Hardware Restoration

I recently purchased a large lot of patterned, antique cast-iron hardware for use with the upstairs doors that did not have nice hinges. I don’t remember where we picked up this trick, but I’ve always heard that a simmering pot of water with a few shakes of baking soda will loosen the old paint from iron hardware and give you an almost-new finish to work with.

Antique Hinges

So, I went to the Rappahannock Goodwill store recently and purchased a small $5 stock pot. There was no way you’d catch me using any of my daily ones for this. Who knows what’s in the multiple layers of paint combinations, including lead!

Boiling HingesI started the pot on a simmer outside, careful not to create a toxic fumes issue inside the kitchen, and added the baking soda and a small portion of the hardware as a test. Almost immediately the water turned a murky brown with a sallow foam rising to the surface. After about an hour of simmering, I took an old pair of tongs and checked the hardware. Indeed, the paint was peeling right off and the hardware finish was remarkably clean.Hinges

I took all of the items out of the water and began to peel any remaining paint. Those parts that I couldn’t get with my gloved fingers, I used a fine wire brush. This worked very well and took the thin layer of rust off with the remaining paint. After a little scrubbing, the hardware looked almost new! I think that I will complete the refinishing with a thin layer of applied beeswax.

And after all of that, I’m not sure that I will actually end up using them upstairs. I am seriously debating trying to track down a source of hand-wrought HL hinges to complete the composition that was begun on the first floor. Much of that hardware appears to be original to the 18th century and it seems unnecessary to begin an entirely new style on the second floor. But we will see how economy and other variables affect this decision!

Air Conditioning… Finally!

Having gone through a very cold winter and a hot last few weeks, central air conditioning is finally being installed! (Thanks to Tim and the team at Total Comfort.) This is the second historic home that they have worked on with me and have been great each time. Although the system won’t be routed across all floors, it will cover all of the bedrooms on the second floor and will be set up for a second zone once the attic is built out. This means that overnight guests will be closer to possible!

The east side of the attic after all of the old insulation was removed and before ductwork.

Although people survived here for almost 300 years without air conditioning, the ability to remove most of the humidity from the air will be a big plus toward preserving the house’s wood framework. Most of the rot that we found seems to be from condensation around plumbing and the drastic temperature fluctuations across many years.

Our first step was to remove all of the deteriorating fiberglass insulation from the attic, installed in 1940s. After several days of removal in terrible heat, it was ready for the installers. We would be done with the installation by now, but realized how incredibly huge the air compressor was when it was sat next to the house. So, we’ve opted to have the unit installed on the west side of the smokehouse instead, avoiding any obstruction to the main house. Hopefully the trenching and line drops will be complete next week, just in time for late July heat waves! SO CLOSE!