Monday, February 23, 2015

Frozen water pipes and clearing snow off the sky-light

Freezing temperatures and heavy snows are nothing new (and we've had enough for this year!!).  One idea for 19th century home owners to protect water pipes which went "up the outside of the house" was by twisting hay or straw around them.  Inside pipes used in steam kitchens, boilers in wood stoves, and kitchen sinks could also freeze and burst.  The following excepts tell how to handle frozen pipes and snow on the sky lights.

Plumbers in Regency London cast and installed lead pipes for kitchen sinks,  gutters, water-closets, and also made cisterns, roofing, garden statues and coffins.  The Book of Trades, 1807 (first image) stated - “Large pipes of sheet-lead are made by wrapping the lead on wooden cylinders of the proper length, and then soldering it up the edges. … The health of the men is often injured by the fumes of the lead…and that they never, on any account, eat their meals, or retire to rest at night, before they have well washed their hands and face.”

From Thomas Cosnett’s  The Footman’s Directory, London: 1823 -
Winterizing pipes with twisted hay
"WHEN the winter begins to set in, cover the water-pipes with hay or straw bands, twisted tight round them. If it does not freeze at the time, let the hay or straw be wet, as it will twist tighter in that state, and it will soon get dry afterwards. This is highly necessary to be attended to; for, if you are short of water in a gentleman’s house, where there is so much wanted, you will find it very distressing and inconvenient, and particularly if you have to fetch it: therefore see to the pipes, and water-buts, and cisterns, in time, to secure a good supply. Let the cisterns and buts be washed out occasionally; this will keep the water pure and fresh."

Frozen pipe hole and peg
"In pumping up water into the cistern for the water-closet, you must be very particular in wintertime, as in general the pipes go up the outside of the house; in which case they are of course more likely to be frozen than if they were within. If then they go up the outside of the house, let all the water he let out of the pipe when, you have done pumping; but if at any time you should forget to do so, and it should get frozen, take a small gimlet and bore a hole in the pipe, a little distance from the place where you let it off; if the frost has not been so severe as to freeze all the water in the upper part of the pipe, by doing this you will prevent its bursting; and, at all events, it is the best way to do it so, as it will prevent the pipe bursting in more places than one. Have a peg to put into the hole after you have let the water off, and then you will only have to take it out at any time when the water may be frozen. Pump the water up into the cistern for the closet every morning, or as often as wanted, without waiting to be told; particularly if there be only ladies in the family where you live; and once a week, if the closet is where you can have free access to it, take a pail of water, and cast it into the basin, having first opened the pipe, that is, the trap which is at the bottom of the basin; this will clear the soil out of the pipe, and ought to be done at regular intervals."
"You will find it necessary at times to clear and sweep the footway before the house, particularly in winter, to remove the snow from the pavement; this should be done as soon as possible, not only to prevent accidents, but to spare your master or mistress a fine, which they are liable to, if it be not done in proper time.

When there has been a great fall of snow, it perhaps will be necessary to have it taken off the roof of the house; if so, you must be careful not to use any thing which may cut holes in the leaden gutter, or leads at the top of the house. This kind of work is, however, seldom required of servants, as there is great danger in doing it to persons who are not accustomed to such things; but still you ought to see that those who do it are persons whom you can trust, and that know their business; for, if not, they may do a great deal of damage to the leads. If the snow should be frozen on a sky-light, let no one attempt to brush it off, for, most likely, every pane of glass will be broken in so doing."

from Miss Leslie's Lady's House-book, Phila: 1850 (1840) -

Sky-lights, Lantern on roof, Belvidere
"The sky-lights which are generally placed on the roof to light the upper stair-case, should have very thick glass, each pane fitting exactly; else they are liable to leak, and to be broken by a violent rain or hail-storm. They are sometimes made with a hood or wooden covering, to be shut down previous to a storm. Care should be taken that all the wood-work of the sky-light (as well as the glass) fits tightly; otherwise it will not only leak from rain, but from the melting of the snow, when it thaws. As soon as the snow has ceased falling, some one should go up and remove it at once (while it is still soft) from the skylight, which will otherwise be entirely darkened ; and, if the snow freezes on it, may probably remain obscured for some weeks.
On handsome houses we frequently see a lantern or Belvidere, instead of a common skylight; and they are much better, as the glass, standing perpendicularly, is in no more danger from rain or snow than any of the other windows."

The last two images are from the Lewis Walpole Library.  “A heavy fall of snow” by Richard Dighton, Octr. 15, 1821.  Interesting that it was printed in October, in order to sell during the winter snows.

©2015 Patricia Bixler Reber
Researching Food History HOME

1 comment:

  1. Incredible, absolutely. Thanks as ever for a fabulous post - very chilly here too !