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New oil tanks installed

17 Aug

They did it! No shrubbery was injured in the process, and it’s not significantly grosser down there in the basement than ’twas before. The whole house smells very strongly of oil, but that will dissipate — it’s a lovely day and I have all the windows open and fans doing their thing.

Cosimo, Gooch, and Jason were the crew (same guys who got rid of the snowman and put in the new furnace). Jason was the one doing the digging in the garden, Gooch and Coz were on the inside working on the tanks. There was a ton of sludge and grossness in the old tank which they cut up with saws that made the whole house vibrate — weeeeee! They said they salvaged about ten gallons of oil, so that’s a start for November 1st (the day before which I try very very hard not to start the system).

The interesting discovery of today’s project? Two big old brownstone windowsills that I guess were part of the old window wells that used to exist beneath the semi-underground level (I know there is a term for this semi-underground, partially below grade level of the house, but I can’t remember it). The guys hauled them over to the edge of the front “yard” (it’s pretty small to call it a yard, but there we are), and now it’s like a little leaf barrier/wall.

The most relief-inducing discovery? That in addition to the tank being on death’s door, the cast iron pipes outside were in pretty rough shape and the crew estimated I would only have gotten about five more years out of them before they burst — so that’s a huge and unexpected benefit. Yay new oil tanks to go with the new furnace! I’m heating with style in 2010.

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Preparing for new oil tanks

17 Aug

Two years ago, I got a new furnace. I’d had an old “snowman” — a huge old behemoth that was originally designed to burn coal, and was retrofitted to burn oil around the 1930s. It was covered in asbestos (and that’s why they called them snowmen). It was very fabulous cast iron underneath and pretty efficient, considering it was around 100 years old. But it cracked, and I was putting water in every day. So, I had to say farewell to old snowy (code prevented it from remaining down there as a testament to heating practices of our ancestors) and got a new, tiny little jobby that uses about half the oil of the other one. Big savings.

Then last year, the old oil tank began leaking — ruh roh! — but I couldn’t get a new one in the winter because the ground was frozen, so I was getting tiny little deliveries of oil (100 gallons at a time) so as not to put too much stress on the tank. My leaky tank holds 275 gallons, but must have been put in when there was a different way to access the basement (there’s evidence of an old hatchway down there, but it’s been bricked up for at least 30 years), because there’s no way that old one is coming out the narrow opening to the basement. And there’s no way a new one of equivalent size can fit in.

What to do? They’re giving me two new smaller tanks, a bunch of new pipes (that pesky “code” again), and digging up the front garden to do it. They should be here any minute now, so here are some before photos…

The basement — clean foundation for 2009

29 Dec

My basement has been really gross and somewhat creepy for a long  time. When I first moved in, I thought it was a dirt floor, but then (much to my chagrin) found out it was actually mostly a concrete floor that was eroding with dirt seeping up from below that had formed a layer on everything. Gross.

A few years ago, I paid a mason a large sum of money to fix several areas of concern in the basement and the exterior, and to support some sagging joists with lolly columns. As a result of his work, I wound up with two enormous piles of dirt (and junk — broken bricks, asbestos chunks — iron pipes) sitting in my basement.

I hated to go down there, and I hated even opening the door because dust just flew up and got on everything. Over the past thirty days (or so), however, everything has changed — I have a new furnace, and the old one has been removed (a bit of a historic curiosity lost, oh well). The dirt piles are gone (the dirt that is about half the floor is still there), and the JUNK is gone — thanks to some great local guys. 

Everything that I’m keeping (paint, hardware, old trim and moulding, doors, and a big pile of bricks) is organized and clean. I have a gang plank to the oil tank, and feel like I can enter the new year with a nice tidy foundation. 

I’d like to come up with the funds to find a solution to the floor (down with dirt!), but in the meantime, it’s as good as it can be for what is under my control.

So that puts an end to cleaning up and de-junking for 2008. Everything that happens in 2009 will be renovations! Happy new year!

The basement — during

1 Dec

Here it is — the boiler post-asbestos removal and then post-smashing. It’s so sad to see it busted up into all those little pieces, but really cool to see what it looked like underneath all that asbestos.

The basement — before

1 Dec

This is the “snowman” a very charming old furnace that was originally designed to use coal to heat the house. It was probably installed in the 1930s, and was converted to oil at some point in the 1950’s.

It worked splendidly (if inefficiently from an oil usage perspective) until last winter when a crack must have happened, because I had to keep filling up the water tank every day. Luckily, I got through the whole 2007/2008 heating season with it. 

70-odd years is nothing to sniff at. I was so sad to see it go. It was a cool piece of history, but apparently “code” required it to be demolished. Sniff…