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Old fireplace

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Joful, Jul 29, 2012.

  1. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    So, for the few who may have been following my gas insert removal / wood in chimney / new stove in old fireplace saga... the brick is out!

    Before:

    P4110015.JPG P6200080.JPG

    P6200081.JPG P6200067.JPG

    After:

    P7290002.JPG P7290010.JPG

    P7290017.JPG P7290016.JPG

    Not sure what those wooden boxes are hiding behind the mantel high on either side, but one historian suggested they were for hiding keepsakes. I had an aunt who lived in a farmhouse in my family since 1692 (yes... 1692) once tell me they were for storing your overalls overnight, so they'd be toasty in the morning. I suspect they were more for food prep than either of the other two reasons, but who knows?

    Next decision... what to do about the floor:

    P7290019.JPG

    If I do a raised hearth extension, the floor can stay. If I can fid a way to do a flush hearth extension, I'll pull that brick, and get down to the original stone hearth, which is likely flush with my wood floor.

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  2. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    What a cavernous fireplace, good luck on the transition. I have to ask, in the fourth picture, just over the bricks, is that exposed timber or flat ledge rock? It looks deceiving, but looks like wood. What is the rest of the chimney made of going up?

    I knew a family in the town across the river from me with an early 1700's fireplace. It had a secret compartment for hiding items in the panel work, but I was never able to find it. It was master craftsmanship.

    I wonder if the boxes were for baking bread.
  3. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    That's actually the smaller of our two cooking fireplaces! This one measures 56"W x 36"D x 60"H at the lintel. The one in the summer kitchen (now our family room) measures 62"W x 49"D x 52"H at the lintel.

    Yep, that's a wood timber, running front to back, just above the lintel timber. It's more than 6 feet above the floor, and should not pose a problem in terms of clearance to combustables, unless those clearance requirements are somehow increased due to being in an enclosed cavity above the stove. I think I need to consult with a stove manufacturer on this.
  4. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    I thought the lintel looked like a hand hewn beam. So being a cooking fireplace, I guess there was little concern for timbers in there? Are you looking to bring the new stove out from the fireplace a little?
  5. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Actually, hoping to keep it all tucked inside. There's a thimble above the mantel, and I plan to install a fan in the thimble and a block-off plate above. That will do nicely circulating air.

    We have a similar setup with a Jotul Firelight in the larger fireplace at the other end of the house:

    P4040040.JPG

    Nice thing is that I can just throw all the tools and gear into the fireplace and close the doors for summer, or any time we need the stove to "go away".
    ScotO and Billybonfire like this.
  6. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    Sounds good. You'll sure have plenty of room to work in there.
  7. Shadow&Flame

    Shadow&Flame Minister of Fire

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    You just have to love that old world style...
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  8. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    I love those old cooking hearths, I am a colonial home conniseur. What year was your home built, Joful? There is an inn in a neighboring town (Bedford, PA) that started out as a fort during the French and Indian War, then was modified and built into an inn in the late 1760's. Amazing hearths inside that place, you can stand up in them! We go there in the fall and again in the middle of winter for dinner, it is a fantastic restaurant now (Jean Bonnet Tavern), they still build fires in them hearths during the winter months. http://www.jeanbonnettavern.com/

    What are you installing, a modern ZC fireplace or a woodstove?
    Billybonfire likes this.
  9. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Almost forgot the most important photo... the bricks! There were just over 400, all of which had to be carried outside, around the side porch, and down a flight of stairs to the rear stoop. Not any huge feat, but between the removal work and moving all the bricks, I'm tired tonight.

    Here's a photo of the last 200 bricks, after I had already carted half of them off to my wood stacking area. At least I know the structure can support the weight of any wood stove.

    P7290007.JPG
    ScotO likes this.
  10. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, Scotty! It seems construction on this house (and the other buildings on this property) was started in 1773, but possibly not finished until 1779. Maybe they were furloughed by the war. I also grew up in and around old houses, a bit of personal self-torture for any homeowner.

    I aim to install a free-standing cat stove, and am waiting for either the new cast BK stove to hit the market, or a nice used Jotul F12 to land in my lap. If neither of those things happen by September, I'll likely buy one of the new VC 2-in-1's, as the best (read: "only") alternative. Having a second F12 would be nice, since I could then swap parts between my two F12's when things break, and we would only need to learn the behavior of one stove model.

    On our last trip to western PA, we had made plans to go to the Jean Bonnet Tavern, but didn't make it. We did stay in Joseph John's house, though... founder of Johnstown. It's still a working farm, and the folks who run it keep a bed and breakfast on the side.
    ScotO likes this.
  11. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    What is behind the remaining mortar surface in the fireplace? Is it wood and lath? If so, that will determine clearance to combustibles now. This is no longer a fireplace, it's more of an alcove. A whole brick veneer would have helped reduce this by 1/3. However, I suspect the new BK will have close clearances with the cast iron jacket, so hopefully this is not an issue.

    If the BK passes clearance requirements, I would expect it will have a blower. Seems like that would be more effective.
  12. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    That's plaster directly on stone. The back wall of the fireplace is the exterior wall of the house, and the two side walls are stone and/or brick all the way thru. So, we should be good to go there!

    Looks like BK won't be releasing their new stove until March. Unless a Jotul 12 appears real soon, I'll be ordering a VC Encore or Defiant. If the VC works, I'll probably just keep it, although I could always swap out for the BK Ashford next summer if I decide I have to have it.

    I came up with a great solution (I think) for air circulation! In my other fireplace install, a lot of heat is trapped in the upper part of the fireplace (smoke chamber), below the block-off plate. In this case, I have a flue thimble above the mantel, about 8 feet above the floor. I think I'll install my block-off plate just above that, and then put a small duct fan in that thimble hole to blow air out of the fireplace into the room. That will pull cold air into the fireplace opening, and push it out above. Seems better for dust control than blowing air right off the bottom of the stove, the way some factory blowers do.

    edit: Come to think of it, maybe I could reverse it, so the warm air comes out of the fireplace opening, instead of up high.
    ScotO likes this.
  13. clemsonfor

    clemsonfor Minister of Fire

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    Bedford is that town that Bronson Pinchot (Balkie from perfect strangers) has all the houses and properties in right, and is where the setting of his show on DIY channel takes place, the "Bronson Pinchot project".
  14. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    No, the town you are thinking of is Harford, PA. That's up north in Susquehanna County.
  15. clemsonfor

    clemsonfor Minister of Fire

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    Right that sounds familiar. I like the guys properties. The wife and i love the show, although he is a little strange in his tastes. he also must like redoing work as well. With the winters that you receive up there his exteriors will need to be rehabed quick i think. He put old wood on one house as sideing . He did not fill the nail holes nor paint the wood, to give it that "rustic" look. It may last longer than i think but seems kind of like a waste as it will wear 10x as fast that way.
  16. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Not necessarily, Clem. I tore a barn down on top of the mountain four years ago that was built in 1867. Around 80% of the original hemlock siding was still intact on the barn, that siding and the hand hewn pine beams were the main things that I wanted from the teardown. I cleaned that siding up and used it throughout my house (for covering posts and steel beams) and we absolutely love it. It spent over 140 years outside, in the weather, with no protection at all. That species of wood is very weather resilient.
  17. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    A lot of what Scotty observed is due to the way the trees were harvested, as mature old growth. Back then, they were harvesting trees with 12"+ heartwood, and would most often rip off the sapwood as waste. The heartwood of many species is extremely weather resistant, unlike anything you will find today, where we use almost nothing but sapwood from trees harvested too young. A modern day example is western red cedar, which was known to be extremely weather resistant by our parents and grandparents, but we can watch rot in 10 - 20 years today. It's all about heartwood vs. sapwood, when it comes to cedar, and many other species as well.

    There are a lot of old houses around here, and many (like mine) still have their original 200+ year old windows. They haven't rotten yet, while a house I lived in previously had 20 year old Anderson replacement windows, already rotting.
    ScotO likes this.
  18. clemsonfor

    clemsonfor Minister of Fire

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    Got ya on the heartwood and the rot resistance, was not thinking that?

    The "for" on the end of my name is cause im a forester.

    Southern pine is the same way but still will weather down over the years. My families victorian farmhouse is weathered prettg good and is not that old, no one has lived in it since the 70s though.
  19. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Interesting on the southern pine. Most of my houses have had what we refer to as "heart pine" floors, which are some sort of yellow pine. Increadibly hard old-growth stuff, with 20 - 25 growth rings per inch. Compare that to modern pine with 3 - 4 rings per inch, or even good modern doug fir with 5 - 6. You can see one such floor in the first photos above, and these two below.

    Back to the original thread, I pulled the wood threshold (2003 addition), so I could get a better look at what's going on, with regard to extending the hearth. The mess on the front edge of the brick is thinset from the tile surround they had installed for the gas insert. That front row of bricks was cut short, and used to extend into the notch you see on the bottom of the door frame. I drilled an inspection hole in the end of one plank, and measured the floor boards at a full 1" thickness.

    P7300002.JPG P7300005.JPG

    So, if I'm going to try to build a flush hearth, I first need to get those bricks out, clean all mortar off the original stone hearth floor (or just porridge it with plaster/cement/stucco), and then find a way to build a new hearth inside a 1" envelope. Only flush hearth solution I can imagine off the cuff is to cut out a section of flooring as necessary, put down some very thin backer (1/4" luan?), rebar and porridge the entire hearth floor and extension as one. Good news is that I do have two heavy beams (8" high x 11" wide) directly below where the extension needs to go.

    den_fireplace.JPG
    (click image for full size)
  20. clemsonfor

    clemsonfor Minister of Fire

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    Those floor boards are southern yellow pine or "heart pine". You can still get it but there is not a real place that saws the stuff anymore or sells it but super small mills. As a Gov forester i cut and sell plenty of stuff that would make "heart pine". MOst goes for plywood or dimensional lumber. Pollard lumber Co here local is a small family sawmill that supplies lowes here in the area. He is one of the top 5 biggest landowners in GA. He has plenty of old growth he cuts on USFS land and his own. He gets plenty of rings per inch. I go to the lowes here in town so i can get his lumber as the lowes closer to my house gets wood from "super pulp" which is the 2x4 mills that saw the stuff with 3 rings/inch.

    Those old boards were always full inch sometimes 1.5"s thick. That stuff is worth close to $10Sq/ft if you had to buy it, which would only come from old savage beams these days.

    True resin soaked heart pine is super resistant to rot but a lot of heart pine is not super resin soaked and when outside will weather, still last more than modern wood but not as long as what some of you are describing.


    I use heart pine or lighter pine to start fires. I get sometime rounds that are 10"s in diameter of the heart. The stuff is so soaked in resin, when you cut fresh cuts on it with a chain saw it will "bleed" like a fresh cut tree will. This is trees that may have been dead on the ground 15-30 years sometimes.
  21. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Pine and siding aside, I think I need to find a few fireplace experts to give me some options on what to do, here. Remove the stucco and brickwork, and get down to bare stone, as was done with the fireplace at the other end of the house? Knock off the failing finish plaster, and porridge over the existing rough plaster? Raised hearth extension vs. flush, and what materials could be used for both? I can imagine a hundred variations, but don't really know the relative costs and/or merits.

    Anyone got a good idea on how to find a fireplace and plastering expert? I obviously didn't have good luck with the company hired to do my chimney inspection, and they're supposed to be one of the leading fireplace and masonry companies in the area.
  22. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Removed all the plaster from one of the side walls this evening. Too tired to take photos, but I will. Found more wood hiding behind the plaster, some less than 2 feet above the floor. Interesting.

    Found some cut nails, as well as trunnels ("tree nails"), in mortar joints and various wood components. I'll have to pull out Henry Mercer's treatise on nails ("The dating of old houses"), and see if I can put a date to any of the nails.

    Since the plaster was not fully adhered to the stone, we knew we would have to remove much of it prior to repair. I decided to see if I could have any success removing it 100%, and going to bare stone in this fireplace. With one wall stripped bare, I think that will not be any problem.

    Pointing beneath the plaster is original. I have a few things to learn, before attempting to repair it.
  23. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Finally got all the plaster stripped. Needs pointing next, but had to get the plaster out before block-off plate installation later this week. Found an interesting mix of mortars and plasters, likely a mix of original construction and repairs over the last 240 years. Found a bit of horse-hair plaster, as well as mortar containing twigs, and grass. Even found a stash of acorns between two stones behind one mortar joint.

    Also found the one large "pocket" or "thimble" high on the left side wall is actually a flue coming in from the basement. It comes up from the basement thru the left side wall, and joins with this flue about 8 feet above the firebox floor. Gives some creedance to the previous owner's theory that our basement was once a kitchen, perhaps predating the rest of the house.

    Yes, that is a typical 54" full sized shovel.

    P9290037.JPG P9290038.JPG
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  24. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    New 6" insulated liners are installed on both fireplaces, as of this weekend. Only trouble was, they had to move the two large slabs of flagstone on that big chimney above the metal roof up by one course of brick to get proper draft clearance for the liner. I was worried about it coming off during the storm today/tomorrow, or in some future storm, so they pulled the flagstones off and set a temporary stainless cap. We're debating the best way to reinstall the stones. My money is on all-thread thru the flag stone and into the stonework below.
  25. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    It was quite common to use a big timber for the lintel back then, especially if they couldn't find a big stone slab to cut... Often they would plaster over the back of it with lime mortar to protect the wood from the fire.


    Nice fireplace there Joful!

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