Frozen Waste-land

Yesterday morning the bathtub stopped draining.

I was slightly perplexed as the tub had worked perfectly the night before.

I assumed that the children had inadvertently allowed a small bath toy to slip down the drain, or a build-up hair and soap had finally caused a blockage.  I purchased a bottle of industrial-strength drain cleaner and poured it down the drain and waited. Two hours later, I still had a tub filled with standing water.  I tried snaking the drain, but that only added to my confusion as I managed to get 10 feet of snake into the drain without any problem – I had hoped to encounter a blockage at the trap.

The rest of the drains are working perfectly.

Reviewing the photos posted here I realized that the bathtub is the only fixture in the house that uses the old cast pipe to drain into the sewer, the rest exits via a separate line that I assumed joined that pipe at a wye. I say assume because the cast pipe is burred in the wall – a result of previous owners embedding it in concrete when they underpinned the basement. I rooted about in the basement and found a few inches of pipe exposed behind some insulation. It is ice cold.

At this point I’m assuming that the waste pipe is frozen. As you recall, we have had pipes in this exact area freeze before, which I why we redid all of the plumbing. We never thought the waste pipe would freeze, so we left it.

I have read about a number of remedies for frozen waste pipes such as heating the pipe, pouring hot salt water or antifreeze down the drain, but I have little hope this will work as there is potentially six feet of four inch pipe frozen in an exterior concrete wall.

I know that I can open the wall and re-route the drain into the newer plumbing in the basement, but I would prefer to solve this problem rather than apply a band aid.

Stay tuned.

(P.S. This is an old photo. This wallpaper was removed a LONG time ago!)

Guest Post: Refinishing the claw foot tub

This ‘guest post’ is actually a comment left by Russel – he was good enough to relay his experiences about refinishing his own claw foot tub. It seemed a shame to hide such excellent advice deep in the blog, so I’ve decided to promote it.  (Thanks Russel!)


I think having any tub “re-porcelain-ed” is a mistake. If you can live with the pits and imperfections (and I bet you can) just leave it. We have 3 tubs in our 110 year old home. 2 of them have been refinished AT LEAST twice over the years. The refinishing coats have begun to crack—one of them severely. This has happened primarily around the drains but there are also large “splotches” on the tubs’ interior-bottoms where the finish has flaked. Continue reading

Talking on Twitter…

crowThings have been very quiet here for the last few months.

All is well – the summer was a whirlwind of activity and holiday and it feels like we spent more away then home. We sacrificed a lot last summer when we entertained moving and vowed that this summer we would do a better job of enjoying the warm weather.

It was worth it…

However, with fall winds come the itch to return to the house and we have a number of maintenance issues that need to be dealt with (not to mention our wish list) I believe we will be focusing on making the house more energy efficient – and if some cosmetics get upgraded in the process so be it!

In the meantime I wanted to extend an invitation to those users who are on twitter to join in on the conversation @oldstonehouse. I’ve been using Twitter for 2+ years and have found it a very useful service.  Likewise, those interested in the day-to-day story at oldstonehouse can get a glimpse of what happens between blog posts.

Tweet me…

New Old Lights

light1_smallA few weeks ago we happened upon a pair of old lights at one of our regular antique haunts. They’re in fairly good condition, needing only a good scrubbing and a wiring upgrade. We always are on the lookout for old lights such as these, but we rarely find any for a decent price – $30. (They typically sell for $100+)

So here’s a question: should we repaint them?

The finish on the lights is rough and needs to be re-done. We had intended on replacing two of those ugly dome lights in the bedrooms with these new lights, so we’ve considered painting the lights white. Continue reading

Water Heater Woes

Last weekend our water heater sprang a leak. Not a big leak, but a leak none the less. The water heater was a rental so we phoned the utility company. They dispatched a local representative who came out to the house in a matter of hours, assessed the problem, and informed us that they would replace the unit – scheduling an appointment for the next morning. The rep. was good enough to note that the venting on old water heater would no longer meet code for a new unit, and it would need to be replaced. He explained that ‘his guys’ would replace the venting – and charge me dearly for it – or I could replace it myself. I told him I would do it myself, and thanked him for the heads-up.

I visited the DIY store that same day and purchased some lengths of 636 pipe and assorted fittings, and spent the rest of the afternoon ripping out the old vent and replacing it with the new. Continue reading

Our New Pantry

Anyone with an old house knows that storage space is always at a premium, thus it’s advantageous to maximize  storage capacity whenever you can.  Such is the case with our pantry…

When we first moved in to this house we remodeled the kitchen, but we didn’t bother to change the pantry – we were overjoyed to have such a ‘luxurious’ room!  However, over the past few years we’ve learned to hate the pantry. First, the door was an apparent salvage project – framed and hung poorly – light escaping from three of the four sides when closed. As for the light, it was constantly being left on. Despite best conservation efforts, the pantry light would be forgotten and stay lit for days… Continue reading

Plans for the new year.

trim.jpegInspiration can sometimes come from the most unlikely sources. We decided to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon cleaning up our Christmas ephemera, and as per usual, we took it as an opportunity to do some puttering. Nothing major, a little bit of putty here, a touch of paint there – those ‘touch-ups’ that help keep the house maintained.

One such chore was to clean out the closet under the stairs. We keep a good deal of seasonal stuff – decorations, old coats etc in this closet, but have never really liked it. The closet is in the centre of the house and therefore always inconvenient to use – you simply don’t step in from inside and hang up your coat. Second, the closet appears to be an afterthought in the house – not one of the original features, as the door is cheap and the trim isn’t a perfect match. As well the door opens into our dining room, for a grand door-total of four doors and one passageway. Needless to say, we’ve never really liked it. Continue reading