The Cross House

Radiators in 3, 2, 1…

I am breathless with excitement.

I am giddy with excitement.

I am LIVING for Tuesday.

And why?

Because the radiator system at the Cross House will, hopefully, BE BACK ONLINE!!!!!!!!


When I purchased the house four years ago the system was working. Sorta. It did not actually heat the house to anywhere near a comfortable temperature. Numerous radiators were unhooked because of damaged and/or burst pipes. Several rooms didn’t even have a radiator. Two of the four boilers were not working.

As such, when the temperatures improved in 2014, I had the system shut down. Then, in 2015 I spent a fortune repairing everything and adding radiators and moving radiators. It took ten months to pay the invoice.

But the work was nonetheless incomplete, with a half-dozen radiators still needing to be hooked up.

The idea of spending yet more money made me ill. So I did nothing during the winter of 2015 and 2016. But this fall, not eager to spend another winter in a frozen house, I requested a quote to finish everything. The quote? $12,000. My eyes bugged out. My heart aged six years in an instant. My emotional state jumped off a bridge.

A few days later I talked with Justin. “Installing pipes is not like building a rocket to the moon. Can’t you and I do this?”

We walked around discussing all that needed doing and Justin replied: “Sure. I think it will even be kinda fun.”

Ya’ gotta love the guy.

Thus, bit by bit the radiator in the hexagon bedroom was reinstalled, as were the two in the parlor; then the radiator in the servant’s hall was moved from one wall to another. And so on.

As of today, most of the piping is done but three radiators still need connecting.

And there is now a bit of a rush as Travis, from Modern Air, is scheduled to come by on Tuesday and — FREAK OUT! — get the boilers up and running!!!!!!!!

I will be gobsmacked if all this actually goes well for I anticipate that, once water again fills the miles of pipes, water will burst from here there and everywhere. I anticipate Travis and Justin and myself squealing like little girls. “EEEEK!! Another leak! Another leak!” I anticipate the newly finish parlor ceiling collapsing from water from some pipe gone bad.

But Travis is more confident. “I give it a 90% chance of going well!”

OK. OK, but…but…should I worry about his not assuring me 100%?

I just know that for the next four nights I will be having 10% nightmares.


A vital task was walking around the basement and dragging our hands atop every single radiator pipe. When our hands were interrupted by a pipe running at a 90 degree angle away from the main pipe, we had to find out where the pipe went.

To our horror we discovered six pipes which went nowhere…and were not closed off. Imagine discovering this on Tuesday after the water is turned on?

The house has been through so many changes and so many pipes have been subtracted and added over 124-years that we needed to know where every pipe went, and to assure that it was attached to, you know, a radiator.


In removing two dormant vertical pipes, one broke off right where it coupled with a T fitting. Justin freaked out. For, how to screw in a plug when the threaded hole was filled with a broken-off section? Thankfully, Travis came over, offered advice, and a while later Justin was able to screw plugs into the holes. This task was made hugely more difficult as the above image is taken from between ceiling joists, looking down. Oh, and I never thought metal plugs could be a thing of beauty. I even carressed them


A symphony of piping. Two pipes go up the second-floor sewing room. The lower two will, soon, go the library radiator.


And speaking of the library radiator! Justin, taking a well-deserved rest after we huffed and puffed and hauled the massive radiator in place!!!!!!!! Later, I will have a marble slab made for the top, as all the radiators in the house originally had, and as many still do.





21 Responses to Radiators in 3, 2, 1…

  1. “Ave, O Radiator Optimus Maximus! Trickle not down upon Thy servant, Ross! Preserve the Domus Crucis from the dread Phantom Cat Pee, and all other manner of leaky demons!”

    What d’you think? A start, what?

  2. Ross, I love your new pipes! They are so pretty! I just had a new boiler installed a few years ago, and all the new copper piping and brass fittings and all the parts and pieces are a beautiful work of art. Not to mention…radiant heat is oh so cozy!!! How exciting to get to fire up the Cross Boiler! I am curious though…is the boiler original? I’m assuming not, but my neighbors still have their original boiler from 1900, so it’s certainly possible.

  3. I was just wondering…… Won’t the “heat guy” have one of the machines that you can pressure test the system with? Hence, then know if there are leaks, before putting water to it. I’m not sure if radiator systems work this way, but I think they do.

  4. Yeah this was scary for me too. I did have one leak where we didn’t tighten a fitting enough, and of course it was right above a lot of cellulose insulation. But it didn’t ruin the house!

  5. I once moved some radiators in my house, switching from iron to copper pipes. It was years later that I learned that the flow of water through the places where these dissimilar metals touch create an electric current. This current will literally dissolve the iron, atom by atom. Over a long period of time, the pipes become so damaged that they burst. Something called a dielectric union between the dissimilar metals prevents this from happening. I have no idea if you used different metals, but if you did, and didn’t know about the need for the unions, this is something to remember. It is also not urgent that they be installed right away.

  6. Try Pex. Easy peasy. Less prone to freezing as well.
    $12,000 to install some radiators IS daylight robbery. I had some crazy quotes for most things in my property. My late Fater-In-law helped me with most things and I now VERY RARELY employ any “pro’s” in my house. Total last resort! They go crazy when they see the size of my house and assume I must be a millionaire! I have literally caught them high-fiving as they have driven into my yard!

  7. I almost hate to mention this, and hope it does not happen. Will the age of the pipes and potential rust affect anything? I once lived in a very old house where the water coming from the faucet was filled with rust, due to the pipes. Dolly and I will keep our fingers and paws crossed on Tuesday in the hopes that all goes well and soon there will be heat!

    • Corrosion in hydronic (hot-water) heating systems is insignificant to water-supply plumbing, because it is a closed system with negligible dissolved oxygen. I’ve yet to see hot-water heating pipes with problems due to internal rust.

      The galvanized plumbing that was used for supply (and some drain) piping becomes a problem because it has a consistent supply of oxygen, which is an essential compound for corrosion.

      Finally, galvanized piping isn’t required, and can sometimes cause problems on heating systems. Our system as some odd bits of galvanized from previous work, but whenever I have something apart, I swap it out for black iron.

  8. I have owned several homes with steam/vapor one or two-pipe radiators for heat and they provide wonderful heat with the bonus of clinking and clanking. However, I have also had the fortune of owning a 1917 Georgian Revival with Hot Water radiator heat like at the Cross House..and it is the absolute comparison! So much quieter than steam, radiators don’t get so hot to the touch to get burned, and the hot water radiators don’t cool down as quickly as steam radiators. You are going to love your ‘new’ heat.

  9. My best wishes to you, Justin and Travis for your adventure on Tuesday. It must be very exciting to look forward to a full heating system, especially after this past week here in Kansas!!! I’m beginning to wonder where my mind went when I decided to move back here from Texas.

  10. Best of luck, Ross! I can’t imagine the challenge of working on your system! Our new place has only about 16 radiators, and aside from a boiler replacement in the 1960s and some poorly-educated repair work since, is pretty much original, yet it’s still taken me a while to figure the thing out. Yours makes mine look like a preschool assignment!

  11. Just a week ago I was telling a friend about the beautiful heat that radiators offer and how much I missed them. So I’m really excited that you got them going again…… it’s an incredible warm hugging heat……that also doesn’t cause nosebleeds!😉

  12. Our old Victorian had all of the radiators removed but was heated with a boiler system and hot water, radiant heat. The house was foreclosed on when we bought it and the bank had sent someone in to winterize it. They didn’t do this well because the day that we had the water turned on and got the boiler system going, our circular staircase looked like it had a waterfall cascading down from the second floor to the first! We had to have the local heating/plumbing company come in and put holes in the ceilings of all of the first floor rooms to find all the broken pipes and repair them. Thankfully none of our beautiful crown molding had to be removed, but it was nerve wracking before they figured that out!

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