A Physician’s Guide to Tobacco

When compared with alcohol, tobacco may be called a harmless agent; but if used foolishly or in excessive amounts, it may have bad effects upon the general health.

When compared with alcohol, tobacco may be called a harmless agent; but if used foolishly or in excessive amounts, it may have bad effects upon the general health. Yet, even in the severest cases, tobacco is injurious only to the consumer. It rarely means the destruction of entire families.

Well that’s a relief!

Smoked in moderation tobacco has a slightly stimulating effect. In addition to nicotin, which acts as a strong poison on muscular tissue (including that of the heart), tobacco contains other elements which probably are the chief cause of certain gastric disorders affecting excessing smokers. A portion of the smoke adheres to the saliva and mucus in the mouth, together with which it enters the stomach, where it causes irritation. The habit of swallowing smoke is therefore doubly foolish. In the same way, exhaling smoke through the nose may cause catarrh of the throat. The use of snuff not only affects the throat, but also the stomach, as a great part of the snuff is swallowed. Chewing tobacco is also objectionable, for, like smoke, if seriously affects the mucous membrane of the mouth. It is least injurious to smoke a mild cigar after a full meal.

I’ll obviously have to remember this next time I have a full meal.

Excessive smoking causes a rapid and irritable heart-action, catarrh of the nose and throat, and much tremor and nervousness; it may even cause serious heart-muscle deterioration. The chief disadvantage in cigarette smoking is due to the habit of inhaling the smoke.

  • From The Standard Family Physician: A Practical International Encyclopedia of Medicine and Hygiene Especially Prepared for the Household. Copyright 1907 by Funk & Wagnalls.

How I Manage Weeds

Weeds are annoying and also seemingly smarter than I am.

Despite my best efforts, our backyard loves to play host to these little guys:

Picture of a Paper Mulberry Seedling

They spread by seed and by a strong shared root system. And then after a shockingly short amount of time, they become these.

Picture of a Paper Mulberry that's taller than a house

Look up. Look way up.

I try to pull the little guys up as soon as I see them, but they keep coming back, largely because of the established root system. So it’s a never ending battle with the paper mulberries.

The trespassing garden is full of these:

I mostly leave them alone because they’re pretty enough and don’t seem to aggressively invade my yard. And I think the pollinators like them.

Dandelions are pretty?

But at the Church Street House, we have these, which I think might be greenbrier:

They grow quickly and have strong tendrils that help them climb fences and trees and siding. They also have rose-like thorns. If it wasn’t for the thorns and the climbing up and under siding, I might just let them be.

But they are miserable little things. I’ve tried pulling them, but the roots are strong so I’ve rarely gotten any up by the root. Cutting them back doesn’t do much because they really do grow quickly, like one to three inches a day when the conditions are right. I’ve tried spraying them with a vinegar, salt, and soap solution. And I’ve tried spraying them with roundup, repeatedly. The only thing they’ve actually responded to is when Andrew has set the chimney starter over them after using it. Which makes me tempted to just burn them all individually, but the ground is mostly covered in wood mulch and I don’t really want to burn the whole place down.

So the best solution I’ve come up with has been to paint them and at least make them look pretty.

I’m pretty sure this is just a sign that I have lost the battle.

Short-Term Rental Permit: The Final Chapter?

Meet Sam, the Wilmington porch kitty. And also I somehow have yet another update on the short-term rental permit.

If you’ve been following the saga of the Wilmington short-term rental permit, I’ve got one more update for you.

Out of the blue, I got a check in the mail to refund the cost of the original permit application, plus the processing fee, plus interest. As is the style of the City of Wilmington, there was obviously no letter to accompany the check. So I guess their entire permitting process has been tossed out.

You might think I would be relieved, but the fact is, I jumped through all the hoops to get a permit, including paying a Licensed Surveyor to measure the distance between my property and the next nearest short-term rental property. Having obnoxious regulations limiting the number of permits issued was a tool the City of Wilmington used to prevent excessive tourism and minimize the city’s housing problems. At this point there is no regulation, leaving a big hole for creative new solutions that I’ll then have to try to respond to. Perhaps they’ll pass a bylaw that authorizes members of the public to sue anyone hosting out-of-town guests.

More normal things that other cities use are simply requiring a business license, using zoning rules (which is what Wilmington was doing), requiring special permits (also part of what Wilmington was doing), requiring occupancy taxes, or requiring inspections to ensure properties meet certain building and housing standards.

If you’re curious about the regulations where you live, just search the Airbnb Help Center for “Responsible hosting in your city.”

10 Tips for Planning a Trip to Amsterdam

I’m in the middle of planning a short trip to Amsterdam and thought I’d share some helpful planning and preparation tips I’ve learned.

  1. Plan for at least three days to hit the major sights in Amsterdam, and at least 4 more days if you want to see some of the rest of the Netherlands.
  1. Avoid visiting in the summer or the weekends around public holidays. Overtourism is an issue that Amsterdam has been actively working on to make the city more liveable for the locals. For example, they’ve introduced strict rules for people renting private properties to tourists (think Airbnb), and they’ve forbidden tours of the Red Light District (but tourists can still visit on their own or do the Rick Steves audio tour).
  1. Carry a mix of cash or cards. In Amsterdam, there is a growing movement of cafes and restaurants going cashless, while some of the more traditional places like brown cafes may not take cards at all. You may also need some pocket change to pay for public toilets.
  1. Plan in advance. Online reservations are required for the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House and should be booked at least six weeks in advance. Ticketed time slots are also available and recommended for Rijksmuseum.
  1. Get the Rijksmuseum app for an audio tour of the museum.
  1. Use public transit. Get a day pass valid for 1-7 days rather than individual tickets for each ride. You can get a pass on the GVB travel app. Use the GVB app or Google Maps to plan your routes.
  1. Don’t miss Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market.
  1. Hang out in a coffeeshop, where you can buy cannabis. You can’t visit Amsterdam without at least poking your head in! Coffeeshops are not to be confused with coffee shops or cafes, where you go to get a coffee.
  1. Do a canal tour. Ideally in the evening. I’ve heard you can hire a small private boat to do this rather than one of the bigger cruises but I haven’t figured out where yet.
  1. Ever wonder why Dutch sporting teams wear orange even though their flag is boring red, white, and blue? It’s sort of a long story, but orange is the royal family’s traditional colour. So wear orange to make friends.

Since I’m still planning and haven’t yet been, I’d appreciate any additional tips you might have?

* Featured image by Nikolai Karaneschev, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52475982

More Church Street House Updates

Slow and steady progress continues at the Church Street House in Wilmington, NC.

I’m finally back with some more updates on the Church Street House in Wilmington.

Remember that short-term rental permit that was initially denied, then approved out of the blue? Well it seems as though it was approved because the city realized they were about to lose their lawsuit to be able to enforce their permitting system. So basically we have a permit now, but it’s no longer required.

Now let me see if I can recall everything we’ve gotten done in the last month or so!

I painted the trim on the front of the house. All of the window trim, shutters, doors, and some of the porch details were painted black. I think it looked extremely gaudy and one of the neighbors said it looked Halloween-y. I wanted to brighten it up so I decided on Benjamin Moore Vanilla Ice Cream paint for the trim and porch railings because it’s just a lighter version of the siding colour, which I was able to match almost perfectly with Benjamin Moore Filtered Sunlight. I chose Behr Fresh Guacamole for the door and shutters for a touch of fun. I’m not sure I love the color so who knows, maybe I’ll try something else in a couple months.

Painting all of the details on the front of the house took a ton of time so I initially decided I would work my way around the rest of the house at a later time. However, last week I discovered a section of drywall under one of the side windows was bulging and felt damp. Upon investigation, I discovered that the exterior of the window was very poorly caulked. I had already done some caulking on the exterior of this window but many of the gaps were hidden because of the black paint. It turns out that black paint is a great way to hide black holes. Four of the other windows on that side of the house also had large gaps and one appeared to not have been caulked at all. So I’ve now primed, caulked, and put one coat of paint on the trim on that side of the house. I’ll have to get to the other sides soon since it seems that in this case, painting is not just cosmetic.

I also donated the cool old gas heating stove that was in the living room and had the gas line cut and capped so now I don’t have to worry about someone randomly turning that little yellow valve and filling the house with gas.

Andrew installed new luxury vinyl tile and a new toilet in the primary bathroom, and then I cut and installed new quarter round and a door transition to finish the look. I didn’t get a good picture of the toilet, but just imagine the most beautiful, non-leaking, unstained toilet with a soft-close seat.

I still need to get a few new light fixtures, but I decided to try to just revamp the rusty bathroom light fixtures. I initially ordered some Rub ‘n Buff but my horrible cat lost it in the couch cushions so I decided to just try spray paint. It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

I also started on this mural in the dining room. I need to touch up a few details, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

I have been collecting furniture and decor so I’ll update you on that once I’ve got a couple of rooms totally ready.

I think that’s about it!

Church Street House Updates

Here are some more updates on my progress with the Church Street House in Wilmington, NC.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on the Church Street House in Wilmington.

First off, our short-term rental permit got approved out of the blue! So it’s nice to know we can move forward with that if I can ever get the house in good enough condition to charge people to stay there.

Last time I gave you an update, here’s what our to-do list looked like:

  • Replace missing siding, fascia board, soffits, and crawlspace covers
  • Fix porch decking
  • Replace broken windows
  • Build some beefier pillars for the porch
  • Paint the exterior?
  • Paint the ceilings
  • Get the ducts cleaned
  • Replace missing vent covers
  • Replace squishy flooring in the primary bathroom
  • Buy some appliances
  • Refinish the hardwood floors
  • Get a new toilet for the primary bathroom
  • Figure out why there is water *in* the bathtub and fix it
  • Fix leaking drain in bathroom sink
  • Fix leak in other bathtub

So let’s start from the top, shall we?

I hired someone to replace the missing siding, fascia board, and soffits.

He also helped me install a new awning above the back door.

I was able to track down a glass company to replace the broken glass in the back window for less than half the price of replacing the actual window based on the three quotes that I got. They were also able to do it like 10 times sooner. They were going to replace the glass in the front storm window as well, but reiterated that they wouldn’t be held responsible if the actual window broke in the process, and it would cost me pretty much the exact same amount to just buy and install a new storm window myself, so I went that route. Easier said than done, but it’s done. And it made me really want to restore the old windows at some point, but they’re definitely in way too rough of shape to exist without the storm windows to protect them from the elements for now.

Window with bullet holes

Sorry I don’t have an after picture, but just picture fewer bullet holes.

The beefier pillars on the porch might not happen during this round of updates, but the painting of exterior trim will. The trim will be painted Sherwin Williams Vanilla Ice Cream, which you can see on the fascia board above. Much better than black, if I do say so myself. I haven’t decided on a colour for the doors and shutters yet, but I’m leaning toward a sky blue or avocado green.

The air ducts got cleaned last week. Did you know there’s a drill attachment for that?

This is the clean air intake cover. It clearly needs a fresh coat of paint, but I’m amazed at how clean they got it. Apparently using a cleaning product called “Awesome.”

Andrew and I pulled out the old toilet in the primary bathroom and then I easily pulled up the vinyl sheet flooring under it. Easily, because the subfloor that it was strongly glued to just disintegrated with a light tug. Since the toilet plumbing was in the way, I decided that I didn’t want to mess with trying to pull out all the old subfloor so I hired it out. The old hardwoods under the plywood subfloor appeared to be in decent enough condition that I didn’t feel the need to rip them out so they’re still hiding down there.

The guys installed new subfloor (after breaking and fixing the toilet supply line), so now I’ve just got to put down new flooring and install the new toilet.

Here’s a fun one: “figure out why there’s water *in* the bathtub and fix it”. After an annoying number of people telling me I was crazy, and an annoying amount of internet searching, I discovered that in 2012, a previous owner of the house hired a company called Bath Fitter to come out and install a custom plastic liner for the cast iron tub, rather than replace or resurface it. They also installed a custom one-piece bath surround that covers all three walls from the tub to the ceiling. I have to admit I love how easy it is to clean this surround, with no grout or caulk lines. When speaking with the people at Bath Fitter (I spoke to at least 4 different people at the Wilmington location), they all repeatedly told me that the product comes with a lifetime warrantee – but it’s apparently not the lifetime of the product, or the house, or me. So I paid one of their guys $95 to come out, loosen the seal around the drain, and walk around in the tub trying to force the water out. He did manage to get some out – I watched it drip into the crawlspace, happy that at least the tub wasn’t on a second story. But he definitely didn’t get all of it out. And of course the problem with this solution was that likely the water *in* the tub came from the drain not being fully sealed in the first place. So of course there’s just as much water *in* the tub now as there was before I paid him to fix it. All this is to say, a custom bath liner and surround seems like a good idea in theory, but apparently if anything goes wrong, they have no way of fixing it, short of starting over, which I was told would cost about $2000.

So I haven’t decided how to resolve this problem yet. My guess is that eventually I’ll rip out all of the plastic, resurface the cast iron tub, update the plumbing, and tile the wall. But that’s not a project for today.

Fix leaking drain in bathroom sink and fix leak in other bathtub were both just a matter of calling a plumber.

I also had them install new faucets and drains in both the bathroom sinks, a new drain cover in the hall tub, and a new shower head in the primary bathroom. These are all things that I could have easily done, but they did them all quickly and cheaply so I was happy to take the assist.

Something that somehow wasn’t on that original to-do list, was repairing / replacing a number of doors.

There were two pocket doors in the house. The wood one leading into the primary bath functioned fairly well, but it was pretty scratched up and was the only unpainted door in the house. The white one leads into the office and didn’t work at all because the back of the door was no longer hung. The pockets themselves were dirty and a little rusty but generally in pretty good condition so we didn’t need to touch them.

My contractor dug up some old doors and one of his guys spent basically an entire day scraping old paint off of them. I then primed and painted a coat of fresh pain on them before they were hung. Something the guys failed to take into account is that there were nails in the pockets for some reason or another that explain why the old doors were getting scratched up. And of course they didn’t figure this out until the doors were hung and all the trim was up. They managed to cut at least one of the nails and it seems the the floor guides are preventing the doors from being scratched by the other ones, but only time will tell. Now I just have to finish painting everything.

This is a picture looking up towards the attic access. Some clever individual had installed a bunch of storage cubbies in this otherwise unusable space. The cubbies had sliding plywood doors that seem to have warped a little over the years so I had the guys build out some basic cabinet doors to replace them. I’m not entirely clear what I’ll use them for – they’re up high so I can really only reach the bottom shelf of the lowest cabinet without a ladder and the other three cabinets are up higher. These obviously also need paint and I’m thinking of going with a variety of fun colours instead of just white.

The attic access also got replaced and enlarged. The old ceiling in this area was literally crumbling, with a few new chunks of sheetrock appearing on the floor everyday.

And finally, the closet in the primary bedroom came with bifold doors siting inside the closet. I was going to just hang these doors, but discovered that some of the hardware was missing, and part of one of the doors was broken. I talked to my contractor about the idea of installing new bifold doors or perhaps just French door style closet doors. He recommended the bifold, and I will tell you that that project took more time than any of the other doors, by far. And the end result is not interesting enough to merit a picture. Sorry.

Have a great week.

A Physician’s Guide to Sanitation – Part 9

Unless the range is kept free from ashes and clinkers, it will be impossible to broil chops and steaks. Clearing the grate-bars with a poker is a slow and annoying process. People who spend the winters cooped up in small houses hugging the red-hot stove, or who sleep in close, unventilated rooms for fear of the cold night-air, are usually sallow and sickly.

For Parts 1-8, click here.

The Kitchen Range

A range differs from a stove in three features. The main object of a stove is to create warmth, while a range is designed to cook food and to heat water for household purposes. The grate-surface is made as large as possible, and is supplied with movable lids so that the red-hot coals can be uncovered for broiling and frying. Other openings serve to admit pots and kettles. These methods of cooking require a bright and hot fire, whereas baking demands a steady and uniform temperature. The oven must therefore be heated on all sides, and this is accomplished by carrying the smoke and hot gases from the fire-box around the oven before they enter the chimney. If there are separate ovens two smoke pipes are provided which join before entering the chimney. The fire-box is made oblong and deep to hold plenty of coal, and is lined with fire brick.

The water-back, an iron box corrugated on the side next the fire to increase the heating surface, has two pipes connecting with the kitchen boiler through which cold water enters and, when warmed, flows back into the boiler and then circulates through the house to the bath-room, laundry, and butler’s pantry. In some ranges the water-back is divided lengthwise by a diaphragm which separates the inflowing cold water from the outflowing hot stream, thus greatly increasing the heating capacity of the range. A brass water-back is more expensive but no more serviceable than one of iron. The water-back is sometimes placed in front of the range, but it acts just the same in either case. A coil of heavy copper tubing is sometimes used instead of cast iron.

Unless the range is kept free from ashes and clinkers, it will be impossible to broil chops and steaks. Clearing the grate-bars with a poker is a slow and annoying process. The “Smythe” or “triangular bar” grate has three-sided bars which revolve and interlock, and are turned in opposite directions by a handle operating cog-wheels, thus removing ashes and clinkers with little dust and trouble. Other forms of grates have been devised with the same object. It is highly important to keep the grate clear, as otherwise the bars may melt with the excessive heat, or clinkers may stick to the fire-bricks. The pan should also be kept free from ashes if a good fire is to be maintained.

The best range will not work if there is a poor draft. This may be due to a crack in the oven door or top; or a broken cover or open joint in the smoke-pipe may admit enough cold air to check the draft even if the chimney-flue is ample. The latter should not be less than 8×10 inches and, better still, 8×12 inches. If a broiler, laundry stove, or ventilating hood connects with the range-flue, it will interfere with the draft unless fitted with dampers which can be closed on occasion. The hot-air flues around the oven collect dust and fine ashes, and thus check the draft; they should therefore be carefully cleaned. If the smoke-pipe from a range is connected with the chimney near the ceiling, the draft will be better, but the room will be uncomfortable during warm weather.

Water can not be warmed without consuming fuel; and if plenty of hot water is required for washing and bathing, a good fire must be kept up in the range. Water may be required in the laundry when a low fire is desirable in the range, as in summer or between meals. It is therefore desirable sometimes to have the boiler heated by the laundry stove to prevent friction between cook and laundress. A very small stove will be sufficient for this purpose, and can be used also for heating irons, etc.

To keep the boiler hot, the circulation through the water-back must be rapid, and the connections must be properly made. The return-pipe from the range to the boiler should have an upward grade, as hot water always tends to rise. The inlet-pipe which carries the cold supply should descend a little from the boiler so that the sediment can be easily removed by a small “sediment cock” when desired. Then there will be no chance for a reverse current of hot water from the water-back, which would interfere with the general circulation. If the return-pipe has not sufficient grade the flow will be sluggish, and the water will be exposed too long to the fire and will boil or simmer, while bubbles of steam will form and flow with the current into the boiler and there condense on contact with the volume of cold water. This gives rise to an alarming noise called “water hammer,” which some times breaks couplings or pipes, and makes people think the boiler is about to explode.


Fresh air is not a luxury but a necessity; it is a lung food and should be pure and abundant. The atmosphere of a living-room should be changed every twenty minutes in order to preserve health. Every house should supply 800 cubic feet of air for each occupant; model prisons require 1,000 cubic feet. People who spend the winters cooped up in small houses hugging the red-hot stove, or who sleep in close, unventilated rooms for fear of the cold night-air, are usually sallow and sickly. The “Great White Plague” kills millions every year owing to popular ignorance and neglect of ventilation. The test of a well-ventilated dwelling is to enter at any hour and find the air as pure and fresh as that outdoors, with no odors of cooking or washing, or of dust-laden carpets and curtains. To this end rugs and bare floors, open fires, and isolated kitchens and laundries are to be recommended.

A hood should be provided over the kitchen range to carry off cooking odors and steam from the laundry, and there should be a skylight on the roof to remove foul and heated air which rises to the upper floors. Ventilating the bowl of a water-closet is of no benefit unless the vent-pipe connects with a gas-jet or heated flue. Even an open fire-place does not always “draw,” and frequently there is a down-draft, especially in the vicinity of a stairway. By placing a four-inch board across the lower part of a bedroom-window and raising the sash slightly, air can be admitted between the two sashes without causing a draft.

Window ventilation


Few persons appreciate how much heat is radiated from an oil-lamp. A Rochester burner will warm quite a good sized room in winter if placed on the floor; while if a similar lamp is hung directly under a register leading into a room above, it will create a movement of air that will sensibly affect the atmosphere. An ordinary lamp contaminates the atmosphere as much as several persons will do; and where there are a number of lamps in a room the need of ventilation is quickly apparent. This is a strong argument for the substitution of electric lights or acetylene for oil.

General Hints

In selecting basins, kitchen-sinks, and wash-tubs, do not have them so low as to necessitate stooping. Bath-tubs also are often too high from the floor for persons of ordinary height, and with tiled or hard-wood floors there is danger of slipping if they are at all wet. A bath room should be sunny, and large enough to swing an Indian club and to contain a linen-closet as well as a wicker receptacle for soiled towels, etc. Faucets are commonly too small, and the flow of water consequently too slow. The difference in cost is slight. So also with marble slabs for basins, which are easily cracked if made too thin. It is in such details that plumbing work is “scamped.”

Oil-lamps should not be kept lighted in sleeping-rooms, as they contaminate the atmosphere as much as several adults. Nor should young children occupy the same bed-room as older persons, as they need all the air they can get. An ordinary bedroom (10x12x8) hardly contains 1,000 cubic feet of air-space, and this is only partly changed during the night. Therefore, do not rob the child of its just needs. If it slept outdoors under the sky it would not have too much air. Yet, in some families a child, an adult, and a lighted oil-lamp may be found in the same bedroom in the month of August, with the window closed.

If waste-pipes in cellars and kitchens are patched with scraps of lead or tin fastened with wire or twine, it indicates that the kitchen waste-pipe was choked with grease, and that a bungling plumber tried to clean it out. Such openings should be closed securely, and a permanent clean-out inserted, with a brass trap screw for convenience of access. The fresh-air supply for the furnace should never be taken from a cellar, no matter how clean it may seem; nor should it be taken from an entrance hallway, as is often done in churches to save fuel. Only outdoor air will serve for such purposes.

  • From The Standard Family Physician: A Practical International Encyclopedia of Medicine and Hygiene Especially Prepared for the Household. Copyright 1907 by Funk & Wagnalls.

A Short-Term Setback

Our short-term rental permit got denied. Read on if you want the details.

As I previously mentioned, part of our motivation for buying a house in Wilmington was to have a place to stay when we visit. So in addition to fixing up the Church Street House, we’ve slowly been furnishing it so that we can comfortably stay in it and to prepare it for becoming a short-term rental. And we’ve actually gotten a good bit of use out of it already despite not all of the plumbing working properly.

But here’s the catch: the City of Wilmington requires a short-term rental permit for any whole-house that will be rented out for periods of less than a month. And one of the requirements for the permit is that the house must be located on a property that is at least 400 feet from all other properties that contain whole-house short-term rentals. Our house is more than 400 feet from the nearest short-term rental, but what I hadn’t realized is that the edge of our property is only 399.89 feet from the edge of the nearest short-term rental’s property.

Yup. Our application was denied because we have an inch and a half too much yard.

They said that the decision was based off of data from a GIS map and that I might get a different result with a survey. This seemed unlikely to me, but if my problem really was being caused by less than 2 inches of land, it might be worth trying. So I paid to get someone to survey the official distance between the Church Street House property and the property of the nearest short-term rental. They obviously got the same result.

But here’s the thing. Someone sued and a judge ruled to repeal the city’s short-term rental permit ordinance because it conflicts with a provision in state law. But then obviously the city decided to appeal the ruling. Ultimately I have no idea if Wilmington will be able to enforce their permit system or not.

So we have a couple options.

  1. We could just run a short-term rental without a permit and risk a “Notice of Violation (NOV) which could be subject to citation(s)”. I’m unclear on what they can currently enforce.
  2. We could run a medium-term rental, meaning we’d require a minimum of 30-day stays. This would be much easier to manage and would still allow us to stay there when no-one else is, but I’m not sure how popular it would be since it’s a much less common option.
  3. We could rent the house out as a long-term, furnished rental. Again, much easier to manage but not sure how popular it would be and we would no longer have access for our personal use.
  4. We could sell the furniture we’ve already gotten and just rent it out long-term. And have no access for our personal use.
  5. We could sell the furniture we’ve already gotten and sell the house.

I’m leaning towards trying #2, but no matter what happens, we’ll make good use of the house and enjoy our time in Wilmington while we finish fixing it up.

A Physician’s Guide to Sanitation – Part 8

Every room should have a chimney-flue; otherwise it will be as difficult to force hot air to enter it as it is to pure water into a bottle that is already full. Registers should be located on inner walls, and never on floors, as they collect dust, matches, etc., which may cause fires. The furnace should be located near the cold side of the house on account of the wind-pressure which makes it difficult to warm rooms facing northwest.

For Parts 1-7, click here.


Every house, however small, should have an open fire for comfort and as an aid to ventilation, even though most of the heat flies up the chimney. Stoves save fuel, and will warm halls or connecting rooms or rooms on different floors by means of a “drum”; but they will not heat a whole house as well as a furnace. A “Galton” or “Jackson” ventilating grate is the best appliance for single rooms, serving at once as an open fire and as a closed stove. A furnace will warm several rooms as easily as one, and is more economical of fuel and less troublesome than several stoves. The important consideration is to secure a furnace that is large enough to serve without keeping a big fire, or heating the fire-pot red-hot, and thus “burning the air” as was formerly the rule in most dwellings. The fresh-air supply should never be shut off entirely even in zero weather. If the air seems dry, a wet towel should be hung in front of the register when the water will rapidly evaporate. Every room should have a chimney-flue; otherwise it will be as difficult to force hot air to enter it as it is to pour water into a bottle that is already full. So, also, warm air will rise to the upper floors, and not heat basement and halls. The heating-flues for lower floors should therefore connect direct with the furnace-dome, so that each can get its share of the heat. To warm an entrance hall is difficult on account of the upward “pull” of the staircase and the inrush of cold air. Storm-doors and a vestibule should therefore be provided, and the register should be placed under the stairs. Registers should be located on inner walls, and never on floors, as they collect dust, matches, etc., which may cause fires. If there is a ventilating skylight in the roof it will be easier to warm the house, as circulation of air is essential, and without such an arrangement the air will stagnate on upper floors. With an open fire one can sit in comfort with the thermometer at 50°F., whereas with stove or furnace heat 70°F will seem necessary.


The furnace should be located near the cold side of the house on account of the wind-pressure which makes it difficult to warm rooms facing northwest. The fresh-air supply should be taken from the same side, and the end of the box should be raised five feet above the yard level to avoid drawing in ground-air. If it opens under a veranda, the space around it should be kept free from leaves or other sources of impurity. The cold-air box should be tight, and should preferably be made of galvanized iron. It should have fine wire-netting at the end to keep out dust, and it should be cleaned every year. For large buildings a steam or hot-water apparatus is preferable to a hot-air furnace. It is claimed that the former is less troublesome, and that it warms every room regardless of exposure or how low the temperature. It costs more to install, but is more durable than a furnace. The objection to steam-heat is that it is difficult to regulate in mild weather while with the direct system the radiators are unsightly and warm the same air over and over again, and there is no ventilation. If the radiators have an air-supply from outdoors, they are liable to freeze in winter. The indirect system, by which fresh air is admitted to stem-coils in the cellar and then carried through flues to every part of the house, serves very well, though at greater expense. Hot water has the advantage of maintaining a more even temperature without overheating on mild days in spring or fall. The pipes are larger than steam-coils, and cost more to install, but the results are sanitary. The direct and indirect systems are often combined, and give entire satisfaction. The problem of warming is largely a matter of expense; but the saving in doctors’ bills and in increased mental and physical efficiency more than compensates for the outlay required to provide a really good heating apparatus.

Many persons imagine that the fire-box of a furnace connects with the hot-air flues, because smoke, coal-gas, and fine dust from ashes sometimes come through the registers. In reality, however, the smoke and dust escape into the cellar when the furnace doors are opened to put on fresh coal, are sucked through cracks in the cold-air box, and then drawn up through the registers. Few persons understand the mechanism of a furnace, because it is boxed in with brick or galvanized iron so that the interior parts are never exposed to view. Out of sight is out of mind. An ordinary furnace consists of a fire-pot of cast iron, lined with fire-brick, with a wrought-iron dome or cover set in a groove filled with sand so as to permit of alternate expansion and contraction of the metal when heated and cooled. This is enclosed in galvanized iron or brick, with small intervening space. Cold air is brought from outdoors through a box of wood or galvanized iron, and after being warmed by contact with the fire-pot is carried up through the flues constructed in the walls of the house. These flues open into living-rooms and halls through registers which can be closed by valves. To increase the efficiency of the furnace, various designs have been made to enlarge the heating-surface by the addition of flanges or vertical ribs with deep corrugations which are sometimes undulated, and into which the gases and smoke penetrate, thus increasing the heating surface very materially. Merely enlarging the space between the fire-pot and the outer casing would admit too large a volume of cold air in proportion to the heating-surface. Only the inner stratum of air would come in contact with the surface of the fire-pot, and the outer stratum would scarcely be warmed at all. The heavier the casting and the more numerous the convulutions, the greater the heat will be evolved. Another device which has proved successful has been the addition of an elaborate system of pipes – upright, horizontal, circular, conical, and cylindrical – which can be connected or disconnected at will, and which carry smoke and heated gases into the chimney. Most modern furnaces combine both features, being constructed with a fire-pot flanged and corrugated to increase the heating-surface, and having also a complication of smoke-flues so as to create direct and indirect drafts.

When the fire is started it connects directly with the chimney by a short cut, or direct-draft damper, as slightly warmed air can not be expected to be drawn through a round-about system of flues. After the chimney is warm enough to maintain a permanent draft, the direct-draft damper is closed, and the circuitous route through the system of pipes is utilized, bringing the entire heating-surface into action.

In addition to these provisions for controlling a furnace fire, sliding doors are provided in the upper and lower doors of the fire-pot. A check-draft damper is also placed in the main smoke-pipe or in the indirect-draft pipe to control the entrance of cold air. Various devices are employed to make this action automatic so that a furnace will become self-regulating. A furnace gives the best results and is most saving of fuel if the fire-pot in very cold weather is kept filled as high as possible, with the drafts regulated so as to keep a steady fire. A large heating-surface kept at a moderate temperature will prove far more effective than a smaller fire-box intensely heated by forced draft, which is wasteful of fuel and liable to crack the fire-pot.

To be continued….

  • From The Standard Family Physician: A Practical International Encyclopedia of Medicine and Hygiene Especially Prepared for the Household. Copyright 1907 by Funk & Wagnalls.