Category Archives: Bedford Corners NY

Freddie Mac real estate predictions | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Freddie Mac November Forecast: Expect Modest Housing Market Growth in 2019

According to Freddie Mac’s  November Forecast, the biggest unknown about the housing market next year is whether current negative trends, such as lack of housing supply, will persist or the market will adjust to the shock of higher mortgage rates and resume modest growth.

Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “Almost all the trends in the U.S. housing market have been negative in recent months as housing market activity continues to adjust to higher mortgage rates.”Khater added, “If new home sales are to resume growth in 2019, builders may have to shift their focus to more modestly priced homes and smaller sized homes to help offset housing affordability concerns. But with cost pressures pinching profitability, this will be a significant challenge.” 

Forecast Highlights 

Expect GDP growth to average 3 percent in 2018 before slowing to 2.4 percent in 2019 and 1.8 percent in 2020.

Expect total home sales to decrease 1.6 percent to 6.02 million in 2018 before slowly regaining momentum and increasing 1 percent to 6.08 million in 2019 and 2 percent to 6.20 million in 2020.  

Expect home prices to increase 5.1 percent in 2018 with the rate of growth moderating to 4.3 percent in 2019 and 2.9 percent in 2020.

Expect single-family mortgage originations to decline 9.9 percent year-over-year to $1.63 trillion in 2018, falling slightly to $1.62 trillion in 2019 and dropping once more to $1.60 trillion in 2020. This is the result of shrinking refinance activity.Adjusted for inflation in 2017 dollars, an estimated $14.2 billion in net home equity was cashed out during the refinance of conventional prime-credit home mortgages in the third quarter of 2018, down from $18.3 billion a year earlier and substantially less than the peak cash-out refinance volume of $102 billion during the second quarter of 2006.

Lumber prices drop 10.3% | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Softwood lumber prices fell 10.3% in October—the largest drop since May 2011—according to the latest Producer Price Index (PPI) release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The producer price index for softwood lumber has fallen 21.2% since setting the cycle and all-time high in June (see below). Even after the decrease, however, the index currently sits just 4.7% lower than the prior-cycle high set in 2004.

The final demand price index for OSB has followed a path similar to that of softwood lumber over the last three months.

Since climbing 38.1% in the first seven months of 2018, OSB prices have fallen 16.6%. The price index for OSB is now 15.2% and 15.7% higher than it was to start 2018 and 2017, respectively.

Residential construction goods input prices increased 0.4% in October and have now risen 7.5% over the last twelve months. The index decreased only twice during that period, by 0.1% and 0.5% in December 2017 and August 2018, respectively. Year-to-date residential construction goods input price increases in 2018 (+5.6) continue to outpace the increase during the same period in 2017 (+2.9%).

Gypsum prices fell 1.6% in October, continuing what has been a relatively volatile year. The price index for gypsum products is 6.3% higher than it was to start 2018, but the year-to-date price increase masks large fluctuations within the year. Consecutive-month increases of 5.4% and 6.1% have been partially offset by two-month decreases of 3.3% and 1.8%.

The last several large increases in the gypsum price index has been foreseeable, as large wallboard producers sent out price increase announcements in the March-May and October-December periods. These announcements informed customers that wallboard prices would increase effective as of January or June/July, depending on the announcement date. Examples of such announcements may be found here and here.

Ready-mix concrete prices declined 0.5% in October. After a large price increase (relative to historical data) in early 2018, prices of ready-mix concrete dropped and have remained essentially unchanged since July.

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Softwood Lumber Price Decline Largest in Seven Years

Home builder confidence rises | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes rose one point to 68 in October on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). Builder confidence levels have held in the high 60s since June.

Builders continue to view solid housing demand, fueled by a growing economy and a nearly 50-year low for unemployment. Lumber price declines for three straight months from elevated levels earlier this summer have also helped to reduce some cost pressures, but builders will need to manage supply-side costs to keep home prices affordable.

Favorable economic conditions and demographic tailwinds should continue to support demand, but housing affordability has become a challenge due to ongoing price and interest rate increases. Unless housing affordability stabilizes, the market risks losing additional momentum as we head into 2019.

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

The HMI index measuring current sales conditions rose one point to 74 and the component gauging expectations in the next six months increased a single point to 75. Meanwhile, the metric charting buyer traffic registered a four-point uptick to 53.

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast rose three points to 57 and the South edged up one point to 71. The West held steady at 74 and the Midwest fell two points to 57.

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NYC prices keep falling | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Bloomberg News

Big Apple home buyers are wary of tax reform, and they’re saying so with their checkbooks. The median Manhattan home sold for around $1.1 million during the third quarter, according to a report released Tuesday, as prices took a 4.5% annual dip partially in response to changing policies in Washington.

Nearly 3,000 homes traded hands between July and the end of September, which is roughly 11% fewer than the same period last year, according to the report from Douglas Elliman Real Estate. And as prices and sales volume continue to decline, more homes hit the market. That pushed inventory to nearly 7,000 units, or about 13% more than 2017.

The market’s strength is likely being sapped by uncertainty regarding the new federal tax law, which hit high-tax states like New York hardest by limiting the amount of property taxes that can be deducted on federal tax returns. The luxury and new development sectors were hit hardest as median prices fell roughly 9% with units sitting on the market for roughly twice as long as more modest offerings. Rising interest rates are also making it more expensive to purchase, especially for lower-priced units as prospective buyers are more likely to take out a mortgage. More generally, wage growth has not kept up with rising housing prices, especially in New York City, creating a disconnect between rosy top-line economic figures and the real estate market, which is still correcting itself after a white-hot run that peaked in 2014.

“You throw that all in a cauldron,” said Jonathan Miller, head of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, which prepared the report for Douglas Elliman, “and it is putting a drag on the pace of the market.”

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https://www.crainsnewyork.com

crains.com

After Florence: Your house has flooded. Here’s what you should do | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Steps you need to take after a flood

When floodwaters from now-Tropical Storm Florence finally subside and residents are allowed to return to their communities in North and South Carolina, the shift to recovery mode may seem overwhelming.

But what you do in the days after a devastating storm can mean the difference between a relatively fast cleanup and an expensive months-long demolition nightmare.

Experts advise these steps to help protect your safety and your wallet.

Taking care of your health

“The first thing you need to do is take care of yourself. Make sure you’re emotionally OK,” said Elaina Sutley, assistant professor of structural engineering at The University of Kansas. “Only then should you start assessing any structural damage.”

What materials do I need? You should make sure you have knee-high rubber boots, long-sleeve clothing, a respirator, a flashlight, a camera and liquid bleach.

Where do I start? Start by turning off any gas or power to prevent explosions or electrocution. Then begin drying out your home and addressing the structural damage such as a wall collapse or sinking ceilings. And remember: There may still be water left either in the basement or seeping from soaked furniture.

“You need to open up windows and doors. Let things dry out,” Sutley said. Fans and humidifiers can help speed up the drying process.

While everything dries, which can take a few days, homeowners are encouraged to toss any food left in the home along with any absorbent material that has come in contact with water.

“If there was salt-water flooding, there might be corrosion so get an electrician to look at that,” said Jeffrey Schlegelmilch of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. “Even if it’s not salt water, things could still be dangerous. Fact-check with a professional before plugging anything in.”

What do I do with damaged items? Coastal areas that have experienced floods in the past will likely have protocols for picking up and handling debris such as drywall and large furniture.

What can I keep? Family heirlooms, jewelry, photographs and other valuables can be air-dried and saved. Clean and disinfect them if they came in contact with floodwater.

What should I avoid? Other than contaminated water flow, there could also be animals trapped in your home brought in by the floodwaters.

“Areas like North Carolina have a lot of poisonous snakes. Floodwaters can bring these into your home. Look out for any critters that could be lurking in hidden areas,” Schlegelmilch said.

What happens if I wait? “If your home is just left to sit, it will continue to deteriorate, and it becomes even more of a health threat,” Schlegelmilch said.

Summer’s heat and humidity make for prime conditions for mold, so act fast, Sutley said.

Taking care of your wallet

The sooner homeowners file claims with an insurance agency or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the faster a resolution can be reached. However, traditional homeowner policies don’t cover flooding. Only flood insurance policies reimburse families for water damage caused by flooding.

“After Hurricane Matthew hit the southeastern United States, I worked on a project where we spoke to households and businesses about receiving assistance from their insurance or FEMA,” Sutley said. “Most people who had insurance and filed a claim received help within 30 days. Most people who applied for FEMA had received it within a month.”

What do I need? Insurance documents, home deeds and your Social Security card can get you started on making an insurance claim.

Photos and videos of the property both before and after the flood are also essential since recovery agencies will likely request proof of the damage.

Where do I start? It’s important to contact your insurance agency before you remove anything from your home. “Insurance companies sometimes want to send someone down to investigate before anything is taken out,” Schlegelmilch said.

After contacting your insurance company, work can began. Homeowners are encouraged to remove any carpet or drywall that has come in contact with water before mold starts to form.

“I would look to CDC guidance for which bleach to use. You don’t want just to get surfaces to look clean, you want to make sure that there aren’t any living mold spores,” Schlegelmilch said.

What if I don’t have insurance? It’s pretty common for people not to have flood insurance, no matter their income level. In coastal regions, it may be mandatory. But for those who live further inland, there are often local aid options.

“Find out what types of public assistance is available in your area,” Schlegelmilch said. “There are a lot of charities that pop up to help people get back in their homes. Some move people to the top of the list who are low income or have disabilities.”

To find out if you qualify for assistance or for more information, check FEMA’s website disasterassistance.gov.

Dutch city’s 3D-printed homes could help upend the construction industry | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Image: Project Milestone

An artist’s illustration of Project Milestone, an initiative in the Netherlands that will build five 3D-printed concrete homes in five years. Houben + Van Mierlo Architects / Image: Project Milestone

In the Dutch city of Eindhoven, engineers, contractors and architects have joined forces to create one of the world’s first 3D-printed commercial housing projects.

Dubbed Project Milestone, the initiative will use a huge 3D printer to fabricate five concrete houses in a wooded area near the city’s airport. Plans call for the first home, a three-bedroom dwelling of just over 1,000 square feet, to be completed in mid-2019 — though the entire initiative will take five years because the technology is still being refined.

The effort is being undertaken in the midst of a shortage of bricklayers in the Netherlands, Rudy van Gurp, a project manager at Van Wijnen, the construction firm that’s overseeing the project, told CNN. But the main goal will be to show how 3D printing can cut costs and concrete waste (and thus curb the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of cement, concrete’s main ingredient.)

“I feel excited,” van Gurp told NBC News MACH in an email. “We are reinventing some details in the real estate industry, and it feels to be at a start of a tech revolution in this industry.”

Image: A 3D Printer creates concrete
A 3D printer at Eindhoven University of Technology printing concrete for a bridge construction project. Imagecollectors

The robotic printer used to create the homes will follow architectural plans to put down layers of a special concrete mix. The first house’s roof and walls will be fabricated off-site and then brought to the building site for assembly. Once the technology is honed, it should be possible to print an entire home on site.

Renderings of the planned homes show futuristic-looking structures with curvilinear shapes and rectangular windows and doors. The designs are intended to show off the printer’s versatility, including the ability to create unusual shapes that are hard to make with conventional construction methods, van Gurp said.

But will 3D printing really revolutionize the construction industry?

Carlo Ratti, an architect and professor of urban technologies and planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told MACH in an email that while he believes digital fabrication will revolutionize construction, 3D printing in concrete is unlikely to be the key. “Still, it is positive that we are seeing a myriad [of] experiments in concrete printing — Project Milestone is one of them — that will be useful to perfect the technique,” he said.

Image: Project Milestone
The houses’ eccentric designs show off the 3D printer’s ability to create nearly any shape or design. Houben + Van Mierlo Architects

The project certainly seems to have captured the attention of people looking for a place to live. Within a week of the renderings’ release, van Gurp told The Guardian, 20 families had applied to rent the first home.

read more…

https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/dutch-city-s-3d-printed-homes-could-help-upend-construction-ncna886351

California panel approves historic plan to require solar panels on new homes | Bedford Corners Real Estate

New homes and low-rise apartment buildings across California would include solar panels under first-in-the-nation rules approved Wednesday by the California Energy Commission.

The rules now go to the state Building Standards Commission, where they were expected to easily win approval.

“This is groundbreaking,” said Pierre Delforge, senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He said the rules “will save energy, lower customer bills, keep homes comfortable in increasing heat waves and reduce pollution from California’s homes and buildings.”

The requirements, which would go into effect in 2020, could add more than $10,000 to the construction costs of new homes, the commission says. Some builders say the costs could be more than twice that.

But the commission and most builders agree that the costs should be more than made up in energy savings over the life of the solar energy system. And the plan has drawn generally positive reviews from the construction industry.

“Adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap in statewide buildings standards,” said Robert Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association. “No other state in the nation will have anything close to this, and you can bet 49 other states will be watching to see what happens here in California.”

Some conservatives were not so enthusiastic, noting that the state already has some of the nation’s most expensive housing markets. A National Association of Realtors survey for the fourth quarter of 2017 listed four California markets among the nation’s five most expensive.

San Jose topped the list with a median price in excess of $1.2 million.

“The state’s housing crisis is real,” State Assemblyman Brian Dahle said. “California’s affordability problem is making it more and more difficult for people to afford to live here.”

The commission projects that more than 100,000 single-family homes and almost 50,000 multi-family buildings will be built across the state in 2020. Raymer acknowledged that the ambitious plan will probably roll in with some “hiccups.” Less than 20% of homes built in the state now include the panels.

The rules also address insulation and appliance efficiency. And they include efforts to increase battery storage and increase use of electricity over natural gas. Use of batteries to store solar energy will be crucial to cost savings, Raymer said.

“Battery storage technology will allow the homeowner to capture the cheaper electricity … the middle of the day,” Raymer said. “And keep that power on-site for use in the early evening hours when electrical rates go way up.”

The rules apply to building permits issued after Jan. 1, 2020. There are some exceptions to the solar panel rule, such as homes that would be shaded by trees or buildings or when roofs are too small for the panels.

Abigail Ross, CEO of the national Solar Energy Industries Association, said solar prices in the state have fallen by more than 50% in the last five years.

“Other states may not be ready for this step yet,” she said. “But this is a precedent-setting policy, one that will bring enormous benefits and cost savings to consumers.”

For more than a decade, the commission has been operating under goals that would provide “net-zero” energy for new residents by 2020 and for new commercial buildings a decade later.

 

read more…

 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/05/09/california-solar-panels-state-may-require-them-new-homes/594364002/

So California prices keep rising | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Southern California home prices jumped 10.2% in February compared with a year earlier, while sales remained nearly flat as the region and the state grapple with a shortage of homes for sale.

The median price across the six-county region clocked in at $506,750 last month, real estate data firm CoreLogic said Wednesday. That’s up from a revised $495,500 in January but below an all-time high of $509,500 in December.

It’s not unusual for the median — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — to fluctuate month to month, and prices are up solidly from last year. In Los Angeles County, the median hit a new all-time high of $580,000 in February, up 10.5% from a year earlier.

Elsewhere in Southern California, median prices increased as well.

  • Orange County: The price tied a record of $710,000 and was 10.1% higher than a year earlier.
  • Riverside County: The price rose 8.7% to $375,000.
  • San Bernardino County: The price leaped 16% to $336,500.
  • San Diego County: The price rose 8.7% to $535,000.
  • Ventura County: The price rose 6.7% to $555,000.

A growing economy and a shortage of homes listed for sale are helping drive the increases. That’s spurring a political debate about whether state government should restrict local authorities’ ability to limit housing construction.

California, largely because of its housing costs, has the nation’s highest poverty rate after accounting for cost of living. Many cities, including Los Angeles, have proved too expensive for some low-income residents, causing them to move away or end up in tents that line streets.

According to online real estate brokerage Redfin, there was less than a four-month supply of homes for sale in every Southern California county last month. That means there would be no properties left at the end of that time frame if no new listings popped up and sales continued at their current pace.

Real estate agents generally consider a six-month supply of homes to be a balanced market, in which neither sellers nor buyers have an advantage. Lower supply gives an edge to the sellers. In Los Angeles and Orange counties, inventory stood at 3.1 months.

Across the region, sales rose 0.6% in February compared with a year earlier.

Exacerbating the supply shortage, rock-bottom mortgage rates have supercharged the market in recent years, enabling borrowers to afford more than they otherwise could as long as they can scrape together a down payment.

Rates remain low historically, although they have shot up this year because investors fear inflation will pick up.

That uptick essentially makes homes more expensive. But some real estate agents say that it hasn’t hurt demand yet — instead, they say, it’s is spurring families to buy, for fear that rates will just keep rising.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.44% last week, up from 3.95% at the beginning of the year, according to Freddie Mac.

read more…

 

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-home-prices-20180321-story.html

Home prices up 6.3% | Bedford Corners Real Estate

S&P/Case-Shiller released the monthly Home Price Indices for December (“December” is a 3 month average of October, November and December prices).

This release includes prices for 20 individual cities, two composite indices (for 10 cities and 20 cities) and the monthly National index.

Note: Case-Shiller reports Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA), I use the SA data for the graphs.

From S&P: S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index Shows Home Prices End the Year 6.3% Higher than 2016

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 6.3% annual gain in December, up from 6.1% in the previous month. The 10-City Composite annual increase came in at 6.0%, no change from the previous month. The 20-City Composite posted a 6.3% year-over-year gain, down from 6.4% in the previous month.

Seattle, Las Vegas, and San Francisco reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities. In December, Seattle led the way with a 12.7% year-over-year price increase, followed by Las Vegas with an 11.1% increase, and San Francisco with a 9.2% increase. Nine cities reported greater price increases in the year ending December 2017 versus the year ending November 2017

Before seasonal adjustment, the National Index posted a month-over-month gain of 0.2% in December. The 10-City and 20-City Composites both reported increases of 0.2%. After seasonal adjustment, the National Index recorded a 0.7% month-over-month increase in December. The 10-City and 20-City Composites both posted 0.6% month-over-month increases. Twelve of the 20 cities reported increases in December before seasonal adjustment, while all 20 cities reported increases after seasonal adjustment.

“The rise in home prices should be causing the same nervous wonder aimed at the stock market after its recent bout of volatility,” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Across the 20 cities covered by S&P Corelogic Case Shiller Home Price Indices, the average increase from the financial crisis low is 62%; over the same period, inflation was 12.4%. None of the cities covered in this release saw real, inflation-adjusted prices fall in 2017. The National Index, which reached its low point in 2012, is up 38% in six years after adjusting for inflation, a real annual gain of 5.3%. The National Index’s average annual real gain from 1976 to 2017 was 1.3%. Even considering the recovery from the financial crisis, we are experiencing a boom in home prices.

“Within the last few months, there are beginning to be some signs that gains in housing may be leveling off. Sales of existing homes fell in December and January after seasonal adjustment and are now as low as any month in 2017. Pending sales of existing homes are roughly flat over the last several months. New home sales appear to be following the same trend as existing home sales. While the price increases do not suggest any weakening of demand, mortgage rates rose from 4% to 4.4% since the start of the year. It is too early to tell if the housing recovery is slowing. If it is, some moderation in price gains could be seen later this year.”
emphasis added

image: https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8MGeORtUnHo/WpVndAxbwTI/AAAAAAAAuAs/ltfgAaMs0j0KlzI9wxECj3IlOZcfiIHQACLcBGAs/s320/CSDec2017.PNG

Case-Shiller House Prices IndicesClick on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows the nominal seasonally adjusted Composite 10, Composite 20 and National indices (the Composite 20 was started in January 2000).

The Composite 10 index is off 3.1% from the peak, and up 0.6% in December (SA).

The Composite 20 index is off slightly from the peak, and up 0.6% (SA) in December.

The National index is 7.0% above the bubble peak (SA), and up 0.7% (SA) in December.  The National index is up 44.7% from the post-bubble low set in December 2011 (SA).

image: https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-4jkYhauaKeE/WpVnfhJaRlI/AAAAAAAAuAw/8cCSEHxlpZUKEZxrjeaGTjLgpVE7nlIpwCLcBGAs/s320/CSYoYDec2017.PNG

Case-Shiller House Prices IndicesThe second graph shows the Year over year change in all three indices.

The Composite 10 SA is up 6.0% compared to December 2016.  The Composite 20 SA is up 6.3% year-over-year.

The National index SA is up 6.3% year-over-year.

Note: According to the data, prices increased in all 20 of 20 cities month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

 

 

 

Read more at http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2018/02/case-shiller-national-house-price-index.html#55yjBz0YrscRrl4I.99

Heating in the 1800’s | Bedford Corners Real Estate

A Rumford fireplace. 
Photo by Alcinoe.

Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between rounding up historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.

Thanks to modern heating systems, we can enjoy the cozy picturesqueness of a fireplace without depending on it to keep our homes warm. But that wasn’t the case in 18th- and early 19th-century America.

“Up through about 1800, the wood-burning fireplace—very popular with English settlers—was the primary means of heating a home,” explains Sean Adams, professor of history at the University of Florida and author of Home Fires: How Americans Kept Warm in the Nineteenth Century. “The problem was that winters in America can be much harsher than in England. The weather quickly exposed how inefficient fireplaces are at heating a room.”

The majority of the heat in a fireplace goes up and out of the flue. What little heat does make its way into the room gets concentrated directly in front of the firebox, leaving the rest of the room quite cold.

A fireplace with a Franklin Stove insert. 
Photo by Robert Khederian

In 1741, Benjamin Franklin sought to improve the efficiency of the fireplace. He introduced a cast-iron insert for the firebox—called the “Franklin Stove”—in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, volume 2. While it didn’t fundamentally change the design of a fireplace, it addressed his theory about heat.

“Franklin believed heat to be like liquid—he was trying to keep the heat in the room as long as possible, or else it would rush out of the room,” explains Adams.

The Franklin Stove had a series of baffles, or channels, within the stove to direct the flow of air, to keep as much of the heat circulating in the firebox and flowing out into the room as possible. However, the design had problems.

“The stove had to be very tight,” explains Adams. “If there were any leaks, smoke leaked out into the room. Wind would also blow the smoke back into the room. It wasn’t considered a real success.”

Toward the end of the 19th century, the inventor Count Rumford devised a fireplace designed along a set of proportions so it could be built on a variety of scales.

“In the fireplaces I recommend,” Count Rumford writes in a 1796 essay, “the back [of the fireplace] is only about one third of the width of the opening of the fireplace in front, and consequently that the two sides or covings of the fireplaces…are inclined to [the front opening] at an angle of about 135 degrees.”

The Rumford fireplace efficiently burned wood while its characteristically shallow firebox reflected as much heat as possible out into the room as possible. The handy design of the Rumford gained a strong following.

Thomas Jefferson installed eight of them at his country house Monticello. Rumford fireplaces became so mainstream that Henry David Thoreau wrote about them in Walden as a basic quality of the home, alongside copper pipes, plaster walls, and Venetian blinds.

By the 1820s and 1830s, Adams explains, coal was quickly becoming a dominating fuel type. Stoves that could burn either wood or coal—the type being pushed was Anthracite, or “hard” coal—became popular.

Iron stoves were not new technology. While English settlers brought fireplaces, German settlers had iron stoves that did a good job of heating a space.

An example of an elaborate iron stove. 
Courtesy of Library of Congress.

But what was new was the type of fuel: coal. Adams explains that since coal was so different from the familiar fuel type of wood, it took a little while to gain popularity.

“Coal was first marketed in a similar way to how some new technology is marketed today,” says Adams. “You needed early investors willing to take the risk. It was billed at ‘the fuel of the fashionable,’ which would revolutionize home heating.”

To match, coal stoves became highly decorative, featuring intricate ironwork and decorative finials to make them just as desirable as they were utilitarian.

Coal became mainstream in post-Civil War America. Wealthier families might have burned coal in basement furnaces—with specific rooms dedicated for coal storage—while poorer families might have used little stoves in individual rooms in their home.

The architecture of the home also changed as heating technologies shifted. While Colonial houses of the 18th century needed big chimneys to support multiple fireplaces, houses built in the later half of the 19th century only needed ventilation space for stove pipes. That translated into skinnier chimneys.

Inside, mantlepieces sometimes remained as a backdrop for the stoves. Even though they were technically no longer needed, they continued to act as a focal point in a room.

A mantle that was never designed to surround a fireplace but rather be a backdrop for a coal stove.

Also coming into play in the 19th century was steam heating, which first appeared in the 1850s but gained popularity in the 1880s. Adams explains that this is just another form of coal heating, as coal would be used to heat the water that turns into steam.

Steam heating was first used in institutional buildings like hospitals but then moved to residences. One of the most elaborate examples of a steam-heating network in the 19th century was at Biltmore Estate, the Vanderbilt-owned mansion in Asheville, North Carolina.

Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of Biltmore, needed to heat roughly 2,300,000 cubic feet of space for the 175,000-square-foot house,” says Denise Kiernan, author of The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home.

Kiernan explains that the subbasement of Biltmore, which was completed in 1895, had three boilers capable of holding 20,000 gallons of water each. Those boilers created steam that circulated to radiators in a network of shafts around the house, a system that seems simple in theory but quickly intensifies when one realizes that the network had to heat 250 rooms.

“Of course—this heating system had help from 65 fireplaces, some more utilitarian, others wildly elaborate,” Kiernan adds.

Heating the largest private home in America was no small feat: In The Last Castle, Kiernan reports that 25 tons of coal were burned in two weeks during the winter of 1900. To prepare for the winter of 1904, the Vanderbilts placed a coal order for 500 tons to be shipped and ready.

Biltmore estate in Asheville, North Carolina. 
Courtesy of The Biltmore Company.

Regardless of how elaborate or rudimentary the heating system of choice was in the 19th century, something that seemed to connect all methods, whether it be wood or coal, was a reliance on oneself to light the fire and supply the heat. Something that changes in the 20th century, when national grids of electricity and gas fundamentally changed how we heat our homes—but that’s a different story.

“The hearth becomes industrialized throughout the 1800s, but people still wanted to make the fire themselves,” theorizes Adams. “Now, we’re very comfortable with the idea that we can flip a switch to turn the heat on, but that wasn’t the case a century ago. They were close enough to that era of open, roaring fireplaces that people wanted to control their own heat!”

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