said for it. Like... it's rigid. However. If you have close clearances, or if you need to replace lines running through walls, I've grown very fond of PEX. Properly assembled with crimp fittings, it seems to hold up well -- and it has the huge advantage that there is no need for waving a torch around in the vicinity of powder keg kindling. This is also true of heating pipes, provided you can keep the temperature below the rated temperature of 180 or so. The downside to PEX is that when it does get hot, it gets floppy. Therefore, any horizontal runs which will have even warm water need to be supported at frequent intervals, perhaps even in a trough. Not a big deal, but needs to be considered. The other upside, other than no torch, is that it's not at all difficult to snake it through walls (it's easier to do this if you run a snake when you're pulling the old pipe out -- often in sections... ask me how I know) which means far less damage -- if any -- to the walls. This is of more significance in a restoration than a resto-mod, and doesn't matter in a rehab.

    I have had no problems with painting steam radiators with any of the top end interior acrylics, such as Benjamin Moore's Aura. On bare metal, you will want a good prime coat as well, of course. The comments you've read about colour are correct, and it is the top coat that matters, not what's underneath. I don't think a clear coat will reduce performance that much, though I haven't tested it.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Lefty
    Lefty Member Posts: 1
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    Hi Jaime. 

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful response.  I have all walls removed upstairs.  There is a loft room downstairs that spans upstairs and a bathroom downstairs that also had all plaster removed. Ceilings in three of the four bedrooms upstairs and the master bath have been vaulted to help highlight the chimneys. The walls in the remaining rooms downstairs are in good enough shape to skim coat. The chases that connect the basement to the floor of the second floor are adequate enough to run copper without too much difficulty. I installed 4" cast for the services utilizing these chases. All new plumbing and electrical and I will utilize spray foam insulation for the rafters and all exterior walls exposed. I'm removing a bit more siding on the first floor than is necessary to enable spray foam insulation from the outside.  There is no sheathing. 

    Your comments on pex are helpful. I'm capable of soldering but pex seems so much easier and faster. 

    I have roughed in 1" black iron to all fireplaces in the hopes to utilizing propane inserts for all six in the future.  I would appreciate any assistance on inserts that will be authentic looking. Perhaps I can swing one in the master bedroom during this construction. 

    I'm not completely clear on your response about the paint for the radiators. Since the clear coat is non-metallic, would it not negate any negative effects of the metallic paint under it, since it would be the outermost coat?

    Thanks again,
    Ron 
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,655
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    Basically a rehab then -- almost a gut rehab. Makes life much easier!

    I'm honestly not sure on the clear coat over metallic, either. I have a sort of gut feeling that the result would be much closer to metallic than to regular paint, but it depends -- without getting too far of into the weeds -- on the optical properties of the clear coat in the far infrared wavelengths of light and I honestly have no idea what those are!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,482
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    As far s your energy use, you need to calculate heat loads for the various buildings and SIM, then determine how much could be covered by a GEO loop field. There are tools and programs available to help you perform load calculations. Next take an inventory of the radiators, determine if they could cover the load at low supply water temperatures. Upgrades to the building envelope may help you lower the required temperatures. I've run cast radiators down as low as 120-= 130 SWT and they can still cover low load areas.
    I'd do a lot of number crunching before you pull out the tools. Most anything is possible with hydronics these days with so much equipment and technology available. If your electric rates are reasonable and you have enough ground and can do the heavy lifting on the loop field, I would give GEO a serious look for heating, cooling, DHW and SIM. The front end costs are high, if you can take labor cost out, it's dirt and plastic tube for the energy.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Lefty
    Lefty Member Posts: 1
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    Thanks fellas.  Due to being up to my eyeballs with this project and trying to run a business, I'll probably save the geothermal concept for when I begin work on the barn and garage. I spent a lot on fuel oil in the past but it amazes me that the existing system worked well enough to keep the house warm considering no insulation. I'm hoping that with new windows and insulation, the existing system will be sufficiently efficient.  I left (2) 2" conduits stubbed into the foundation below frost.  Would that be remotely sufficient to eventually tie in geothermal? The other structures will be demoed and rebuilt.  Perhaps when I get closer to that, I'll revisit reaching out for a consultant. 

    Thanks,
    Ron
  • ChicagoCooperator
    ChicagoCooperator Member Posts: 358
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    I wonder how efficient those colonial houses were. One of my cousins lived in a pre-revolutionary house in CT for a few years and she said it was fairly easy to heat (baseboard with some GFA iirc). Of course, ceilings should could paint with just a roller probably didn't hurt.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,655
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    The ones I've seen -- remarkably good. First place, they were usually not that big -- 900 to 1,000 square feet footprint or thereabouts. Second, as you note, they weren't that high, either. So the interior volume wasn't that great. Then the windows were surprisingly good. The walls aren't bad, either, even with no insulation at all -- R3 or better, at least (by modern standards, horrible, but -- not really that bad). But the crowning glory was that central chimney -- you had a huge mass of stone in there, and once it was warm it simply didn't cool off. Nice places to be.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,482
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    Lefty said:

    Thanks fellas.  Due to being up to my eyeballs with this project and trying to run a business, I'll probably save the geothermal concept for when I begin work on the barn and garage. I spent a lot on fuel oil in the past but it amazes me that the existing system worked well enough to keep the house warm considering no insulation. I'm hoping that with new windows and insulation, the existing system will be sufficiently efficient.  I left (2) 2" conduits stubbed into the foundation below frost.  Would that be remotely sufficient to eventually tie in geothermal? The other structures will be demoed and rebuilt.  Perhaps when I get closer to that, I'll revisit reaching out for a consultant. 

    Thanks,
    Ron

    Money well spent might be hiring one of the designers that hang hear to come up with some design numbers and options for the big picture. That could take a lot of guess work out of the project and possibly pay for the money spent with an appropriate design.
    The best money spent is what you are doing, tighten up the structure, that alone dictates the energy consumption, regardless of your fuel source or distribution method.

    If you are in the east, New England states, fuel oil or some blend will be in play for some time I predict, even with residential consumption dropping quite steadily, peaking back in the 70's. NG continues to climb and LP until two years ago was also a steady upward curve for rural area customers.
    I'd certainly look into a dual fuel system, electricity, with some fossil fuel back up or high load conditions to supplement GEO if you in fact need high temperature hydronics.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • ChicagoCooperator
    ChicagoCooperator Member Posts: 358
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    Jamie - I'm surprised you caught got my gist with that awful typo - it should have been she could paint the ceilings... It's interesting that in the NE they are an English type of house from a milder climate. I wonder how quickly they adapted to the harsher winters here *way off topic*.
  • Lefty
    Lefty Member Posts: 1
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    On the efficiency topic, I am in New York State and my house was efficiency challenged. It is 4,000 sq./ft. To be fair to the old girl, I didn't help her any with a few scenarios. There are massive spruce trees around three sides of the house and maples and chestnut in the front.  All but the maples were planted way to close to the house. I sense they assist with keeping the house cool in the Summer.  Prior to upgrading the electrical service on the property and installing central air, the house stayed surprisingly cool. I remember entering the house on extremely hot days and getting hit with a rush of cool air. We would only need utilize the air conditioning on the dog days of Summer. On these days the upstairs would be hot and worse was that the attic smell that would travel down to the upstairs floor. That brings me to my biggest mistake. I removed much of the attic flooring in an attempt to clean out old nests of various types and other debris to try to get rid of the "attic smell."  Never getting this task completed to my satisfaction and debating whether I should insulate the attic floor, the floor boards were not reinstalled. This, obviously hurt my heating challenges and didn't do my plaster ceilings any favors when the central air system was installed in the attic. The lack of even weight distribution normally provided by the floor boards created several cracks.  I did not remove any of the trees though. I'm a bit of a tree hugger to begin with and can't imagine the house without them, cosmetically. We never used the fireplaces because liners are necessary in all 4 chimneys. The old radiators took on the task and did an admiral job considering you could feel a breeze as you walked by a window. The central air unit is equipped with a heat exchanger that wasn't hooked up. I will be running pex lines down to the basement now.
  • Lefty
    Lefty Member Posts: 1
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    Bob, thanks for your thoughtful post. I am trying to make my heating scenario as versatile as possible. The propane fireplace inserts would introduce an independent heating source, in the event of a failure. I understand it remains a fossil fuel source though. The heat exchanger would probably incorporate into an electric heating source in the future,  I prefer the old radiators though.  

    Thanks,
    Ron
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,482
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    Lefty said:

    On the efficiency topic, I am in New York State and my house was efficiency challenged. It is 4,000 sq./ft. To be fair to the old girl, I didn't help her any with a few scenarios. There are massive spruce trees around three sides of the house and maples and chestnut in the front.  All but the maples were planted way to close to the house. I sense they assist with keeping the house cool in the Summer.  Prior to upgrading the electrical service on the property and installing central air, the house stayed surprisingly cool. I remember entering the house on extremely hot days and getting hit with a rush of cool air. We would only need utilize the air conditioning on the dog days of Summer. On these days the upstairs would be hot and worse was that the attic smell that would travel down to the upstairs floor. That brings me to my biggest mistake. I removed much of the attic flooring in an attempt to clean out old nests of various types and other debris to try to get rid of the "attic smell."  Never getting this task completed to my satisfaction and debating whether I should insulate the attic floor, the floor boards were not reinstalled. This, obviously hurt my heating challenges and didn't do my plaster ceilings any favors when the central air system was installed in the attic. The lack of even weight distribution normally provided by the floor boards created several cracks.  I did not remove any of the trees though. I'm a bit of a tree hugger to begin with and can't imagine the house without them, cosmetically. We never used the fireplaces because liners are necessary in all 4 chimneys. The old radiators took on the task and did an admiral job considering you could feel a breeze as you walked by a window. The central air unit is equipped with a heat exchanger that wasn't hooked up. I will be running pex lines down to the basement now.

    An infrared camera and a blower door test would show you where work needs to be done, that is not always visible to the naked eye.
    Go here www.dsireusa.org see what incentive programs are available for helping check or sealing up your home. Also any RE incentive programs.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Lefty
    Lefty Member Posts: 1
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    All walls and rafters will be insulated and new windows installed. I anticipate an enormous improvement.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,655
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    Lefty said:

    All walls and rafters will be insulated and new windows installed. I anticipate an enormous improvement.

    What are the windows you are planning on replacing? If they are original, they are worth a lot more than the replacements might be, and with a small amount of work and interior or exterior storms their thermal and draught performance will be better than any replacement.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Lefty
    Lefty Member Posts: 1
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    Hi Jaime. Some windows are awful replacements. I don't know if any are original. I know that there was a fire at one point. The shutters don't even match from the top floor and bottom. I was leaning towards going with Marvin. I'll soon be going through the catalog of standard sizes to see what I can make work. It's going to be a major expense but my wife is excited about having windows that she can open and close without my help.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,655
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    Lefty said:

    Hi Jaime. Some windows are awful replacements. I don't know if any are original. I know that there was a fire at one point. The shutters don't even match from the top floor and bottom. I was leaning towards going with Marvin. I'll soon be going through the catalog of standard sizes to see what I can make work. It's going to be a major expense but my wife is excited about having windows that she can open and close without my help.

    Ah. That's too bad. If there was a fire, it's doubtful that it's old glass, even if it is old frames. Oh well. Marvin is good.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England