Monday, August 17, 2009

August 16th: Vents -- those breezy little things near the floor

The house is on a pier and beam foundation. And the crawl space is generous, I'm told, at least on the one side of the house where the slope is greater. Many things are under the house -- I'm positive none of them are creepy (although at this very moment I have the crawl space door unlocked and open because I fear I might have an angry skunk trapped under my house... it's... aromatic.) At any rate, one of the things under the house is the HVAC system and all the ductwork. No basements here.

Anyway as a result, my HVAC vents are not up on the walls near the ceilings like newer homes. Not a big issue, really, except that I've discovered that furniture arrangement requires a bit of forethought so that you don't completely block airflow. (A stroke of luck put the wine rack directly over the floor vent -- it's divine how the A/C blows gently on all my bottles of wine! Equal to the beauty of that is the horror that in the winter that same vent will blow heat on my bottles of wine... hmm...)

Anyway, because the baseboards were painted white, so were the metal air vents. I used a heat gun (what a great invention!) and a putty knife, and scraped off the many layers of many colors of paint. It went pretty fast. I sanded down the rough spots, and bought some spray paint in sort of metallic bronzy color to blend in with the new baseboards. I re-installed two. Yes, just two. The other 4 languished on my back stoop for weeks. Other projects came and went, but my 10x6" gaping holes in my baseboards remained. I ran out of spray paint... having not written down the name of the color, when I bought a new can I bought the wrong color. The vents were just the albatross around my neck for no particular reason.

Then I was talking with a neighbor about the possibility that I had birds in my chimney. She told me that since we used to have floor furnaces (exactly what those are isn't totally clear to me) that we have these metal tube chimneys that run from our crawl space up through the roof. I indeed have two of those in closets. She told me until she got hers covered with wire mesh on the roof (there is an asbestos issues to remove them I'm told, so lots of people just work around them) that she had an issue with raccoons. As in, raccoons falling down the tube and ending up in the ductwork under the house. Comical no?

Yes, I thought it was comical too, until I realized that quite possibly those ducts were connected to the current HVAC system, which -- are you ahead of me? -- yes, which open up into those gaping 10x6" holes in my baseboards! All I could envision was a little bandit peering out at me from the baseboards one evening while reclining and watching my favorite episode of Bones. Moments of panic ensued.

But... they passed. Somehow I managed to rationalize that that chain of events simply could not be strung together, and that there was nothing to worry about. The vents languished for a few more weeks. And this past weekend? Finally, the vent painting was completed, and some of the vents were even marginally modified for better airflow, and put in place. Sorry to be anti-climatic -- no raccoons scurried into my living space. They still have a chance though -- if they saw a piece of tin foil they just had to have, they could probably bully their way in -- the vents aren't affixed with screws -- the baseboards are holding them up quite nicely.

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