Sunday, January 15, 2012

heating a mid-century modern home

It is the end of week two, and we have heat! Anyone who owns a mid-century modern home knows the infrastructure, at this stage in the game, is shot. The house doesn't heat up properly, the electricity is under-powered, and the water pipes are too small. The solution for the poured in the foundation heating ducts which had rotted out during the last twenty years was so much simpler than we had been led to believe. A cut in the ceiling here, a poke through the wall there, and we have forced air heating up and down the length of an 18 foot hallway with one foot of dropped ceiling (just enough for a duct as it turns out). It is our ONLY dropped ceiling in the whole house, almost as if it had been made for just this purpose (perhaps it had?).

Ceiling hall which holds the heater and all the ducting, see the new"front" room vent on the left.

We have one vent in every room (OK not Alex's new bathroom and not the office but honestly he doesn't even pay rent and the office has the 6 computer fans for heat). The fireplace insert in the living room provides wonderful warmth in the front-front of the house since technically it doesn't have a vent either (picky-picky). The house heats up so much faster than when the heat traveled  through the freezing cold, dirty concrete foundation. This is most excellent progress!

Beautiful new furnace, isn't she pretty?
And all of our nasty floor vents that have pumped dirt and dust at us for 14 years have been sealed over with concrete. Buh-bye.

Concrete down the original furnace vents
The mid-century modern house footings have been approved by the city and are in progress. The planned footings are incredibly complicated and require "two pours" of concrete. The contractor digs under half the length of the house, adds rebar and bolts, pours concrete, then does the other half. When we added the office about ten years ago, nothing like this was done. We don't know if the codes have changed or if we just have a really paranoid contractor, structural engineer and architect. Either way, this east facing new construction is the side of the house to be in during an earthquake, for sure.

The plumber has been hard at work

You can see the rebar going into the foundation of the house

Wood 2 x 4's prop up the house, because the contractor is digging out the "sub-standard" foundation
I washed my car Saturday. And now it is raining today. Albert has forbidden me to wash my car for the remaining duration of the project. I should go to Texas and then wash my car. Their drought would be over. We are not expecting much next week, more concrete pouring, which hopefully includes the new foundation. Then the following week may begin the framing process which means we will go down to half of the guest bath. Alex is still living in his bedroom, so we aren't really at the rough stages of the project yet (meaning we are all still talking to each other).


  1. Hi Rebecca,

    We are having the exact same issue. Some of our floor ducts in our mid century modern home were crushed during the initial pouring of the foundation. Means that the living room and kitchen get NO heat. We are thinking of an insert. It's about a 600 sqft room with high ceilings. Our house is in Brentwood, so pretty much same climate as yours. Would you say your insert does a good enough job getting the room comfortable? Even far away from the fireplace? Do you use a fan or blower?

    1. We are really happy with the fireplace insert and can safely say that it is the only source of heat for the living room and dining room. In fact, it can get so toasty that we turn it off. We do have a blower and we can run the fireplace with our without the blower. We are pleased for sure. It was the only solution to a very difficult problem. I am glad my husband thought of it because the ducting was totally failing.


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