Archive for the ‘Maintenance’ Category

Great Sources for Hard to Find Replacement Pieces

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Princeton Historic Home DoorknobRenovating an older home has all kinds of challenges, but sometimes the hardest part is finding replacement pieces. Many times, homes have been stripped of their original light fixtures, stained glass windows, or hardware. Other times, time itself has deteriorated pieces beyond repair. The most aggravating part is trying to find historically accurate replacements that even the pros won’t know aren’t “real”.


Hardware can be the most aggravating to find, but luckily there are some companies that still realize old homes need fixing too.

  • Window sashes: First of all, don’t replace your old windows! If you’re in need of some heavy cast iron sash weights, check out Architectural Iron. Missing sash pulleys or sash cords can be found at Smith Restoration Sash.
  • Butler Pantry doors: Door no longer swinging? If your looking for a replacement piece, you won’t find one at Home Depot. Instead, check out Bommer Industries double action spring pivot. Viola, problem solved!
  • Door knobs: Besides going to your local architectural salvage companies to find original door fixtures, you can also try online sites that specialize in reproduction hardware like Crown City Hardware or House of Antique Hardware, as well as look for original pieces on Etsy or Ebay.


The most dramatic pieces of a historic home can be the lighting fixtures. Even the smallest can be inspiring. I love walking around auctions, antique stores, and architectural salvage companies to admire the beautiful chandeliers, sconces, and lights for sale. But you can find great fixtures online, too. Rejuvenation has a special “restored antiques” section where you can buy real vintage light fixtures. Some might be expensive, but if you want the real deal, be prepared to drop some cash. In your search, keep an open mind about replacements. While you may not be able to find an exact replica, there are many options available true to the period of your home.


The Monster in Your Basement – the Gravity Furnace

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008
The gravity furnace is also commonly called the Octopus furnace because it has long ducts coming out of the central unit. It can be quite a sight to behold and even scares some buyers the first time they see it. These types of units were installed in homes built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. There are still many homes in Minneapolis and Saint Paul which have this furnace as their heat source. Slowly, home owners are replacing them with more efficient HVAC units, as well as replacing the duct-work throughout the home.

The concept of the Octopus Furnace is that heat rises and cold air falls. Heated air rises through the heat ducts and then the cold air sinks, entering the return air ducts, where it is reheated again. The original fuel source for early models was coal, but many since then have been converted to natural gas or oil. The above diagram is a great example of how it works.

Reasons you might want to replace your Gravity Furnace:
  • energy efficiency – gravity fed furnaces are 50% less efficient than a conventional heating system
  • most gravity furnaces contain asbestos. Asbestos is not harmful if left untouched, but if you do plan on replacing your gravity furnace, a licensed abatement contractor will most likely seal off the basement and safely remove any hazardous material.
  • they take up an enormous amount of space in the basement
  • you cannot install a whole house air conditioning system with this type of furnace

I have shown homes to buyers with Gravity Furnaces and many are shocked to see one for the first time. Some even fear purchasing the home, but they are easy to get along with. If you plan on purchasing a home with a Gravity furnace, DO think about replacing one in the near future. It will save you money in the long run.