February 14, 2011

Levittown NY ranch houses sprung leaks after 40 years

By Marilyn Monsrud Frese '63

I lived in the model #4 Levitt ranch shown in yesterday's blog post, the one with the pointy roof. It had a pretty good size kitchen just inside the front door compared to most Levitt Cape Cod houses. This ranch also had the stairs that started at a back door not at the front door while many or all Capes had side doors as a second entrance, not the back door that ranches have.

As you may remember, the ranches had a fireplace between the kitchen and the living room. That was a wonderful thing to have in the winter. And all the houses had radiant heating in the floors! You could walk around the house barefoot and your feet were always warm. Dogs loved them too. They would always find the warmest spots.

It wasn't until the Levitt ranches hit about 40-years old that those radiant-heat coils started spouting leaks. You couldn't tell where the leaks were starting. Sometimes they would remove tiles and cement and have to dig around until they found the leak in the buried pipe. For a while many homeowners just had them fixed and patched the floors, but then multiple leaks would start up so a change to baseboard heating were made to almost all Levitts.

Also, most oil burners have been moved to garages and the tanks buried in the lawns had to be filled with cement and above ground tanks moved to the sides of the houses or into the garages. If an old buried oil tank sprung a leak, the homeowner was responsible for an 'oil spill inspection' and the removal of all effected soil, which many times would have leaked underground into neighbors' soil too. That inspection and cleanup was very expensive so people started filling their tanks with cement to prevent that from happening. And this all had to be done and documented by inspectors.

I still live in a Levittown ranch, have for about 60 years. Overall, Levitt and Sons did a spectacular job of creating and building our community, a few leaks aside.


Anonymous said...

From Cliff Fromm, class of 1960

Thank you for your write up in Frank's blog about the Levitt house. My sister and I grew up in the same model and enjoyed the warmth and comfort of the heated floors. We moved there in November of 1949. Our dad was working on the attic one day and slipped so his feet came through the unfinished floor and through the ceiling in the living room. Fortunately he wasn't hurt and everything was fixed. We also enjoyed many cozy fires in the fireplace between the kitchen and living room. I miss those days and even more I miss my parents. They're the ones who brought us there. Our street, Woodcock Lane, was bustling with kids that eventually went on to Division Avenue H.S.

Marilyn Monsrud Frese said...

LOL! My dad put his foot through the seiling too! I remember it hanging right into the living room where we were playing! I still remember it swinging and hearing him cursing upstaire! We thought it was a GREAT trick!!!

Marilyn Monsrud Frese said...

I DO know how to spell CEILING...guess I should learn to proof read!

Anonymous said...

From Barbara Taylor Wittenberg '60

With regards to the leaks in the radiant heated floors:
The problem was the result of Steel staples that were used to hold the 1/2 copper piping in the slab floor form. A chemical reaction between the 2 metals took 40 years, and then all hell broke loose, and the pinhole leak would spray hot water up under the tiles. Meenan Oil developed a meter to track the lines and find the leaks, like a Geiger counter. What a mess.

A great memory in our Cape Cod home was coming down the stairs in the early winter mornings, and stepping on to the radiant floor at the base of the stairs. We had to also step over the dog and cat, who took possession of that spot from November to April to keep nice and cozy.

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