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Opening a bricked off fireplace

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by jtoney19, Nov 5, 2013.

  1. jtoney19

    jtoney19 New Member

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    Hey! First post ever in any forum. Let's see how this goes... I recently purchased a huge plantation home (built circa 1840) with a dual-parlor layout. each parlor on the main level has a fireplace. The chimneys of course extends upward through the roof. The one fireplace has a woodburning insert that i would like to remove. The other fireplace has been bricked off. the original mantel and outline of the fireplace is still intact, its almost like it was enclosed from the inside. I would like to open this fireplace up as well. Moving up to the second level, Directly above the bricked off fireplace on level one, is an open fireplace attached to the same chimney as the fireplace below it. Directly above the fireplace with the woodburning insert, is another bricked-off fireplace. Same concept as the one on the first level. Original mantel and fireplace outline exist, but its almost like it was bricked off from the inside. My goal is to bring this house back to its original glory. i feel having all the original fireplaces operating will add value to the home. HELP ME PLEASE!

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  2. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Got any pics? It sounds like a fantastic place.

    On having one fireplace above another, it was very common at one time to have both fireplaces connected into the same flue, somewhere above the second floor. This causes many problems with one fireplace becoming the primary air inlet (back-drafting smoke) while the other is being used, particularly if your house has been tightened up any with new doors and windows, or if you run a dryer, range hood, radon fan, etc. It's not considered safe today, nor permitted in new construction, although I've owned a few houses with this configuration. Most owners of houses configured in this way find that they must fire both fireplaces, or neither, but never one at a time. There are many concerns with one drawing flue gasses into the house, when one goes out before the other.

    I also recently moved into a house with a stove installed in one of the fireplaces (the one shown in my avatar), and like you, my first thought was removal. I grew up in a house with three open fireplaces, and really enjoyed the ambiance of an open fireplace. However, since it was here, my wife convinced me to give it a try. I was amazed with how well that single stove heated half of this very large house, and by the fact that it did not make all of the other rooms in the house nearly as cold, drawing massive amounts of make-up air, the way any fireplace will do. In fact, I was so impressed that I ended up installing a second stove in one of the other fireplaces at the other end of the house, and now heat the entire joint with wood. It's something to consider.
  3. My Oslo heats my home

    My Oslo heats my home Minister of Fire

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    I like the idea of having everything come back to what it looked like and did in it's time, however the building codes have changed over the last few centuries. 2nd floor fireplaces, not so sure thats a legal thing anymore. And as Joful said, the downdraft issues of 2 flues in the same stack will cause issues with each other. You see this alot in the older row houses in England, where all the chimney flues come up together in one location. Flue liners would be in order and I would think questioning the ability to burn upstairs being legal at all.
  4. BobUrban

    BobUrban Minister of Fire

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    How large is the chimney(inside) may be room enough to run dually liners. No idea if that is legal or a good thing but it seems like it would be the way to go if you put stoves or inserts into the openings.

    Not exactly back to original but close and would be safer and way more efficient.
  5. jtoney19

    jtoney19 New Member

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    Im not sure of the legality of a second floor fireplace, but one thing I do know is that the home is on the national register of historic places. Any reno has be done according to original specs. And im a bit hesitant to do any rerouting of chimneys or vents because in a house of this age it is almost sure to open up a can of worms. are inserts an option for second story fireplaces? Ideally id like to heat my home primarily by the fireplaces. Theres 6 fireplaces in total, only 2 are blocked.
  6. My Oslo heats my home

    My Oslo heats my home Minister of Fire

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    Inserts are an option for any fireplace, stove or insert. But, the age of your home may be more of an issue than those things. Your chinmeys may not be lined with clay liners, the shape of the brick may be in question...a can of worms may be in there. The 2nd floor fireplaces will be an insurance companies, fire dept and building inspectors concern. The ins co probably would not honor the HO policy.
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    You might looks at the stats for heating a home like this. Back in 1840 the objective was to clear more land so burning a small forest every winter was not unusual. First you need to find out first why the fireplaces were blocked. If the chimneys are unlined and the mortar crumbling then you should not consider using them again without significant repair or replacement. If you are constrained by historical registry requirements from doing practical updates like a stainless liner then they maybe better off remaining blocked off or start a public funding program for replacing. This will be costly.
  8. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I've dealt with the national register issues before, my family having owned several houses on the national register. I also grew up in houses 'heated' by open fireplaces, and had initially planned to do the same in my current ca.1773 house. However, heating via fireplace is not so easy:

    1. A fireplace requires a good functional chimney, and while your house is not actually very old, we can be almost 100% certain yours are not in suitable shape. The porridge that was applied to your chimneys in 1840 is almost certainly de-laminating, leaving mud-stacked stone exposed, which creates a very unsafe situation. You could have the flues re-lined (liquid pour), if that were your only problem.
    2. Fireplaces (even one fireplace) requires a massive amount of make-up air to operate. That make-up air must be drawn thru every gap in every window and door of your house. It will cause rooms far from the running fireplace to be VERY cold.
    3. Again, fireplaces require copious amounts of make-up air to operate. If you're running several at the same time, to keep all of this "massive" (how many square feet is that?) house warm, you better be prepared to keep that house as leaky as it was in 1840. Any tightening up of doors, windows, soffets, operating clothes dryers, range hood vents, radon systems, etc., will cause draft trouble, when running multiple fireplaces at once.
    4. Fireplaces consume a LOT of wood. I'm heating 6000 sq.ft. of old house with wood, and let me tell you, I can barely keep up with the felling, limbing, bucking, splitting, stacking, moving, and loading of firewood for two stoves. I have gone thru as much as a full cord in 8 days, in my very efficient catalytic stoves. With several fireplaces running, you can count on going thru at LEAST one cord per week, in the dead of winter. Someone here posted a statistic on the average household wood usage for heating in the 18th century, and it was somewhere close to 40 cords, if I recall. Keep in mind, most of those people were living in houses a fraction the size of yours.

    If you're a farmer, with nothing to do but process and load wood all winter, then you can certainly heat by fireplace. For the rest of us, there's a better alternative... wood stoves.

    You could consider inserts, and may find ways to install them in your smaller bedroom fireplaces, without messing with the fireplace at all. From there, you have a simple 6" stainless tube running up the chimney. Likewise, for your larger cooking fireplaces (photos, please!), you can do what I did: http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/old-fireplace.88498/

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