The Cross House

The Terrifying Snake

When I purchased the Cross House in 2014, it was blessed with newish three-zone central AC, with three “towers”, as I call them.

Tower #2 was in the corner of the library. Which meant that the room now had a boxed-in corner. Oh, the horror. So, I relocated the tower into a closet.

In the dining room, one side of the ceiling had a dropped soffit to cover a trunk line. This made the room…lopsided. Oh, the horror. So, I relocated the trunk line.

In the foyer, just above the elegant mantel, there were two flexible ducts which dropped down from between the ceiling joists, ran visibly above the elegant mantel, and then vanished back up into the ceiling. The visible bits would need to be boxed in with a soffit. Which would look awful. Yep, more horror. So, through some artful engineering, and significant expense, I managed to get the ducts fully IN the ceiling. And I am quite proud of this.

These latter ducts supply the round bedroom. And this room was the furthest from any tower.


The first floor. To the right of the red line is where Tower #2 is now. This was originally a closet, then later a hall, and is now a closet again. From the Tower, ducts run north over the dining room, make a turn to head above the north entrance, above the stairhall niche, above the telephone closet, into the ceiling joists of the foyer, and ditto for the round receiving room. I call this L O N G run The Snake.


I am terrified of the snake because is is SO long and SO winding. All the length and all these twists & turns = reduced efficiency. Which might mean: the round bedroom may never be properly cooled.

And this would be very bad. I have nightmares of the house being beautifully restored but with…an AC unit sticking out of a window in the round tower. Yep, an unimaginable horror.

To assure that my nightmares would never come true, I replaced all the flexible ductwork with rigid ducting, which is considerably more efficient.


The red arrow points to the black flexible ducts above the elegant mantle. This would have required a soffit, and you can imagine how clunky that would have looked. This image pre-dates my ownership, and the ducts have now been removed. So, too, has much of the ceiling, recreating the original expansive opening of the stair.


In 2014, the new rigid ductwork was installed. In order to assure that all the ductwork was ABOVE the ceiling plane, I had to ruthlessly cut through a vital structural beam. To assure that the house did not collapse, I installed temporary shoring.


The temporary shoring seemed fated to remain permanent as month after month passed, then a year, then two years.


At last, in early 2016, a new structural beam was installed. The reason for the beam was to support the wall above (the “worst wall”), which had dangerously sagged over the intervening century. A dividend of the beam was that I could install The Snake above the ceiling plane.


New beam installed, and all temporary shoring removed! The beam will be covered in oak, detailed to match the staircase. Such a beam SHOULD have been in place from Day 1.


The Snake dipping down from the joist cavity of the north entrance, and into the stairhall niche.


Here you are standing on the second-floor landing looking down into the curved telephone closet. Recently, I have been installing a permanent floor on the landing and this section of The Snake…concerned me. See the 90-degree bend? Air does not like 90-degree bends. So, I stared and stared at this and thought: Could I de-bend The Snake?


I could! And did!


This seemingly simple job proved otherwise. For, I had to remove all the just-installed sub-flooring on the landing. Then I had to remove the just-installed ceiling in the stairhall niche below. Geez. I am a dink.

But, after much silly ado, The Snake is now more, ah, curvaceous and this should make a bit of difference in assuring maximum comfort in the round bedroom.

I now have the sub-floor reinstalled. This week I will reinstall the niche ceiling, and finish installing flooring on the remaining landing.

In the years to come, the round bedroom will, pray, be comfortable all summer and nobody will know anything about how much friggin’ effort and money was expended to assure this acme of coolness.



13 Responses to The Terrifying Snake

  1. No one will know except us bwa ha ha. But then again we know all your crazy obsessions and we love you for them. Very cool post (pun intended).

  2. You don’t appear to have any fear of the tinkering and that is why you are so satisfyingly successful, in my opinion. I would choose you to go to Mars with me.

  3. Ross, I spent all night reading your entire blog. What a journey you’ve been on! I have wanted an old Victorian mansion like the Cross house my entire life. I literally have had a recurring dream from the time I was very young that I find a hole in the back of a cupboard or a closet and climb through it (like Ms. Cross onto her balcony) and discover a secret Victorian home that I’ve had the entire time and just didn’t know it. Fast forward to present. I’m a single mom and still have the dream to do what you are doing but with none of your knowledge or skill. I have found 2 houses I feel in love with and was going to purchase and both times they got ripped away before the deal was final because of just ridiculously bad luck. Today I’m going to go look at a 1940 house. It had some original charm but all the big old houses in this town have been chopped up into ugly duplexes and triplexes. This house was not spared being divided into a duplex. I am lukewarm. I want something like the Cross house but located in Kentucky. There’s got to be an old Victorian here that needs enough love that I can afford to buy!

    • Heather, as long as you currently have a place to live, my advice is to be patient, save every nickle, and wait for your house. If your dream is to own a Victorian house, you won’t be satisfied with something that you settled for. We waited 5 years for our dream house to become available, and are so glad we did. We’ve been here for nearly 17 years now and are still working on it, but expect to finish before I retire in 4 years. It hasn’t been easy, but so worgh every cut, bruise, tear, and dollar, especially when one of our grandchildren tells us that Pawpaw and Nana’s house is their favorite place in the whole world…😊

    • Oh, and in case you haven’t already found it, bookmark Kelly’s website. You can search by state, and there are some incredible houses, many at bargain prices! Good luck!

  4. I worked on an old home where the the heat duct made a long run . At a heating company we got a inline fan. We cut out a section installed the fan,it then pushed the heat to the farthest register. You need power but that is the easy part. I would suggest above the niche.

  5. Worst case, you put a portable AC inside the round bedroom. I have 2 for my home, much easier for me to put the small window ducting in by myself than an 85 pound window air conditioner. Not as efficient, but they do a great job cooling my old bungalow.

    But I hope your efforts are not in vain.

  6. Ross,
    This is probably information that you already have, but just in case you don’t, I am writing this. You can also install in line duct fans that you can wire in a way that you switch on and off as needed to get the round bedroom to the temperature you are seeking. They come pre-installed in round duct work couplings, so install relatively easily and work well. Without them sometimes all of the cool air leaves to rooms with vents that are closer to the tower. These fans can pull more air from the tower. The other aspect is your air returns. They are usually in the hallways with the openings at as close to ceiling height as possible, particularly if they are for AC only. The hottest air will be at the ceiling height, so pulling it away and cooling it first works best.As my HVAC man always says, “The house has to breathe” If the returns aren’t sufficiently large, the hot air doesn’t get cooled properly

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