Then, however impervious to wet the walls, etc., may be, signs of dampness will be noticed wherever there is a humid atmosphere, and similar evils will result as if wet had penetrated from the exterior. Organic matter coming into contact with plaster, and even the exhalations from human beings and animals, will in time produce similar effects. Hence stables, water closets, and rooms which are frequently crowded with people, unless always properly ventilated, will show signs of dampness and deterioration of the plaster work; wall paper will become detached from the walls, paint will blister and peel off, and distemper will lose its virtue. To avoid similar mishaps, sea sand, or sand containing salt, should never be used either for plaster or mortar. In fact, it is necessary that the materials for mortar should be as free from salts and organic matter as those used for plaster, because the injurious effects of their presence will be quickly communicated to the latter.
Unfortunately, it is not alone by taking precaution against the possibility of having a damp house that we necessarily insure a "sweet home." The watchful care of the architect is required from the cutting of the first sod until the finishing touches are put on the house. He must assure himself that all is done, and nothing left undone which is likely to cause a nuisance, or worse still, jeopardize the health of the occupiers. Yet, with all his care and the employment of the best materials and apparatus at his command, complete success seems scarcely possible of attainment. We have all much to learn, many things must be accomplished and difficulties overcome, ere we can "rest and be thankful."
It is impossible for the architect to attempt to solve all the problems which surround this question. He must in many cases employ such materials and such apparatus as can be obtained; nevertheless, it is his duty carefully to test the value of such materials and apparatus as may be obtainable, and by his experience and scientific knowledge to determine which are best to be used under varying circumstances.
But to pass on to other matters which mar the sweetness of home. With many, I hold that the method usually employed for warming our dwellings is wasteful, dirty, and often injurious to health. The open fire, although cheerful in appearance, is justly condemned. It is wasteful, because so small a percentage of the value of the fuel employed is utilized. It is dirty, because of the dust and soot which result therefrom. It is unhealthy, because of the cold draughts which in its simplest form are produced, and the stifling atmosphere which pervades the house when the products of imperfect combustion insist, as they often do, in not ascending the flues constructed for the express purpose of carrying them off; and even when they take the desired course, they blacken and poison the external atmosphere with their presence. Some of the grates known as ventilating grates dispose of one of the evils of the ordinary open fire, by reducing the amount of cold draught caused by the rush of air up the flues. This is effected, as you probably know, by admitting air direct from the outside of the house to the back of the grate, where it is warmed, and then flows into the rooms to supply the place of that which is drawn up the chimneys.
Provided such grates act properly and are well put together, so that there is no possibility of smoke being drawn into the fresh air channels, and that the air to be warmed is drawn from a pure source, they may be used with much advantage; although by them we must not suppose perfection has been attained. The utilization of a far greater percentage of heat and the consumption of all smoke must be aimed at. It is a question if such can be accomplished by means of an open fire, and it is a difficult matter to devise a method suited in every respect to the warming of our dwellings, which at the same time is equally cheering in appearance. So long as we are obliged to employ coal in its crude form for heating purposes, and are content with the waste and dirt of the open fire, we must be thankful for the cheer it gives in many a home where there are well constructed grates and flues, and make the best use we can of the undoubted ventilating power it possesses.
A constant change of air in every part of our dwellings is absolutely necessary that we may have a "sweet home," and the open fireplace with its flue materially helps to that end; but unless in every other respect the house is in a good sanitary condition, the open fire only adds to the danger of residing in such a house, because it draws the impure air from other parts into our living rooms, where it is respired. Closed stoves are useful in some places, such as entrance halls. They are more economical than the open fireplaces; but with them there is danger of the atmosphere, or rather, the minute particles of organic matter always floating in the air, becoming burnt and so charging the atmosphere with carbonic acid. The recently introduced slow-combustion stoves obviate this evil.
It is possible to warm our houses without having separate fireplaces in each room, viz., by heated air, hot water, or steam; but there are many difficulties and some dangers in connection therewith which I can scarcely hope to see entirely overcome. In America steam has been employed with some success, and there is this advantage in its use, that it can be conveyed a considerable distance. It is therefore possible to have the furnace and boilers for its production quite away from the dwelling houses and to heat several dwellings from one source, while at the same time it can be employed for cooking purposes. In steam, then, we have a useful agent, which might with advantage be more generally employed; but when either it or hot water be used for heating purposes, special and adequate means of ventilation must be employed. Gas stoves are made in many forms, and in a few cases can be employed with advantage; but I believe they are more expensive than a coal fire, and it is most difficult to prevent the products of combustion finding their way into the dwellings. Gas is a useful agent in the kitchen for cooking purposes, but I never remember entering a house where it was so employed without at once detecting the unpleasant smell resulting.