This morning I met with a client that is considering remodeling at their home. It is a nice home from about 1915. It is a bit unusual in that the home has not had a lot of remodeling done to it over the years. It still has what may very well be the original furnace, originally fired with coal. A gas burner has been added but the huge firebox and large diameter distribution piping….giving rise to the term ‘octopus furnace’….are all intact. Fuel efficiency for this furnace is probably around 50 percent, so removing it and installing a new high efficiency forced air furnace makes a lot of sense. But I do like to see the lovely old metal castings incorporated into these early furnaces. The ducts were often wrapped with sheet asbestos, as shown here, so proper removal of the furnace is important.
Another feature of the home is that it has a main stairway to the second floor as well as a secondary stairway down to the kitchen. These secondary stairways were often real works of art. They typically twisted with a winding turn. They have very steep dimensions, almost no treads for the winding portion of the stairs, and very shallow treads for the regular stair run. Handrails were typically not used. Almost nothing in the stairway meets current building code requirements—-but they got the job done, took up little space, and were carefully crafted by the finish carpenters.