Burning down the house

…or in this case, trying not to burn down the house.

Nick and I love having a wood-burning fireplace in our house, but we’ve used it sparingly ever since we moved in and had the chimney inspected. Back then, we had the fireplace inspected, cleaned and a new cap and damper installed; however, the chimney company said the fireplace – which is original to our 1920s home – needed additional (aka costly) work to make it safer and healthier for our family. 


One problem is that our fireplace predates heat resistant firebricks, and some of the original bricks have started to crack over the last 90 years (which you can see below). Thankfully the fireplace is very well built with several layers of bricks (we were told newer fireplaces often only have one layer of brick) so a major tear down wasn’t necessary.


The biggest problem was that the company’s chimney cam showed that the original tile lining was heavily cracked and the mortar between the joints had crumbled and deteriorated over time; this was allowing smoke to seep into our walls and bedroom, which is directly above the fireplace. Nick, who has a nose like a beagle, already knew this was an issue. Also, on damp days we could often smell a wet-smoky odor coming from the fireplace.

The best fix was to have our chimney re-lined, and after getting estimates from several chimney companies,  a few weeks ago a crew came to our house and got to work. The process required for them to chip away all of the old terracotta tiles that lined the chimney, which they did from the roof, and then insert a rigid stainless steel pipe into the opening.  They taped off the fireplace inside of the house and this large machine helped trap dust.


Once the stainless steel pipe was in place they carried buckets and buckets of pour-in insulation up to the roof, which they then poured down the chimney to fill in all the cracks and voids around the new pipe.


While most of the crew was braving the cold temperatures on our steep roof outside, one person spent a few hours inside the house parging the smoke chamber and also re-mortared the largest of the cracks in the firebox. All in all the whole project took the crew about six hours.


While we waited a few days for the pour-in insulation to dry, this pile of wood showed up in our driveway. We’d been buying small wood bundles from Home-Depot, but since we plan to use the fireplace more frequently in the future it made more sense to buy a 1/2 cord of chopped, dried wood. 


Thankfully, we have an unused space directly behind our parking pad and only about 15 feet from our front door to store the wood, so it’s close to the house but far enough away to avoid any issues.


Since then, we’ve been enjoying fires almost every week, and so far we’ve had zero issues with smelling smoke or dampness.


Nick and I are really glad we had the work done and are looking forward to more warm, cozy evenings in front of a fire.

Of course, now that the chimney’s safety issues have been resolved, I have a few other fireplace projects in mind for later this year!


2 thoughts on “Burning down the house

  1. Pingback: A Fireplace Redo | Isn't It Sweet

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