Monday, March 29, 2010

Choosing A Cold Air Return Vent Cover For A Hole That Is Too Big (or Small)

A few years ago, while completing a home remodeling project, I ran into a problem that frustrates many homeowners who are replacing worn or ugly vent covers. I discovered the hole that my floor grate was covering was an unusual size. In my situation, the opening in the floor was 12" x 30". Today we look at the options I considered for covering this unusually large air return opening.

Before we begin, it is important to remember to measure the size of the opening before purchasing an air return grille or heat register. Most surface mounted vent covers have a base that drops into the opening. If the base on the vent cover is larger than the opening in your floor, the base will not fit flush in the opening and the grille will not lay flat on the floor.

When my home was built, it was heated by a coal burning furnace in the basement. There were baseboard registers in most rooms but in the middle of the home was the large floor grate that still functioned as a cold air return for the current forced air furnace and air conditioner. The grate was broken in a few places and covered with several layers of chipping paint. Given the age of the grate, it is likely that at least one layer of paint was lead based. The grate was beyond repair so restoration was quickly eliminated as an option.

Next, I considered replacing the old floor grate with a new grille but I could not find an air return grille to fit a 12" x 30" opening. I considered a custom grille but custom manufacturing of grilles and registers can often be prohibitively expensive.

With a limited budget, I considered make due with the best fitting grille I could find. If the opening was only a fraction bigger than the inside dimensions of the air return grille I had selected, I simply could have chosen a grille with screw holes and secured it in place with screws. Or, I could have resized the opening to fit the grille. For example, an opening that was 5-3/4" wide could be extended a quarter inch so a common 6" wide grille would fit into the opening. Or, if the opening were 4-1/2" wide, a quarter inch shim could be used on each side to shrink the opening to fit a standard 4" wide vent cover. However, the opening in my floor was far from a fraction off. The closest matching air return grille was 6” shorter than the hole I was covering.

My final option was to use multiple grilles placed end-to-end. This strategy is frequently used with long narrow duct openings (e.g., 4” wide x 48” long). To cover my 12" x 30" air return opening, I selected two 12" x 12" Reggio Register cast iron grilles. I placed the grilles side-by-side with a 6” oak spacer between them to cover the gap. Rather one difficult to cover 12" x 30" opening, I now had two much easier to fit 12” x 12” openings that were 6” apart. My project involved refinishing the oak floors so when the project was complete, the oak spacer blended in perfectly with the refinished wood floors. The Reggio Register cast iron grilles and 6” spacer now look original to the home.

Replacing worn or ugly vent covers is typically a simple task that can pay huge dividends. The task can be as easy as lifting out the old and dropping in the new; unless, of course, the opening is an unusual size. However, this shouldn’t deter you from taking on the task. As we’ve seen, there are options and sometimes the solution simply requires a little ingenuity.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Arts & Crafts Cabinet Hardware Basics

I have long been a fan of Kansas City’s many bungalow homes. Compared to today’s comparably priced middle class home, these bungalows that were built in the early 1900’s are rich with enduring character and craftsmanship. Driving through any one of Kansas City’s many Arts & Crafts bungalow neighborhoods you will note that each home offers a unique exterior in spite of sharing the basic floor plan of neighboring houses. Similarly, the interiors contain many distinctive features that add to the bungalow’s appeal. This uniqueness is a reflection of the “custom” nature of how the homes were built during this time period.

Possibly the most attractive interior feature of the bungalow home is its handcrafted built-in cabinetry. Arts & Crafts built-ins are fitted with a variety of cabinet hardware that is worthy of a closer look.

Cabinet Hinges
The two basic configurations of cabinet hinges are the mortise hinge and the surface-mount hinge. Mortise hinges fit within chiseled out mortises, or grooves, on the side of the cabinet door and cabinet frame. Surface mount hinges simply mount to the flat surfaces of the frame and the side or face of the cabinet door. The combo hinge (picture at left) is a hybrid of the two with a mortise side to be mounted to the frame and a typically decorative surface mounting side that mounts to the face of the cabinet door.

Cabinet Knobs and Pulls
A variety of cabinet knob and pull styles adorn the built in cabinetry of Arts and Crafts bungalows. Knobs and pulls maybe mounted directly on the face of the cabinet drawer or a back-plate may be placed between the knob or pull and cabinet's surface. The backplate protects the cabinet surface from finger nail scratches as well as adds a decorative accent. Arts and Crafts style knobs take many forms including square knobs and hexagon knobs. Arts and Crafts drawer pull styles include the bin pull, drop pull, as well as the common bar pull. When shopping for replacement hardware it is important to take in account the pull’s centers, or distance between the centers of the pull’s required drill holes. The pull’s centers must match the existing drill holes on the cabinet drawer or door.

Cupboard Latches
Exterior mounting cupboard latches are a common feature of bungalow kitchen cabinets. Cupboard latches are designed to keep kitchen cabinet doors firmly shut. The latch typically is used in place of the knob rather than in addition to the cabinet knob. Like knobs, latches are offered in simple and ornate designs.

The price of cabinet hardware varies depending on the material that it is made of and the amount of time required to finish the product. Shop 4 Classics offers an extensive collection of cabinet hardware at all price levels. At the high end, Shop 4 Classics offers handcrafted copper cabinet hardware from the Craftsmen Hardware Company. Hamilton Sinkler’s solid sand-cast bronze hardware is offered at the mid-range price level. Natural finished and electroplated cast iron hardware from the John Wright Company is an example of economically priced cabinet hardware.

Do you want to know more about the Arts & Crafts bugalow? If so, check out Shop 4 Classics’ Bungalow Style Guide for more about interior and exterior bungalow hardware.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Shelf Bracketology: A Surefire Guide To Picking A Winning Bracket

It is March and everyone is talking about brackets. Brackets, brackets, brackets. It would be madness to think that we could stop this talk about brackets so today I join in and talk brackets; shelf brackets.

The selection of the perfect shelf bracket is a matter of opinion but there is some advice I can share. I suppose sharing advice on bracket selection makes me shelf bracket’s slightly more handsome equivalent to Jay Bilas. Like choosing door hardware, vent covers, or other architectural hardware, you should choose shelf brackets that complement other décor in your home and décor is typically predicated on the style of the home.

The hardware of Colonial America was usually hand forged from iron by skilled blacksmiths. Cast iron shelf brackets in a flat black finish work well in early American homes while the medieval aura of filigree shelf brackets in black cast iron seem most appropriate in homes featuring Gothic architecture.

The Victorian era is known for its highly detailed ornamental designs. Shelf brackets featuring interweaving scroll patterns and lacy garnishes might befit a home belonging to Queen Anne herself. Shelf brackets in antique finishes blend in with other antiques found in Victorian homes.

In contrast to the fanciful Victorian era, the Arts & Crafts period favored simple handcrafted designs with dark metal finishes. Shelf brackets in sand cast bronze with a dark brown patina or those constructed of cast iron and finished in a black powder coat tend to coordinate best with hardware found in bungalows of the Arts & Crafts era. Bronze shelf brackets are also popular in rustic settings.

For a modern home, contemporary brushed nickel shelf brackets are the current trend.

Millions of people, including President Barrack Obama, are studying brackets this week. Hopefully, you'll find this guide helpful in your bracket selection whether the bracket's purpose is to display a NCAA Basketball Championship trophy or a family heirloom.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vintage Style Utility Sinks and Faucets for the Modern Mud Room

The back entry to old homes often opened into a small room where dirty shoes and clothes could be removed so that dirt would not be carried throughout the living spaces of the home. Not surprising, this room became known as the mud room. Once the attached garage became a fixture of new homes, it was thought that the mud room was no longer needed. However, the mud room has become popular once more. Although still serving as a transitional space from the outside to the inside of the home, today’s mud room is much more than a place to leave your dirty shoes. Cabinets and lockers have been added to provide additional storage for frequently used household items as well as lawn and garden items. Utility sinks are also now a common fixture of mud rooms. The mud room is the perfect location for a utility sink. Dirty hands washed, muddy shoes cleaned, the family dog bathed, and a refreshing drink of water obtained all without tracking dirt into the house.

Shop 4 Classics offers items that are highly functional and stylish, which makes them perfect for today’s mudrooms. Strom Plumbing’s vintage style wall mount faucets can be paired with a durable vitreous china utility sinks from American Standard and Kohler. Another option is the combination of Belle Foret’s square multipurpose fireclay sink and Belle Foret’s laundry faucet with pull down spray. Finally, don’t forget the many traditional garment hooks and utility hooks found in the Home Hardware section of our website as you complete your mud room shopping list.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Explore the Advantages of Strom Plumbing Walk-In Tubs

In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon is said to have set out on a fruitless search for the legendary Fountain of Youth in what is now Florida. Although the existence of a Fountain of Youth has long since been discounted as mere myth, people are living longer and more independent lives. Fortunately, innovative products are being developed specifically for the aging population which will make their daily activities less strenuous and safer.

The walk-in tub is an example of a product that is designed to fit the unique needs of the senior and handicap populations. Walk-in tubs feature a leak-proof door and grab bars that allow the bather to safely step in and out of the tub. Further, their floor and seat have slip-proof surfaces to greatly reduce the possibility of falling. These safety and accessibility features have the added benefit in that they allow the elderly and handicapped to bath in private, without need of assistance.

Strom Plumbing’s new Lourdes walk-in tub combines all the safety and convenience features of standard walk-in tubs with the elegant form of the classic pedestal style tub. The Lourdes acrylic walk-in tub is available with left hand and right hand entries. For added comfort, the Lourdes massage tub includes a massage motor for a therapeutic massage feature. The Lourdes tub is located with other built-in tubs on the Shop 4 Classics website.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

And the Oscar goes to...Sign of the Crab

Sign of the Crab (also known as Strom Plumbing) was recently awarded IAPMO approval for their cast iron clawfoot tubs and clawfoot tub faucets. IAPMO's approval doesn't carry the same glamour as the Academy Awards' Oscar but if you are in the market for a clawfoot tub or faucet, IAPMO certification should provide you with confidence in quality and reliability.

IAPMO (pronounced I-AP-MO) is an abbreviation for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials. For over 80 years, IAPMO has been protecting the public's health and safety by developing and overseeing standards. This organization established the Uniform Plumbing Code that most cities use as a basis for developing their own plumbing codes. For consumers, IAPMO approval means that IAPMO independently tested and inspected the manufacturer's products to verify compliance to codes and standards.

Sign of the Crab cast iron clawfoot tubs are some of the few cast iron tubs that have received the distinction of IAPMO approval. The IAPMO approved Sign of the Crab thermostatic clawfoot tub faucets lead the industry in anti-scald technology. The anti-scald feature guarantees that your shower is no Hurt Locker and the pressure balance valve provides a constant temperature to ensure that flushing a toilet while you shower does not turn you into an Avatar blue person.

While IAPMO approval shouldn't be the only factor in your choice of a clawfoot tub or clawfoot tub shower, it is Precious and worthy of consideration. If you are Up in the Air about the significance of IAPMO approval, perhaps Sign of the Crab's 30 years of experience will influence your selection of a cast iron tub. Shop 4 Classics is proud to offer the complete catalog of Sign of the Crab's IAPMO approved products.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Revealing Look At Exposed Riser Showers

If you ask Tiger Woods or Bernie Madoff, being exposed is a bad thing. However, being exposed does not always necessitate negativity. An exposed riser shower set is a perfect example of when a little exposure is a very good thing.

Unlike modern in-wall showers where the faucet body and shower riser are concealed behind a wall and only the handles and showerhead are visible from inside the shower; exposed riser showers have a faucet body and shower riser that are open and in plain view. If you’ve ever repaired or replaced an in-wall shower whose most important parts are nearly inaccessible behind a tiled shower wall, you’ll quickly appreciate the benefit of an exposed riser shower whose entire system is installed outside the shower wall.

Most exposed riser showers feature a shower arm that extends horizontally from a tall vertical riser such that the showerhead is over head. The showerhead for exposed riser showers is often larger than normal showerheads and provides a soothing rain shower effect rather than the massaging sensation of smaller showerheads. Because the showerhead is overhead, exposed riser showers can be used with a shower pan that is enclosed with shower curtain and a shower curtain rod. Freestanding shower pans might require a rectangular shower surround that allows the shower curtain to fully envelope the shower.

Exposed riser showers are often used in half baths because most models lack a tub spout. While you may think that half baths are a contemporary concept, many homes of yesteryear would also have a separate shower stall. Even small, modest bungalows might sometimes have a shower stall. In warmer environments, exposed riser showers can be used on the beach to wash after a swim or outside a hot tub after a soak. Obviously freezing is a concern in exterior applications so many people uninstall the exposed riser shower before cold weather approaches.

Exposed riser shower sets are offered from the most basic models to elaborate thermostatic exposed riser showers that offer a handheld shower for convenience. Body spray attachments are even available for some models.

Most antique reproduction plumbing manufacturers offer exposed riser showers. Shop 4 Classics offers exposed riser showers from Strom Plumbing, Sunrise Specialty, Elizabethan Classics, and Cheviot Products.

For some of us when we think exposure, we think Paris Hilton or amateur photos of Sasquatch. In those cases, over exposure is a bad thing. But if you are looking for some good exposure, consider an exposed riser shower set from Shop 4 Classics.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shop 4 Classics Does Vintage Window Hardware

I find that original wood-framed windows are one of the most enduring features of vintage homes. Unfortunately, the original windows are also considered highly inefficient compared to today’s modern double pane windows and therefore they are often replaced during the home renovation process. For those wanting to include refurbishing their original windows rather than replacing them, Shop 4 Classics offers a variety of replacement window hardware items.

Double-hung Window Hardware
The double-hung window is by far the most common type of window found in both old and new homes. The double-hung window houses two window frames, or sashes, within the window's casing. The basic window hardware found on double-hung windows consists of sash lifts and sash catches. The sash lift is typically a simple pull located at the base of the interior sash. The two components of the sash lock are typically located at the top of the interior sash and at the bottom of the exterior sash. The sash lock serves two purposes. The locks provide security and tighten the seal between the two exterior and interior sashes to reduce the amount of cold or hot air that passes between the two sashes.

Casement Window Hardware
Casement windows are far less common. Casement windows feature a single sash within the window’s casing. The sash opens outward rather than up and down as in the case of double-hung windows. The basic window hardware found on casement windows consists of casement adjusters and casement fasteners, or latches. The casement adjuster keeps the opened sash in place. The casement fastener serves the same purpose of the double hung window's sash lock. It provides security and a tight seal against the elements.