Friday, October 28, 2011

Vintage Doorbell Buttons & Doorbell Chimes: Replacing Doorbells In Period Homes

Doorbell season is upon us. Over the next few months, doorbell buttons and doorbell chimes will be busy announcing the arrival of guests to our homes. It all starts with trick-or-treaters at Halloween but the parade of guests continues through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and culminates with revelers at New Years. If your doorbell is a dud, doorbell season is a good time to consider replacing it.

A traditional wired doorbell is a system of three components; a doorbell button, a transformer, and a doorbell chime. The three components are connected by low voltage bell wire. Doorbell buttons work like a switch that when pressed completes an electrical circuit between the transformer and the door chime. The transformer is required to reduce the electrical current from the level of normal outlets in your home (usually 120 volts) down to the level required to operate the doorbell chime (usually 16 volts). Although each component is sold separately, all three parts are necessary to complete a doorbell.

Installing a new doorbell system in an old home can be challenging if it is not already wired for a doorbell. The low voltage wire can run through attics, basements, and crawl spaces but eventually you will likely be required to fish the small gauge bell wire behind a finished wall. The complexity of installing a new doorbell system will vary but will almost certainly be more difficult than simply replacing a previously wired doorbell button and door chime. Replacing a cheap doorbell button or doorbell chime with a more attractive and better functioning option is a relatively easy project that only requires reconnecting wires and fastening the new button or chime to the wall. Even though doorbells use low voltage power, always turn off power at the electrical panel before proceeding. The ghosts haunting homes at Halloween should not include a former homeowner who neglected to use proper precaution when working with electricity.

Transformers are usually installed in the basement where they are out of view. They can be purchased at most large hardware stores. One transformer looks and works pretty much like the next but be sure to choose a transformer that matches the voltage required by the door chime you choose.

Unlike the nondescript transformer, doorbell buttons and doorbell chimes are important architectural accents. In addition to their functionality, they are high visibility items that contribute to the overall appearance of your home. The combination of an Arts & Crafts hammered copper doorbell button paired with a wood doorbell chime not only reports the arrival of visitors but also demonstrates your appreciation for the handcrafted style of Craftsman period homes. When replacing doorbell buttons and doorbell chimes in an old home, consider an antique style doorbell button and doorbell chime that coordinate well with the architectural period of your home. A vintage doorbell button can impress guests at the front door before they even step into your period home. Doorbell chimes are typically installed in a central location where they can be heard throughout the house. Their position in high traffic areas offers the perfect opportunity to make a bold period statement. Prepare your period home for the holidays by upgrading to vintage style doorbell chimes and doorbell buttons from Shop 4 Classics.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vintage Kitchen Sink Buyers Guide for the Modern Lifestyle

Of all the rooms in the average American home, the kitchen was affected most by the dramatic change in daily lifestyles of the American family over the past 100 years. Women entering the workforce and the hurried lifestyles of all members of the family have greatly reduced the amount of time spent in the kitchen preparing meals. According to surveys, the average woman at the turn of the 20th century spent over 40 hours in the kitchen preparing and cleaning up after meals, however, the amount of time was cut in half by the 1950's. Although the kitchen design's primary design focus is still on the function of food preparation, aesthetic qualities is becoming ever more important consideration. This is a reflection of the changing role of kitchens as a gathering place for family and friends. Thus, today's kitchen appliances and fixtures represent a balance between function and form.

The basic form of the kitchen sink has changed very little over the past 100 years but they are now offered in a variety of materials, configurations and style. Vintage style kitchen sinks are a popular choice for today's buyer, however, just because they are designed to resemble antique sinks does not mean that they are available with only a limited number of sizes and configurations. In fact, the same criteria for purchasing a modern kitchen sinks apply to the purchase of vintage kitchen sinks.


Stainless Steel Kitchen Sinks
Stainless steel has been a popular choice for kitchen sinks for decades due to its cost and durability. For many, however, stainless steel sinks look too utilitarian. Although invented in the early 1900’s, commercial stainless steel sinks were not widely available until the later half of the 20th century and therefore they look out of place in vintage themed kitchens.

Cast Iron Kitchen Sinks
Porcelain coated cast iron kitchen sinks were commonly used throughout the first half of the 1900's and they remain a popular choice for vintage themed kitchens today. Cast iron sinks are heavy. Their glossy white porcelain coating is durable and easily cleaned with a soft cloth and water. Abrasive cleaners should not be used to clean porcelain enameled cast iron sinks.

Fireclay Kitchen Sinks
Fireclay kitchen sinks are also highly durable and are often available in array of color choices. Like cast iron sinks, fireclay kitchen sinks are available in a variety of vintage as well as traditional decorative styles. Fireclay sinks should be cleaned with a soft cloth and water. Abrasive cleaners should not be used to clean fireclay sinks.

Copper Kitchen Sinks
In recent years copper kitchen sinks have become popular. Developing a fundamental understanding of the qualities of copper sinks is an important first step in selecting a copper kitchen sink. Copper kitchen sinks are handcrafted and are produced by an array of manufacturers and importers. Unfortunately, quality can vary greatly among copper sink brands. The gauge of copper used is especially important for kitchen sinks. The lower the gauge the thicker the copper used. Also, be wary of bargain priced copper sinks as the craftsmanship and quality of construction may be inferior. Beyond variation in quality, it is important to know that most copper sinks have living finishes which means that there is no protective coating on the copper. A patina is normally applied to living finish copper sinks to darken its color and provide a warm aged look. Patina surfaces can scratch revealing the natural lighter tone of copper but these scratches will darken over time as the copper patinas naturally. If you have hard water, copper sinks should be cleaned with a soft cloth to remove hard water spots. Abrasive cleaners will scratch the surfaces of copper sinks and therefore should always be avoided.


Number of Bowls

Most vintage style kitchen sinks have either one or two bowls. Two bowl sinks are advantageous if the sink is used for washing dishes as the second bowl can be used for rinsing and drying. A third bowl used for food preparation is a modern amenity. If your vintage sink is not available with three bowls, installing a separate small prep sink is an attractive alternative.


Topmount Sinks
Topmount kitchen sinks, also known as drop-in or self rimming, simply rest within a hole cut into the kitchen countertop and are therefore relatively easy to install. Faucets usually mount to the rim of topmount sinks. It is important that the sink that you choose matches the number of holes required by your kitchen faucet. Topmount sinks are often less expensive but also lack the eye-catching style of other types of sinks.

Undermount Sinks
Undermount kitchen sinks install underneath a hole in the kitchen counter top. They offer a sleek look compared to topmount sinks because they have no exposed rim. Another advantage of undermount sinks is that meal prep messes can wipe unobstructed directly into the sink. Undermount kitchen sinks however are more difficult to install than topmount sinks.

Apron Front Sinks
Apron front, or farmhouse, kitchen sinks add instant vintage style to kitchens. Apron front sinks are typically undermount sinks that have a decorative exposed front. Apron front sinks are available in cast iron, fireclay and copper. Their installation requires a notch cut from the top to side of the counter top. Installation and the cost of the sink are often much more expensive than undermount and top mount sinks.

Garbage Disposals

If you plan to install a garbage disposal to your sink, it is important that you confirm that the kitchen sink that you choose will accept a garbage disposal.

Shop 4 Classics collection of vintage sinks includes country style kitchen sinks from American Standard, cast iron and fireclay apron front kitchen sinks from Kohler, fireclay and copper kitchen sinks from Belle Foret, cast iron Farmhouse kitchen sinks from Strom Plumbing, and copper kitchen sinks from Brass Elegans.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Antique Garage Door Hardware: Overhead Garage Doors That Reproduce Antique Carriage House Doors

When Henry Ford introduced the Model T automobile in October of 1908, he didn't just revolutionize transportation, he created a need for garages and garage door hardware. Automobiles replaced horse-drawn carriages and Americans began converting carriage houses to garages to protect their prized automobile. Within a few years, garages became a standard feature of house designs.

Like the Model T, early garages were mostly simple and utilitarian. The first garages were usually single car. If a garage had multiple bays, each bay would have its own doors. Garages of the time were detached from the home because gasoline stored in the garage created a fire hazard. The fire hazard was eventually alleviated by the propagation of filling stations that eliminated the need to store gas in the garage. By the 1920s, garages were connected to the home by covered breezeways or pergolas and today are fully integrated into the floor plan.

The swinging carriage house doors found on carriage houses of the Victorian era continued to be the most popular door for garages of the early 20th Century. Swing out carriage house doors have two hinged doors that open outward like a pair of French doors. Carriage house doors were constructed of wood, which made them quite heavy. Strap hinges were required to support the weight of the door. Each carriage house door had a door handle to open it. A slide bolt or tower bolt may also have been used to secure the garage. Antique carriage house door hardware and garage door hardware usually coordinated with exterior door hardware and exterior lighting. Black hand-forged iron carriage house door hardware was popular for Victorian, Mission, and Tudor style homes while handcrafted copper and bronze garage door hardware was favored for Arts & Crafts bungalows.

The sectional overhead garage door (or "roll-up" garage door) began to appear in the 1920s. The overhead garage door was popular because it eliminated space constraints caused by door swing, operational problems caused by imbalanced hinges, and the need to remove obstructions (such as snow) that prevented the door from swinging open. Sectional overhead garage doors also eliminated much of the hardware that was required for carriage house doors.

While sectional overhead garage doors still dominate today, garage door builders started integrating carriage house details into overhead garage doors around the turn of the 21st Century. Decorative rails, stiles, and diagonal braces were added to roll-up garage doors to mimic vintage carriage house doors. Garage door hardware such as door handles, slide bolts, and dummy strap hinges (or "hinge fronts") lend authenticity to give modern sectional overhead doors a swing out carriage house door appearance.

Shop 4 Classics offers a complete catalog of antique reproduction strap hinges, dummy strap hinges, slide bolts, tower bolts, and door handles to complete the restoration of vintage carriage house doors or to replicate their look on a modern sectional overhead door.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Oil Rubbed Bronze vs. Venetian Bronze vs. Tumbled Bronze vs. Antique Bronze Faucet Finishes: What is the Difference?

Over the past ten years, bronze has become one of the most popular finishes for kitchen faucets as well as bathroom sink and tub faucets. In plumbing, bronze is a faux, often powder coat, finish applied over solid brass faucets. Where as once oil rubbed bronze was the only widely available bronze finish option, there are now numerous variations and product names given to the bronze finish. Although more options to choose from is always a good thing, variety can also create confusion for the consumer. This is especially true when it comes to bronze finishes. Color and other aesthetic qualities of bronze finishes can vary among manufacturers.

Most manufactures offer kitchen and bathroom faucets in oil rubbed bronze. Today's oil rubbed bronze faucets is typically black in color, however, this was not always the case. When oil rubbed bronze finishes were first introduced, many manufacturers’ oil rubbed bronze finishes were a very dark chocolate brown. This is still the case with some hardware and lighting manufacturers. Consumers should still be aware of the variations in oil rubbed bronze finishes among faucet manufactures that exist today. They must take added care if they wish to closely match their faucet’s finish with other plumbing or hardware items within their kitchen or bathroom.

Antique bronze is another popular variation of the bronze finish. Generally speaking, antique bronze finishes feature darker shades of brown in recessed areas and lighter shades on raised and flat surfaces. There is, however, even much more variety in antique bronze finishes than oil rubbed bronze finishes. Faucet manufacturers have added to the complexity by creating unique marketing names for their antique bronze finish. For example, Sunrise Specialty’s Old Bronze bathroom faucet finish features light and dark shades of chocolate brown and therefore fits the commonly thought of definition of antique bronze finish. Cheviot’s Antique Bronze faucet finish includes brushed surfaces exposing copper undertones in addition to antiquing. Some manufacturers refer to Cheviot's type of brushed bronze with copper undertones finish as a Venetian bronze finish.

A less common variation of the bronze finish is burnished or tumbled bronze. Faux tumbled bronze finishes feature rich brown surfaces flecked with contrasting copper tone light brown speckles resulting in a burnished appearance. Belle Foret tumbled bronze kitchen faucets feature a unique and slightly rustic look.

Shop 4 Classics makes shopping for the right faucet finish more clear with its “Help Me Choose” link on its faucet product pages. The Help Me Choose feature provides a detailed image and description of each of the manufacturer’s available finishes. Shop 4 Classics also provides more general guidelines in selecting the right finish for your faucet on its Finish Tips page.