*Deeper boxes will help with pushing the wires back in. On jobs where I use
all #12 I sometimes use stranded wires for the pigtails. That makes it very
easy to push the devices into the box, but I have rolls of stranded on my
truck already. It may not be worth your while to buy some stranded unless
you get a good deal on short rolls at Home Depot.
Here are two photos I took that show the terracotta blocks:
The first photo shows the dividing wall between the two properties. The
blocks in the center are for a dual chimney -- one for each of the two
properties. One either side of the chimney are the blocks for the actual
dividing wall. The chimney originally had framing just around that part.
Then a later owner must have framed out a wider section from the front wall
of the property (on the right) back past the chimney. So, on the sides, you
can see the old wallpaper before the newer framing covered it up. Where the
wallpaper is, it is just rough coat and finish coat plaster directly over
the block (like the rest of the exterior walls), then wallpaper on top of
the plaster. On the right is one of the cast iron radiators that is under
the front window.
The second photo is uptairs in another part of the house. It shows what
used to be another no-longer-used chimney chase -- which is also on the
dividing wall between the two properties. I knocked out the chimney way on
my side, and the only point of this picture is to show how the terracotta
blocks are hollow by showing some of the broken off blocks.
I think I'll be okay with doing the short chases to the outlets without
compromising the integrity of the masonry. Almost all of the wiring will be
done in the open ceilings with only short runs up to wall outlets. If
necessary, I could probably even do that by running conduit up to each
outlet and then mortaring in the open chases around the conduit for more
structural support. In the kitchen where there will be countertop outlets,
all of those walls will already be framed out.
I hadn't thought about the possibility that I may be required to insulate
the exterior walls now that the place is gutted. But, since you're the
second person to mention that, it is something I will have to look into. I
had actually been considering doing that anyway. My thinking was to frame
out all of the exterior walls and insulate them. Although that would mean
more work and more in materials, it would certain be a plus to have the
walls insulated, and that would also provide the wiring access for outlets,
switches, etc. The house is getting all new replacement windows -- possibly
full-frame replacement windows -- which will also help in terms of
preventing heat loss. One added problem with framing out the exterior walls
is that the house has hot water cast iron radiator heat, and the radiators
are, of course, on the exterior walls -- mostly under windows. So, if I
frame out those walls, I will need to move all of the radiators in about 4+
inches. That means plumbing work, but since all of the other walls and
ceilings are now open, access to all of the radiator plumbing is easy.
However, I posted this question about how to wire and mount the outlets in
masonry walls in case I end up not framing out all of the masonry walls.
Your ancient heating system sounds like it could be retrofitted
now that you have opened everything up... What are the current
zones configured as ? Replumbing your system so that each
convector is on its own zone using Pex and some zone manifolds
will allow you save energy and have more comfortable tenants...
Since you would be taking apart all the convectors to replumb
them and establish a new thermostatically controlled zone
for each room, it wouldn't be that much trouble to adjust the
cavities they are installed in a few inches...
Better to do this work now while everything is opened up
because it will add thousands more to the bill when your
system eventually fails... Improving the controls for your
heating system combined with the new replacement
windows will result in even more energy savings compared
with heating ALL of the upstairs or downstairs until the
thermostat in the hallway is satisfied... Going the extra
mile and adding insulation to the walls as well couldn't
Interesting thought. Thanks. I hadn't thought about creating zoned
heating. This is a 3-story house which is presently all on one single
Are you suggesting doing all new pex plumbing to the cast iron radiators,
using a home run system to each individual radiator (or at least to each
room/zone, and a thermostat for each radiator or room/zone)? Or, maybe I
could just create 3 or 4 zones -- one for the third floor, one for the
second floor, and one or two for the first floor (the first floor has a
separate heated porch area with French doors to the house, so maybe that
would be on a separate zone from the rest of the first floor).
If I remember correctly, the type of pex that is used for cast iron
radiators is Pex-Aluminum-Pex (Pex-Al-Pex).
I have seen (on TV) thermostat controls that go on individual cast iron
radiators, and I guess a similar device with a wall-mounted thermostat that
controls the valve may exist.
Once I get started doing these types of projects, I do have a tendancy to
say, "Well, since we're already doing X, now would be the best to to go
ahead and also do Y. So, your suggestion fits right into my usual way of
Now that all of the walls and ceiling are open, I'll have to give some real
thought to all of the possible heating and cooling options. I do have a
couple of HVAC people that I trust who I can get to look at the house and
give me their suggestions and the pros and cons for each option.
Zoned heating is more efficient, you don't have to heat the rooms you
aren't using -- in a home where the thermostats are located in a
the heating plant has to work hard to get that area warm enough to
satisfy the thermostat while dealing with the heat losses in each
If you wanted to keep your cast iron radiators, yes... A new homerun
loop to each radiator/convector location is the best idea... All
and connections are kept in visible areas that way -- I have seen
use Pex as if it were normal pipe using numerous fittings and burying
those fittings in walls... While that is allowable, using Pex in that
totally disregards the reason why Pex was designed, to provide
loops for in-floor heating, so using it with fittings along a run
ignores the way it was designed to be used... You are correct in your
remembering the special type of Pex which must be used if you have
any ferrous metals in your piping system...
There may be other heating options available to you since you have
gutted your home at this point, it is just a matter of expense...
You could look at underfloor radiant heating at this point... You
look at a mini-ducted forced air system which uses air handler units
and can both heat and cool (which would reduce the number of
electrical circuits you would need to provide in anticipation of
tenants using window units)...
Whatever option you decide on, just make sure you go that little
extra effort to make things up in a workmanlike manner, things
will be easier to maintain in the future... If you decide to go with
a ducted system, go the extra mile and properly seal all the
connections and fittings -- I think most people would be shocked
at how "leaky" their heating/cooling ducts are in a typical house,
the tighter and better insulated any ducts are, the less money
you are spending on conditioning the air in areas of your home
where you won't be enjoying it like inside an unfinished basement
and inside the cavities of your walls...
Don't cheap out -- insulate EVERYTHING now that the walls are
open... If you use mineral wool insulation you will not only add
the insulating value you were looking for but also additional fire
protection and sound deadening... This is useful in interior walls
as well as any walls which may be shared with the other unit
on the common wall...
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