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Once Upon A Time, In The White Mountains of NH....

...there was a beautiful old church that had sat empty and abandoned for 15 years.



Then along came a benefactor with a concept for repurposing the beautiful building into a scholarly think tank.

The next thing that happened was we received a phone call inquiring about refinishing the church's radiators, something we do during the summer months. Northern NH is quite a bit out of our range. But the benefactor was persistent and persuasive, and we agreed to take the project on. He also mentioned that the steam boiler was long gone, and maybe we'd like to take a look at that as well, when we come up. Of course, we replied.

Upon arrival, we were in for a big surprise. Not only was the boiler gone. Every inch of steam piping had also been removed. Even the radiator valves. Only the radiators themselves remained to tell the tale of what had once been. Sitting silently in their original locations:



In the basement, only the boiler slab remained, and a disconnected Biasi boiler that had somehow heated an apartment in the building.



Under the sanctuary was a crawlspace where once the steam main had run, now devoid of any hint of steam:



Of course, the next question was: Would we care to install a new steam system? Well, we didn't think that was a good idea. Our thoughts ran to Napoleon's march on Moscow. Our supply line would be over 200 miles, and at the end, just like Napoleon, we would find nothing. The area was too rural and sparsely populated to support any sort of steam supplies. We'd have to be perfect to pull it off. We suggested they find someone more local, and heat the radiators with hot water.

But this didn't go over too well. They are big on preservation, and they wanted steam. And once again we acquiesced, agreeing to quote the job. But where to even begin quoting a job like this? But quote it we did, keeping in mind the old adage "becareful what you wish for".

And, naturally, they accepted our quote, otherwise we wouldn't have much of a story would we?

And that is when we became infinitely familiar with the word "logistics". Everything had to be planned down to the finest detail. We could not afford mistakes, missing, or wrong material. No errors, unforced or otherwise, or we'd be doomed by our supply line. We spent the next three months preparing. The entire company would go up, all six of us. We planned to do it in 5 days.

The steam mains would be 2-1/2", the returns 1-1/4". We needed a million miles of it. Our pipe supplier agreed (for a fee of course) to deliver it for us. For the boiler we choose a Weil 480. The last Weil 80 we will ever install, given its discontinued status. Our boiler distributor likewise agreed to deliver it, for a fee.

Finally the day arrived. Countless lengths of pipe, fittings, hangers, and boxes upon boxes of supplies mercifully all arrived at the same time we did, late Monday morning.

The refinished radiators arrived as well. It was quite a feat.



Now there was nothing left to do, but the doing. And 4-1/2 days in which to do it.

The main concern? "A" dimension. The ceiling in the crawlspace is lower than the ceiling in the boiler room and the main would be 80' long. The stone wall separating the crawlspace from the boiler room was 24" thick. There were two existing holes for the supplies at the correct height. Then there was a 3rd hole on one side only, 18" below the supply holes that was currently being used by a DWV pipe. The return hole was 30" above the waterline. Do the math, and you'll find there's not an inch of margin available, or we'd need a pumped return. Which of course we did not bid. We figured if the old guys did it with gravity, we could...

But could we really?





New England SteamWorks
Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
newenglandsteamworks.com
PC7060

Comments

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,908
    Beautiful building and project!

    1 or 2 pipe?

    Would be a good U-tube video......
    CLambluketheplumber
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,880
    Love to know what somebody wanted with old pipe?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,425
    All I can say is... thank you
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    kcopp
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,362
    I did plenty of jobs out of town in remote locations. It's all in the details ...and there are plenty of them as you found out.

    Beautiful job! And a serious challenge which I am sure you will meet

    Hopefully they got someone up their who can service it
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,425
    I think the service will be less of a problem than might be thought. One of the beauties of a steam system is that if it is properly installed in the first place, with quality components and superior workmanship, the system itself will take little or no maintenance for decades. The boiler does require attention: proper adjustment of the burners, making sure its clean, etc., but that isn't that hard and competent techs are out there, even in the wilds, and the work is no different for steam than for hot water -- or even forced air, really. The only thing slightly different for steam is to make sure that the vapourstat or pressuretrol is working and that the low water cutoffs are working.

    Since @New England SteamWorks put the system in, that first criterion has been met, so they should be good to go for a nice long time.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • TAG
    TAG Member Posts: 701
    Love it. Nice design -- interesting no tower. Here is mine ..... just about finished. So cool that they are putting the steam back .... mine was built in 1873 so no original heat other than a stove in the sacristy.

    Lots of challenges when bringing these old things back ... the trades people who can work on them very hard to find.

  • New England SteamWorks
    New England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,452
    The guys got all the boiler sections together on day one. On day two they put a good dent in the 4” header:




    Even Ilka joined the fun on this job. Note the piles of pipe behind her. Long way to go!



    Meanwhile, other guys were laboring in the crawlspace, which was tough duty. Hard gravel floor, and no standing headroom.



    But of course, it wasn’t all work. In between it all the guys found a little time for R & R.





    Ilka and her family rented an RV (we’ll never do that again!), while the guys shacked up in a motel across the street from a brewery. Definitely the better play.






    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
    mattmia2
  • TAG
    TAG Member Posts: 701
    Very cool -- The foam on the foundation go a long way in eliminating the horrible damp cold basement all those old stone building have. What else are they doing to the building? I see steel -- how old is it ?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,908
    The poured concrete piers in the crawl space and steel beams seem years newer than the building itself.

    I wonder if that wasn't a major renovation.

    Was there any evidence of pipe hangers from the original system in the crawl space?
    mattmia2
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,425
    Beautiful, beautiful work to complement a beautiful building! Again, thank you!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • TAG
    TAG Member Posts: 701
    Love the stone work ..... Longer than mine but about the same inside. Mine lost almost all of its original interior and a fire required the rest to come out. The other heater staying for the apartment?

    Toss another 2m at it and it's a house !
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,516
    Beautiful, @New England SteamWorks ! Can't wait to read how well it runs.

    Now all they need is a pipe organ B)
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    New England SteamWorks
  • Rich_L
    Rich_L Member Posts: 79
    WOW, beautiful job! Looking forward to hearing how start up goes!
  • mattman
    mattman Member Posts: 10
    Nice job guys! It is really cool to see masters at work.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,999
    jumper said:

    Love to know what somebody wanted with old pipe?

    Maybe it was all covered with asbestos and someone who didn't think they would heat with steam again thought that was the easiest way to deal with it.
    JUGHNE said:

    The poured concrete piers in the crawl space and steel beams seem years newer than the building itself.

    I wonder if that wasn't a major renovation.

    It looks like much of that floor was replaced at some point maybe around the 40's-60's. It looks like the older section of floor is heavily notched so maybe it was hacked up and had to be replaced.
  • pell
    pell Member Posts: 15
    You never said what town you where in, Was it Bethlehem?