Great Grates

Did you know teaching school during a pandemic is exhausting? It really is. We’ve been working away on the Library (posts to come!) but I haven’t quite gotten in a groove at school enough to fit blogging into my world. But I’m still here! I feel like I should re-name the blog “I’m Still Here” because I seem to disappear and re-appear without much of a schedule. Sigh. But as I’ve said before, this is real life, and I’m so glad that even when I can’t write on a schedule, that somehow, some of you stick around regardless. But now that marching band and school have been back in session for over a month (100% in-person, because some of you have asked – CRAZY!), I’m hoping to write a little more, and build the Library A LOT more.

I wanted to follow up on the floors for one more post, to talk about the HVAC grates. Because HVAC IS SO EXCITING AND SEXY!

We had a lot of different styles of grates – some fancy, some more simple. Most were old, and some were REALLY modern and cheap. Here are some of the older one (which we’re keeping, of course!).

LIES AND DECEIT. The one with the blue tape isn’t coming back, but we’re hanging onto it in case we need it elsewhere in the house. This was the grate in the Library, which we moved, and replaces with a much fancier old one.

Another thing we’re not keeping? Grates that weren’t hooked up to anything. This one in the parlor, we filled in, because it wasn’t connected and wasn’t needed in the room. Since new floors were going in, this was the perfect time to make decisions like that.

This beautiful grate is in the Entrance Hall, and has been faux finished at some point in its life with a little gold paint. I don’t hate the gold, I don’t love it – but for now, it stays.

In the parlor, this grate on the right existed. WHYYYYYY? We found a match to the Entrance Hall grate (on the left) and even though it’s rusty, it’s SO MUCH BETTER than the dented, painted, not beautiful piece of tin on the right.

Fortunately, I know a guy who likes to restore cast iron. He lives with me. I’m married to him. Also, this collection of cast iron is insane. But he loves it and we’ve made dedicated spots for it, and he’s great at restoring it. When we were discussion names for the blog, years ago when I started writing it, “Cast Iron and Chandeliers” was a contender. HA. And for the record, I didn’t stage this shot for this blog post. At some point during the pandemic, I decided I hated where everything was in the kitchen and emptied EVERYTHING out, and it was ridiculous and needed to be documented.

When Doug restores cast iron, he uses electrolysis. He has an electrolysis tank set up in the basement. The Amy definition of how it works is “It’s just science and a bit of witchcraft.” Doug’s I-know-you-don’t-really-want-all-the-details explanation to me is “You use electricity and water to separate the rust from the iron. The electricity pulls the rust off the piece, and it attaches to another piece of metal that you’ve put in the tank.”

Want the super science how-to explanation? It really is pretty fascinating. Check it out here!

I’ve had Doug use the tank on pieces before – he used them to get the paint off the clawfoot feet for the first floor bathroom. So I asked if we could use it again for this grate.

Here’s the before.

Into the tank it goes! So glamorous.

When it comes out, it’s always covered in black – I call it soot, but it’s the process of turning the rust into ferrous oxide.


Out of the tank! You can see how black that stuff is – look at the splotch that landed on the wood – it looks like black ink.

Next, you scrub it down! And get all the black stuff off.

You also can find some great markings along the way!


Patented Aug. 3, 1886.

All Clean!

The details look SO GOOD now!

After this? You bake it! Doug treated this like a regular cast iron pan, down to the Crisco. He took all the pieces apart, and put it in the oven, first at 200 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. This takes all the moisture out.

After this, he wiped on Crisco with one cloth, and used a clean cloth to get as much off as you can. You want it to be as dry and thin of a layer as possible. The oil acts as a finisher – without it, the piece will begin to rust once it’s exposed to the moisture in the air. So, it’s a bit like staining and sealing a bar piece of wood.

After the Crisco is wiped on and off, you put it in the oven at 300 degrees for 15 minutes, and take it out, and wipe it again with the clean cloth. Lastly, you bake it at 400 degrees for an hour. Once the hour is up, turn off the oven, and let it cool inside the oven.

The finished piece. It’s just beautiful.

The Details!

It’s astounding to me how boring modern grates are, when they could look like this. Maybe I’m weird because I want artwork on my floor, but here we are.

Before :



The massive air return in the Entry Hall also got a makeover when the floors were redone!

I will not lie, this was nerve-wracking, but the guys at Virtuoso Hardwood knocked it out again. This piece seems so fragile to me, so I was worried!

But it turned out great!

Someone long ago made the unfortunate choice to cut INTO THE INLAY to add two grates in the Entrance Hall. Since these were small grates, I had to order new for here – antique ones don’t like to be this size. I ordered Antique Brass, to play off the gold-faux finished piece that’s on the other side of the room. The bottom is what was here before. I found the grates at House of Antique Hardware. 

Okay – here’s a little tour of the grates on the first floor! They’re mismatched, but that’s okay.

Dining Room :

Entry Hall :

Entry Hall (2) and Dining Room (1) :

Parlor :

Library (this one needs some work, still!) :

Study :

Air Returns in the Parlor, Library, Study, and Dining Room (4).

Yay Science!!!


  1. How lucky you are to have such a talented husband ! The grates are just beautiful.

    Can you do me a small favor and ask him if you can weld cast iron ? I have a garden bench that the legs snapped in half .

  2. I appreciate your eye for detail — and your husband’s cast iron knowledge! I have a collection of cast iron pieces, too, and I cook with all of them. You did a good job describing the restoration process, and those before and after photos of the furnace grate were spectacular. I need to refinish a cast iron trivet, and now I know exactly how I’m going to do it (as soon as I figure out how to do the electrolysis wizardry).

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