When my husband and I bought our current home, a bank-auctioned late 19th century brick Italianate joy, the first big problem we had to solve was its total lack of heating and plumbing. We chose to treat the theft of copper, and age of the boiler, as a gift — a chance to start anew, which isn’t always so easy in an old building. We studied our options (mini ducts, baseboard heating, etc) and decided to bring back what must have originally served the house — cast iron radiators.
While some people may dislike them for their industrial appearance and sturdy presence within a room, I love radiators’ tactile warmth and friendliness and the simple beauty of a molded decorative radiator. And, after a little TLC, our salvaged radiators are truly beautiful!
Have a few radiators in your home that need some love, or are looking to install some? Here’s some tips and tricks to beautify your radiators…
1. If you don’t already have radiators…
Find your local salvage shop or parts warehouse. With very little searching, we were able to get a set of matching decorative radiators for our major rooms and others that suited the rest. Be sure to buy radiators that have been tested (air is okay, water is better) to check for leaks.
2. Make them pretty!
Whether you have radiators in your home already or are buying salvaged ones, the odds are that they will be covered in layers of old paint. Your radiator is (or will be) a fixture of your home, so make a beautiful one!
You can certainly flake off the old paint with a wire brush and repaint, but we chose to have ours sandblasted and powder-coated and I can’t recommend it enough. For new purchases, ask the sandblaster to pick up your radiators from the shop; for ones in your home, call your plumber to have them drained so they can be picked up.
3. Sandblasting and powder coating
Choose neutral colors that you can live with… then you’ll never have to paint them again!
4. Flying home and installation
Our powder coater delivered our finished radiators to our front door via crane, and our movers arrived soon after to put them in place; we treated them to doughnuts. Later, our plumbers hooked them into the new system and finished the installation.
Our radiators have provided us with lovely heat, but also a warm friend to cozy up to and a great place to dry a wet jacket this winter. And we always receive compliments on them! By treating our radiators with care, they’ve become stars in our new old home.