A Constructed Life

The Coal Room

Let’s take a break from the endless mudding-of-the-drywall project (posts to come) that has taken over my life and step back in time to see a project Joey and I completed almost 2 years ago…when we kept our remodeling confined to the basement. The project: Remove the Coal Room. You may be wondering a) why we have a coal room b) what a coal room is c) why we bothered removing it or d) all of the above. Let’s address these topics…

A) and B) Our house is almost 100-years old and back then, homes were heated with coal. Most homes had a room to store coal and the “coal man” would come by once a month and deliver more coal. The boiler we have to heat our home was converted from being coal-fed to gas-fed about 50 or so years ago. But, we do still have the ORIGINAL boiler that was installed in this home almost 100 years ago. I know – that’s crazy. I’ll post a picture of it and you’ll realize how truly crazy it is. And yes, we are planning on replacing it one of these days. Probably on the day it decides to stop working.

C) We removed the coal room, well really just removed the wall seperating it from the rest of the basement, because one day my husband decided he needed to knock something down and that thing was the coal room wall. Also, it was disgusting. See the black, covered-in-coal-dust walls? Yuck.

And by the way, I did save the door that came off that coal room. I don’t really have a plan for it, I just think it’s cool looking. Here’s the wall and the wall demo:

The wall was built with scrap cargo crates from the Kissell Car Company, which was located just up the street from us at one time. I saved the sections that read “Kissel Car Co.” Just because.

Joey is pointing out that he had found a bunch of coal chunks in the wall, which was midly exciting. I think my exact word were, “Oh. Coal. Neat.” Okay, I’ll be honest, I really did think it was neat. And I saved a few pieces.

Once we had the wall down and the room scrubbed down, we got to paintin’. Paintin’ is way better than painting. But, before we could paint over the fieldstone basement walls, we had to wash them down with some kind of acid solution. My brave husband did that while I followed behind him rinsing it off the walls, quietly fearing the acid would spray on my face and scar me for life. It didn’t. Then we applied a really thick waterproof sealer. THEN we painted. I mean paint’d.

See the paint sprayer in the photo above? That picture was taken about 2 minutes before we broke the sprayer. Do not try to spray on crazy-thick primer with a paint sprayer. The stuff was so thick the paint sprayer couldn’t suck it up – it just clogged it instead.

Here’s Joey putting the finishing touches on the coal room (we painted the entire basement after we removed the coal room wall). Sure looks better doesn’t it?

It’s amazing what paint can do. So…that’s the story of the coal room. Pretty exciting, huh? I bet you wish you had a coal room.

9 thoughts on “The Coal Room

  1. Johnny Mac

    NO. I do not wish I had a coal room.

    Ok. Obvious question, Liz: Why the hell did you buy a house with a coal room?? There were other coal-room-less houses out there, weren’t there?

    J/K I know you guys are frugal and needed a challenge. Does that translate into cheap and hardworking? Or broke and naive? Again, J/K (I mean j)

    Seriously tho, thanks for the post! Keep it up, you witty blogger you. Excellent writing. I mean, writin’. It’s way cooler than writing.

  2. C Bryce

    Over a year later, and I’m only now discovering your site. Your blog was featured in an article in my local paper (The Daily Republic of Fairfield, CA).
    No, I don’t want a coal room in my basement…. I want a basement. They don’t let us have them out here in earthquake country. It’s one of the things I miss from my childhood on the east coast.
    I have been reading your blog since I got home from work today…. crackin’ me up. We’re looking for a house now, but with 2 kids, there’s no way we can go after a fixer-upper.
    I’m really looking forward to seeing how this all ends…

  3. Anonymous

    We do have a coal room, as do most of the older homes where we live.(Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, known for its historical "Frank Slide").

    We have just finished sweping it down, removed the few remaining old coal chunks, & will be shop-vac'ing soon.

    As per your suggestions, we will use that acid treatment, then do the paintin with that waterproof sealer (rolled, not sprayed!) Thanks for the tips!!!

  4. Anonymous

    Neat project! At my home in Baltimore, I have a basement with a coal room under the front porch. I'd like to clean up the walls and floor, not only to remove the accumulated dust but also to get rid of the muty smell. Can you tell me about the acid treatment and how it works?
    Thanks. Jamie

  5. dustin

    I want to paint my coal room too!
    Do I have to do the acid thing? What if I don't and just primer over the dirty walls?
    Looks great!
    -Dustin from Ohio

  6. Pingback: We’ve still got DIY in us | A Constructed Life

  7. Marina

    Hi! I just found this old posting because I was actually Googling “coal rooms” in old houses. I live in the 1938 house where I grew up, and am in the process of cleaning our coal room up to put my workshop in there (trying to start a letterpress studio!). I love the idea of the room and wish I could go back in time to see it when it was active. Did that window of yours have an iron door when you bought the place, or was it already removed? Anyway, cool blog post! And don’t listen to these guys – they’re just jealous they don’t have a house with history like you do ;) Oh, “J/K” haha

    ~Marina – also from Ohio.

    1. Liz Post author

      Hi Marina! Thanks for commenting. I think it’s great that you’re repurposing your coal room into a letterpress studio. I know what you mean about wishing you could go back in time to see what your house was originally like and how it was used – I’d love to do that, too. There was not an iron door on the window in the coal room when I moved in, so I can only assume it was removed a while ago. Good luck with your studio and enjoy your old house!

  8. Paige

    Did your coal room have slanted floors? Sounds crazy, but its what we have in ur 1920s south minneapolis house. Any ideas on why/what the hell to do with it.?

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