Monday, December 13, 2010

Reconfiguring the Duplex

One of the first things we wanted to change about the house is the front facade.  The second front door that was added to change the house into a duplex, and that really took away from the curb appeal of the house.

 Before: note the two front doors.

There was a window that we found in the house that was a precise match to the downstairs windows.  So we replaced the second front door with that window.

After: only the center front door remains.  The original facade of the house is restored.  Some cracked and water damaged siding was replaced on the front as well.

 We plan to keep the house as a duplex due to its large size, but we will re-organize the floor plan.  One part of the duplex will use the front entrance, and the other apartment will use the back entrance.  Luckily, the house has both front and back stairways, so this allows us to split it up in this way.

The back stairs are very narrow, and their ceiling height was only 5'7".  Because this is a historic house, the stairs are grandfathered and can be used as is.  However, we chose to increase the ceiling height to meet modern code requirements.  After several people have hit their heads on the ceiling going down the stairs, we decided this just needed to be done.

Before: the ceiling is low in the stairway.  

 After: the ceiling was cut back to meet the modern code requirements.  Note the new railing that was added to match the original.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Preparing For Heating/Air Conditioning

The house has no air conditioning or heat.  It was heated with space heaters and air conditioned using window units. This means that there are not ducts in the house.  We plan to add central heat and air, so this means the all new duct work will need to be added, as well as air returns.

We investigated various heating/air conditioning options to try to minimize the number of ducts needed and to minimize the space lost due to adding ducts.  We looked at using mini-split heat pump units which are completely ductless. We originally favored this option because it allows you to adjust the temperatures separately for every room thus saving energy.  But we decided against this option.  We received some negative feedback which indicated that it was very difficult to find experienced technicians who could install these units correctly.  The failure rate of these units if very high if they are not installed properly; they also have more failure points than the traditional HVAC system.  We also looked at using small duct systems including Unico and SpacePak, but we found these systems to be very expensive.  So their cost prohibited us from using them.  

In the end, we decided to go with a traditional HVAC system.  So we knew that we would have to come up with a location where the ducts and returns could go from the attic to downstairs.  So we decided to give up a portion of the upstairs kitchen.  That unit is smaller, so the kitchen could also be smaller.

Raceway from attic to the bottom of the house was created to run the ducts and returns.

We also needed to find a place for the outdoor HVAC units.  The house still had the original brick walls that were previously used to hold up a cistern.  The cistern was no longer there, but the brick walls remained.  We decided to repoint the old bricks and then build a platform on top of them for the HVAC units.  The other option would have been to knock down the old brick walls,and place the units in their place, but we wanted to keep the old historic brick walls.