Venting about Restoration – A Story About Going Green Through Salvage

Salvage VentsBy Adrian Ledbetter

Let’s not underestimate the benefit of salvage and reuse.  Recently during the tear out of our house, we salvaged two cast iron vents that are original to the home’s early 1930’s construction. Unfortunately, we had just enough parts and pieces to make one active vent. I recall being questioned recently about the difficulty of using salvaged items tastefully as components of a new restoration, while avoiding the pitfall of mismatched items that can look unbalanced or misfit. I am now faced with that very circumstance.  So why go to all the trouble?

I like to include salvaged items into the finish.  Genuine articles of the original construction speak to the provenance of the building as well as adding a genuine feel to the motif.  Additionally, a key component to being green, is diverting general waste for reuse — not to mention the benefit of offering your house guests a splendid conversation piece!  The vents will be functional treatments to the room.  The kitchen was determined to be the best place for the vents; however, it would require two vent locations and I only had the one vent.

Green Recycling with PACA

My wife and I are usually too busy between work and our kid’s events to go scavenging the flea markets and garage sales of the vast Midwest; fortunately, there are other resources that can help.  Going on-line is always a popular route. In our area, The Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA) in Campaign, Illinois is an excellent resource ( PACA has a huge architectural salvage warehouse that offers interior and exterior salvaged and hard to find dated replacement items.  If you have a conservation society in your area it is worth utilizing and supporting their efforts.  I visited PACA recently and the selection for salvaged vents was surprising.  Available stock ranged from late 1800’s through the 1970’s.  All of PACA’s items, original and unfinished, are donated from salvage projects such as ours.  This is a great avenue for Green Recycling! If you are like me it will be hard to spend just a little time at PACA; half the fun is browsing the facility just to see what other items are offered.

Architectural salvage vent

What salvage vent looked like before.

Simply Salvage

While an exact match to the original piece is preferred, that is often too costly and time consuming. The trick is to match the same type of material composition, architectural finish and accents. The vent I finally selected does just that. It is dimensionally different and clearly a different manufacturer; however, it has similar design features to our salvaged vent.  That’s okay because the vents will be installed eighteen feet from each other at an elevation of eleven feet high. The kitchen will have a Tuscan motif with black cast and rod iron treatments, such as pulls, pan rack, and now vents.  In this instance the vents will work as compliments even though they are not exactly the same. Some framing preps will be needed to accommodate each individual vent and, if you’re not apt at adapting your vent to your existing duct line, I suggest contacting a competent HVAC professional for final instillation and balancing.

Going Green and BEING Green Thru Reuse

Rehabbing these items proved relatively inexpensive; some sand paper and two cans of rust inhibiting primer and paint is all we needed. The PACA vent was $25.00.  Both vents were covered with rust and had some light pitting.  It took about two hours to clean them up.  Some light prep sanding, two coats of rust inhibiting primer with intermittent finish sanding, and a couple coats of semi-gloss. So if you think going green always requires a large investment of time and money, think again!

I can’t wait to see what they will look like installed and I will certainly visit this subject again as we document the progress of the finish work of our Spruce Street rehab. Until then, keep checking the rust bins and salvage sales and don’t forget to support your local Preservation and Conservation Society.


Leave a Response