We moved into our Georgian cottage just a few days before Christmas 2015, and without a central heating system or even a gas connection, that was a task high on our list of priorities. However, checking with the area gas network, I was told it could take ten weeks to get a gas pipe to the building, then another four weeks to have a meter installed. That’s more than three months before we even get started on a central heating installation.
Listed Building Consent
We contacted the borough council to check whether a gas central heating installation would require listed building consent. We were told that as long as we used a semi-concealed meter box, made as little damage to the fabric of the property as possible and used a black boiler flue on the outside wall, then we could proceed.
I put the gas connection on order and we began looking at options for the radiators.
Cast Iron Radiators
We wanted period cast iron radiators in the two main downstairs rooms, to act as feature pieces. After a long trawl through the internet and weighing up many options, I discovered a company in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, which assembles its radiators on site. As our cottage is also in North Yorkshire, we liked the idea that the radiators would be locally sourced. We decided to pay them a visit.
Cast Iron Radiators Ltd is based in an industrial unit on the road into Scarborough and we were met by Alison, who talked us through our options and was very helpful throughout. They had a great range of radiators on display, with many different finishes for us to view. However, they didn’t have the radiator that we’d liked the look of online, the 765mm Arts and Crafts. They also didn’t have an example of the antiqued pewter finish that we wanted either. That was a bit frustrating, but luckily they’d recently manufactured and dispatched a batch in that colour, so Alison was able to pull up a few photos of the finish for us to take a look at.
The Arts and Crafts design that we purchased isn’t native to North Yorkshire or even the UK. Its origins are in France, with the design dating from around 1892. As the modern cast iron central heating system only became widespread by the end of the 19th century, we were unable to source a design that would match the age of our Georgian Cottage, circa 1820. However, as our Georgian cottage has never had central heating in its 200 year history, we would have had to think deeply about introducing something from that era that could be misinterpreted.
While at Cast Iron Radiators Ltd, we were invited to take a tour of the manufacturing facility on the ground floor. This is where they paint, polish, highlight finish, pressure test and provide a number of other services in-house. They’ve been manufacturing and restoring cast iron radiators for more than 10 years and have delivered to 18 different countries.
When the delivery arrived, I had my brother on hand to help get the radiators off the delivery truck and into the cottage. At around 140kg per radiator they weren’t easy to move!
Steel Three Column Radiators
For the remaining radiators, we decided to purchase steel three column radiators, for two reasons. We wanted the cast iron radiators to be show pieces for our two largest rooms and felt they may overshadow some of the other rooms. Plus, for more than £1,600 for two radiators (including the TRVs), we would be adding around £4,000 to our installation costs.
We headed to eBay to source the five steel radiators that we needed to complete our set.
The Gas Connection
Meanwhile, the gas connection was scheduled to go in, disrupting the village with a temporary traffic light system for a few days, as the gas network needed to take the gas feed from the other side of the road. It’s a relief that our neighbours are all very understanding!
It cost just over £400 for the gas pipe to be terminated at a semi-concealed meter box, which ensures the installation is as discreet as possible. At just a few centimetres tall, the box blends into the property very nicely. I opted to dig a trench from our garden fence to the wall of the property, which saved around £280 and only took me a few hours.
We chose Adrian Paul of AJP to install our central heating system, who did a great job getting the system in with as little modification to the property as possible. He was very sympathetic to the fact that the property is a listed building and I was pleased with his handiwork, although he did start almost a week later than his originally confirmation date. He also took a few unscheduled days off the job during the install without getting in touch to let me know he wouldn’t be on site. That said, I’m definitely happy with the work that he and his partner have undertaken.
Removing Storage Heaters
The first job was for me to remove the few old electrical storage heaters that have been attempting to keep the cottage warm. They’ve been doing a very bad job of it. By the time we arrive home from work each evening, the warmth is waning and by 9pm it’s almost spent.
If you’re going to remove storage heaters there are a few things that you need to bear in mind.
Make Sure Your Storage Heaters Don’t Contain Asbestos
Some older storage heaters were made with components that contained asbestos. If yours is one of these, contact an asbestos specialist rather than opening it up yourself. Here’s a great website that lists out the asbestos-containing storage heaters.
Make Sure Your Storage Heater Has Been Switched Off For At Least One Night
Even when a storage heater feels cool to the touch, the bricks inside could still be very hot. Make sure you switch the power off for at least one overnight cycle. Also, wear thick industrial gloves when handling the bricks as they do retain heat for a long period of time, particularly as they have been in the heavily insulated innards of the storage heater.
Storage Heaters Are Very Heavy
Storage heaters are full of incredibly heavy fire bricks, which need to be removed before you attempt to unscrew the unit from the wall. If you try to take the unit off the wall when it is full, then you could end up with a broken foot. All storage heaters are different, but to open up many of them, you should find some screws on the front, at the lower edge. Undoing these will allow you to slide the front upwards and get into the belly of it.
Once you have the bricks out, then it’s a simple task to unscrew the storage heater from the wall.
Beginning The Central Heating Installation
Although our cottage originally had a ground floor made of stone slabs, at some point in its history a raised wooden floor was added. This was a great addition for the central heating, as all the pipework could be routed under the floor.
To route the pipework into the upstairs rooms, Adrian used a boxed in section that housed an old disused soil pipe. Now, we’d had a smell of sewerage lingering around both the upstairs and downstairs rooms towards one side of the house and the source was difficult to detect. It seemed to drift around the house and then disappear for a few days.
When Adrian removed the box section that housed the soil pipe, we realised that not only had it come away from the main sewer pipe under the house, but it also had a big hole hacked into it as it entered the upstairs space. At some point our third bedroom must have been a bathroom. As soon as that 7m long pipe was removed and I’d capped off the drain, the house was smelling a lot sweeter. The thing is, that pipe must have been left that way for decades.
During the course of removing old storage heaters and pulling out boxed in pipe sections, I uncovered a few different old wallpapers, which I’ve tried to keep remnants of. I’ve no idea how old they are, but some of it will date from when the water tank was originally installed in the roof.
The previous owner told us that the cottage had no running water till the late 1930s. There’s a well in the back garden and that was the only source of water until that point. It could be that some of the wallpaper we uncovered is more than 80 years old.
When it came to drilling through the outside wall to connect up to the mains gas pipe, Adrian hit a problem. The walls were far thicker than he anticipated and his longest drill bit was too short. It was the first time he’d had this problem and ordered a longer drill bit. It turns out that our walls are more than 700mm thick.
As the install continued, we met with a few surprises: a dead, mummified mouse under the floorboards upstairs, a wasp nest in the loft (which looks like it had long been vacated) and a dead bird in the water tank (I’ve no idea how long that had been there).
And the end result: warmth at last!!
If you’re looking for a central heating supplier or installer, you could take a look at Plumbing and Central Heating Listings.
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We hope that you enjoyed this post and it was useful to you. Please let us know what you think, or if you’ve had a central heating system installed tell us your story. We’d love to hear from you.