Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Four Hundred Dollar Backsplash!

After doing the simple job of installing the five tiles as a nice little backsplash behind the deep sink vanity in the mudroom, I decided to do a quick search using with the keywords "antique dutch tiles". A bunch of images came up, and seeing a photograph including several similar tiles,  I was astonished to find they sell for between $60 and $120 a piece on the used market. As Michel Buble said recently, "Holy Shitballs"! I now have a four hundred dollar tile backsplash, according the the person who added the comment on my first post on these tiles!

I might add three more of these in a partial second row above the first, without having any duplicates show up, and then decide what to do with the rest. There are about eight more similar to these shown here, a half dozen in blue with flowers, and three larger scenes without the circles, as well as twenty blank ones. I think I might save the six blue ones when I redo the upstairs bathroom, and then sell off the rest. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Honeywell, Lennox, and Davies - Opinion Time!

Winter has arrived, the furnace is in, the house is warm, and Katherine is very happy! Now it's time to give my blatantly honest and unbiased opinion on the furnace, the thermostat, and the company that installed it all.

Honeywell Prestige THX900 Touch Screen Thermostat
(Click Here For Information - New Window Will Open)

Simply Phenomenal! This unit has power supplied from the furnace, so no batteries to replace, ever! It offers the homeowner a level of control that simply cannot be matched by any setback thermostat you can buy at a retailer such as Canadian Tire (including other Honeywell thermostats). It offers complete and ridiculously simple end user control over setback programming, overrides, vacation programs, furnace cycle rates, and many other facets of the furnace operation. As an example, the old setback thermostat permitted me to override the current program until the new program kicked in. This new thermostat allows me to override the current program until either the next program kicks in, or anytime before the next program, or anytime through the next program. around $500 (plus HST) as a complete system (thermostat, remote, outdoor air sensor) from an HVAC supplier, installed.

Lennox G61MPV Two Stage High Efficiency Furnace
(Click Here For Information - New Window Will Open)

Quietly Impressive: There are two reasons to drop four grand on a great furnace: Two stage burners, and an electronically commutated fan blower motor. When the furnace is called on for heat, the first stage fires up delivering 60,000 BTU, and is then monitored. If heat demand is being met, the first stage only continues to burn. When demand is not being met, the second stage fires, and the full 90,000 BTU's comes on line. When the call for morning and evening heat comes, the furnace typically moves to full two stage heating, as it is pulling the house up 5 degrees celsius. Once the house is at the set temperature, only the first stage typically fires to maintain it. The blower motor is very quiet compared to the old Carrier with AC blower. With the old furnace you could always tell it was running anywhere in the home, but with the new Lennox you have to be in the dining room or front foyer to hear it, otherwise you would not know it is running. Operating noise appears to have been cut in half. $3900 (plus HST, less varous rebates) for a straightforward installation by Dave Davies, available through any Lennox dealer.

Dave Davies Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration
(Click Here For Information - New Window Will Open)

Absolutely Outstanding: If you are looking to replace or install a new furnace, and you are located anywhere near Stratford Ontario, you only have to make one phone call: to Dave Davies. You could spend time phoning around and getting a few estimates like I did, but you really don't need to. I was quite satisfied with three of the companies I contacted about a new furnace, but Dave Davies was a full step ahead. They offered clear and effective answers to all my questions, a thorough knowledge of all rebate programs in place, a competetive price, and fast turnaround on an expert installation. Domenic and Ken know their stuff, and did an absolutely top notch job, including little things that I was being fussy over. Dave Davies was very straightforward, offering great advice. Wilma (office admin) and Shaun (who provided the thermostat) were also very good to deal with. I would be very hard pressed to find anyone as good, let alone better.

The Outdoor Air Sensor

I dropped by Dave Davies Air Condtioning, Heating and Refrigeration to pick up the final toy to fully finish the heating system installation at the Field House: the outdoor air sensor. This little device remotely relays the outdoor temperature and humidity for display on the thermostat, as seen in the photographs below:

Close up of the display including outdoor air temperature and humidity. This is an actual shot of my unit, and not from Honeywell... I know 17.5 is a bit cool, but I was just testing the unit in Celsius!

The remote unit mounted on the exterior brick chimney wall. I didn't want to drill a new hole, so I used an existing hole which a while back had an anchor for a cable to hold tree upright.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boxes in Attics

For all the bad things I might say about other people who have either done things poorly, or failed to do things properly, on this nice old house, I do have to give credit where it is due. When we moved in ten years ago, I found an old empty chest, a painted crib, a steel bedframe, and a small box which had been left behind in the attic. The box contained a number of tiles, possibly salvaged from the main bathroom when it was gutted and overhauled some time in the 'seventies or 'eighties. The tiles were mostly white, however some of them were hand painted, with an obviously Dutch style, as in the photo below:

Kudos to whoever was smart enough to salvage and save these wonderful tiles! These will be used to make a small backsplash in the mudroom bathroom, and as luck would have it, they complement the paint colour Katherine chose for the walls quite nicely!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fixing Someone Else's Mistakes, Again

Just before the old furnace died in the spring, there was a substantial decrease in airflow from the shared vent serving Rudi's room and the guest bedroom. I thoroughly checked the ducting in the basement, could not find the problem, and then the furnace promptly quit. With the new furnace being installed and working perfectly, I began to look into the problem again. and found the problem, and a few other interesting things, including a live Loomex electrical cable that had been pulled up alongside the old heating vent, and run along the heated space to an electrical outlet close by!

Above Left: The floor opening located nearly directly above the first floor wall. The two grey pipes are the hot and cold supply lines for the hot water heating system installed sometime in the 'thirties possibly. The heat from the forced air furnace is directed up the wall - the black space, to the right under the floor, and then up a bit into the heating vent located at the gap in the baseboard.

Above Right: A closer view down the wall cavity, revealing another interesting thing. The round tube standing in the wall cavity must have been installed before the hot water supply pipes, meaning it is original to the construction of the house in 1888. From that time until the oil hot water system was put in place, the second floor was heated by this 'gravity' heating sysstem, with one feed serving two bedrooms at the front of the house, and another  feed serving two bedrooms at the back of the house.

When the house was converted to forced air natural gas heating in 1987, a 6" diameter flexible conduit duct was pulled up inside the original 8" diameter carbon steel duct, placed below the old water supply pipes, and then simply left in the space between the joists pointing toward the outlet vents. Over the years, the conduit must have popped out of place, slipped back into the vertical duct, and then simply blasted hot air against the floor and into the joist space running the length of the room, with a consequent significant reduction of airflow from the vents.

Above Left: The old cast iron hot and cold pipes are cut and removed, and the original 8" diameter duct has been pulled out. The reciprocating saw with metal cutting blade chewed through the pipes in under 5 seconds each. The circular saw was used to cut the floorboards, and the flashlight required to see down the inside of the wall.

Above Right: A  view down the wall cavity with the original duct removed. The two wooden studs are the left and right wall studs, making the wall about 10 inches wide. Unfortunately, the gap between the two is open to the inside surface of the exterior double brick wall, a probable significant source of heat loss, as all of the cold from the inside surface of the much of the front wall can pass into the house through this gap.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Water Water Everywhere - Part One

It is pretty much an understatement that the Field House has a grading problem in the backyard, as evidenced by this photo I took recently, after a few consecutive days of off and on light rain. It doesn't help that the entire village is situated on extremely poorly drained clay which sits directly on top of an Artesian condition aquifer, which prevents the clay from ever draining.

The problem is compounded by an old artesian well, which leaks now more than it ever did in the past. Howver I just can't fathom why all of the previous owners of the house chose to do nothing about this. It seems to have been at least a minor issue for, say, about 120 years now!

The water depth mostly ranges from 4 to 6 inches, and perhaps 8 inches at the deepest, so I could grade the property for a few thousand dollars worth of fill, topsoil, and equipment use. But I have a better idea, which I will begin work on over the winter, and complete sometime early next summer.

Hot Dang! If it weren't so flat, you'd think we were in the Ozarks! Believe it or not, in some seasons and directions, parts of the backyard actually look quite nice!