Reader Question: Turning Up the HEAT!

I love my little blog hobby.  I find that with busy work schedules, blogging helps us to update our loved ones on our lives and it also provides motivation and a way to look back and see how far we've come.

Fresh Coat of Paint is still a relatively small blog and I'm always surprised (and a little bashful) to get questions from readers whom I've never met.  Sometimes I forget that I don't know personally every person who reads this blog. :)

I always try to respond directly when people email me questions but this was a particularly good one and I thought it might be a welcome change from all the nursery posts.  Here goes:

"Hi Taylor - I am an avid reader of your blog and find it so interesting considering that I am also in the midst of renovating my downtown home.  I'd be interested to know what your situation was when you bought in terms of your HVAC.  Was your furnace a rental?  I know that you didn't have air conditioning based on your blog so I'd be interested to know hoe that purchase process went (in terms of the unit - did you purchase it?)  I'd also like to know about your hot water heater.  This would make for an interesting blog post or comment (at least for me) to hear how another home buyer weathered these pieces of equipment."

Great question and thanks for reading.   This post is a little overdue but, as you can imagine, things over here have been a little crazy!  :)  As I type this post, I have tabs open on my browser researching the following: Christmas gift ideas for my brother, Where to buy mother's milk tea, MLS - I'm supposed to be taking a break from work but I still like to check-in, a Facebook album with a friend's new baby, the Ikea website - since we're still waiting on our kitchen sink delivery, a new home insurance quote, and an email to our dog walker who is "on call" to watch Barkley and Cheetah when it's time for the baby to come.  My head is spinning a bit just typing that!  Still, I hope I'm not too late to help.

I wish I had photos to show from when we toured the house for the first time but we didn't take any photos ourselves until we took possession out of respect for the sellers.  Here are the photos the real estate agent gave us:

Ahhh, the magic of photography.  It looks like our house was in decent shape... maybe in need of some updating but not terrible.  A quick visual inspection revealed the truth and the reason behind the affordable price: It would take a lot of TLC to bring this house up to snuff.  It was exactly the fixer-upper we wanted.

One of the most obvious deficiencies was the lack of heating in the house.  That's right- they had no furnace, no baseboard heaters... NOTHING!  We purchased the house in February and it only appeared on our search after I deleted any search parameters involving heating type.  When we toured it, we noticed that some rooms had up to FIVE space heaters plugged in.  We were saddened by the lengths the family was going to in order to keep warm because it must have been costing them a fortune in hydro but adding heat is a large one-time expense and most people would need to save for it.

When we took possession of the house, we did notice grates in the walls from old duct work.  We also found a boarded up return in the floor of the front hall.

We were hopeful that perhaps this meant that we could save a little dinero by having a company use some of the existing duct work.

Unfortunately, both companies who came to provide quotes explained that it would be more efficient to run new ducts, since codes and sizes had changed.  This also gave us the opportunity to choose where the bulkheads would be, since we would need a couple to run the duct work between floors.

Here's what we ended up with:

We purchased a new furnace and rented a new hot water tank.  We considered tankless but the numbers didn't work out for us.  Both went in our basement with a large trunk, running across the ceiling of the far wall.

We also purchased a new AC unit, and like many city dwellers who either have very little space between their house and their neighbour's or perhaps have right-of-way access or a mutual drive between houses, we had ours installed in the backyard.  Here's a photo of it barely visible behind a vine-covered dead tree, which we need to remove.

Choosing where to run the ducts was a challenge because it meant losing space in an already small house, but we decided that keeping the basement ducts along the far wall meant we would lose minimal space in the room and we agreed to use the space underneath (now too low to walk) for storage shelves.

From the basement, vents were run, both for the actual basement (we will eventually finish it) as well as for the main floor.  Not knowing what our new kitchen configuration would look like, we opted for an extra vent in the family room (at the entrance to the kitchen) instead of committing to a vent in the kitchen floor.

Of course, this took care of the basement and the main floor, but we still needed to run ducts upstairs.  We decided that it made the most sense to run the ducts right up to the attic so that the vents upstairs could be run through the ceiling.  This would make our new duct work minimally visible and leave us with only one large trunk to hide on each floor.  It was a challenging decision because we now had to select two locations (close in proximity but on different floors) to sacrifice some space.

We opted to bring a duct up through the corner of our dining room.  It was already quite a large space and I planned to enclose it with faux built-ins one day.

From there it ran right up through the smallest bedroom, only I requested that it be run along the floor (I'd hide it with a window seat) before shooting up into the attic.

Now, instead of floor vents upstairs, we have ceiling vents that resemble smoke detectors.  We love that they're unobtrusive and I really love that we don't need to place furniture around awkward floor vents on the second floor and we don't have anything on the floor in the baby's room for her to stick her tiny fingers in.

All in, the duct work (along with our brand new furnace and ac) cost us around 12K.  It would have been a little more if we had asked them to cover the ducts but we had our own ideas of how we would hide them and wanted the workers out of the house asap so that we could start our own renos,  I may be regretting that decision a teeny bit now that we still need to hide the ducts... ;)  Oh well, we're learning as we go!

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