Options for Bricked Over Fireplace

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Jadefox

New Member
Dec 11, 2021
10
04841
3birdfarm.com
The front parlor in our c. 1850 home shares a wall with the living room. The living room has a wood fireplace we use extensively, and there is a bricked over fireplace directly opposite it in the parlor (pictured below behind my wife).
258177584_10157991695421249_649083404085642711_n.jpg


The bricked over parlor fireplace has a thimble installed, and we heard that previous owners had a wood burning stove there (there is an old parlor stove in the barn, which we were told was original, but I'm not so sure about that. The living room fireplace and the parlor fireplace share the same chimney (one of two chimneys in the house). When we moved in, the chimney was also used to vent the oil boiler, but we have subsequently decommissioned that boiler.

My question is what are our options for the parlor fireplace? We're not loving the brick wall with old thimble aesthetic...lol. I'm assuming it's too "shallow" to use as a standard fireplace, since there is less than a foot between the back of the living room fireplace and the front face of the parlor bricked over fireplace (see below).

262271773_435663561269847_5072552741277478836_n.jpg


There is also no evidence of a hearth in the parlor, so presumably it wasn't ever a fireplace? I'm assuming I don't have enough space to install a fireplace insert, but that's the look I think we would like. I'd prefer not to lose the room space a big old free-standing wood-burning stove would take up. Thoughts?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
92,752
South Puget Sound, WA
Given the depth, there may never have been a fireplace on the parlor side. It might be a second flue into which a stove was hooked up. Or, it may be a flue that taps into the fireplace flue higher up, which would be illegal today. The best thing to do to start is to figure this out. If it's just the flue then the options are to leave it as is, close off the thimble, or install a small, shallow-bodied stove.
 

Jadefox

New Member
Dec 11, 2021
10
04841
3birdfarm.com
Given the depth, there may never have been a fireplace on the parlor side. It might be a second flue into which a stove was hooked up. Or, it may be a flue that taps into the fireplace flue higher up, which would be illegal today. The best thing to do to start is to figure this out. If it's just the flue then the options are to leave it as is, close off the thimble, or install a small, shallow-bodied stove.
Thanks for the quick response. I don't think I'm using the proper terminology here, but when we bought the house, the inspector scoped both the living room's fireplace liner and the liner to which this thimble was attached, and both were "good to go." At the time, we could not use this thimble, however, because the oil boiler was also using this chimney. Not that we've decommissioned the oil boiler, we'd like to address this thimble/fireplace as part of the room renovation.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
92,752
South Puget Sound, WA
You can see more than we can. I wasn't sure if there ever was a fireplace in the parlor. If there was and it's very shallow it could have been a coal fireplace or maybe a Rumsford?
 
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Jadefox

New Member
Dec 11, 2021
10
04841
3birdfarm.com
You can see more than we can. I wasn't sure if there ever was a fireplace in the parlor. If there was and it's very shallow it could have been a coal fireplace or maybe a Rumsford?
I'm guessing there never was a fireplace in the parlor because I think the floorboards may be original, and there is no evidence of a hearth. I'm just reading about Rumford fireplaces for the first time--thank you for that. The thimble is 8" in diameter and about 21" off the ground and offset to the side as you can see in the picture.

262062050_1254054705076606_754613994493382119_n.jpg
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,148
central pa
Thanks for the quick response. I don't think I'm using the proper terminology here, but when we bought the house, the inspector scoped both the living room's fireplace liner and the liner to which this thimble was attached, and both were "good to go." At the time, we could not use this thimble, however, because the oil boiler was also using this chimney. Not that we've decommissioned the oil boiler, we'd like to address this thimble/fireplace as part of the room renovation.
If there are liners in the fireplace and to that thimble they are not original to an 1850s home. It is possible there were coal burning fireplaces back to back in that location which were rebuilt to their current form with liners at some point. Or that the whole thing was added. There is no way for us to know
 

Jadefox

New Member
Dec 11, 2021
10
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3birdfarm.com
If there are liners in the fireplace and to that thimble they are not original to an 1850s home. It is possible there were coal burning fireplaces back to back in that location which were rebuilt to their current form with liners at some point. Of that the whole thing was added. There is no way for us to know
Yes. Sorry I did not acknowledge that. The liners were certainly added, and they spent a lot of money on the one for the living room fireplace. The living room fireplace appears to have been rebuilt at some point given the condition of the facing bricks. The chimney is obviously original, and it does have an ash bin in the basement. Two shallow coal burning fireplaces makes a lot of sense to me. I wonder if a shallow cast iron insert could work on the parlor side. ...maybe even gas, but I realize this is the wood-burning forum.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,148
central pa
Yes. Sorry I did not acknowledge that. The liners were certainly added, and they spent a lot of money on the one for the living room fireplace. The living room fireplace appears to have been rebuilt at some point given the condition of the facing bricks. The chimney is obviously original, and it does have an ash bin in the basement. Two shallow coal burning fireplaces makes a lot of sense to me. I wonder if a shallow cast iron insert could work on the parlor side. ...maybe even gas, but I realize this is the wood-burning forum.
A shallow gas insert meant to look like a coal fireplace may work. Valor makes some. But the only way to know is to tear into it
 
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Jadefox

New Member
Dec 11, 2021
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3birdfarm.com
A shallow gas insert meant to look like a coal fireplace may work. Valor makes some. But the only way to know is to tear into it
Thanks! Someone also recommended Victorian Fireplace Shop in Virginia to us as well.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
92,752
South Puget Sound, WA
Yes, a Valor Portrait gas insert would be an appropriate period look.
 

Jadefox

New Member
Dec 11, 2021
10
04841
3birdfarm.com
Yes, a Valor Portrait gas insert would be an appropriate period look.
Some of those look great. It looks like we're talking as little as 9" depth requirement.
 

Jadefox

New Member
Dec 11, 2021
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3birdfarm.com
I went to down to investigate from beneath, and it's clear to see the hearth on the fireplace side. No hearth or evidence of one on the parlor side.

20211213_133656.jpg
 

Jadefox

New Member
Dec 11, 2021
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3birdfarm.com
There is a small Vestal Craft door on the side of the chimney (pictured below). I believe Vestal dates back to mid 1940s, so clearly some work was done sometime in the 20th century.

20211213_133916.jpg

In the above picture, the living room is to the left (over the old boiler) and the parlor is to the right. You can see where the old boiler taps into the chimney. If you open the door and look up, the flue to exhaust the boiler is visible in this chamber.
20211213_133956.jpg
 

Jadefox

New Member
Dec 11, 2021
10
04841
3birdfarm.com
On the parlor side of the chimney, there appear to be two openings at ground level. The larger one on the right is the ash clean out from the living room fireplace. You can see there is no evidence that a hearth was ever present on this side (parlor side).
20211213_133805.jpg
 

N.E.K. - D.D.S.

New Member
Jan 10, 2022
94
Northeastern Vermont
I am not a professional, but I also have a house, half of which is from 1850, and the three brick fireplaces on that side look a lot like yours.

So you are able to see / determine that there are TWO stainless steel liners in that one large fireplace, right?

Is the open wood fireplace working well on an undersized steel liner? I have a situation like that (when I bought this house) and it doesn't work at all. Smokes the whole house. Or is yours maybe an insert and not an open fireplace?? Then it would work well on the smaller round liner. The pictures from your original post are not up anymore.

As for the parlor side, I would much rather have a little wood stove. But if your priority is ambiance rather than function... or if you want to have an easy/convenient gas option (since you have wood on other side), then that is understandable.

Did you ever end up getting anything in the space?

That looks like a cool lifestyle you have at Three Bird Farm.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,148
central pa
I am not a professional, but I also have a house, half of which is from 1850, and the three brick fireplaces on that side look a lot like yours.

So you are able to see / determine that there are TWO stainless steel liners in that one large fireplace, right?

Is the open wood fireplace working well on an undersized steel liner? I have a situation like that (when I bought this house) and it doesn't work at all. Smokes the whole house. Or is yours maybe an insert and not an open fireplace?? Then it would work well on the smaller round liner. The pictures from your original post are not up anymore.

As for the parlor side, I would much rather have a little wood stove. But if your priority is ambiance rather than function... or if you want to have an easy/convenient gas option (since you have wood on other side), then that is understandable.

Did you ever end up getting anything in the space?

That looks like a cool lifestyle you have at Three Bird Farm.
A stainless liner isn't nessecarily going to be undersized. They make big ones as well. 10" and 12" are pretty standard but we can get up to 2' made
 

N.E.K. - D.D.S.

New Member
Jan 10, 2022
94
Northeastern Vermont
What I meant was that the liner is certainly significantly smaller than the cross sectional area of the original masonry chimney which was designed for that open fireplace (especially if they have two side by side liners). I should be more accurate with terminology and not assume that it is 'undersized'.

I was curious as to whether they had an open fireplace that still functioned well with this liner.... because I have a similar chimney (and similar age house) but my liner is clearly undersized (seems to be 8") for the original application and did not allow the open fireplace to draft at all.

I have four fireplaces here, and I am still debating the idea of keeping one of them for an open fire, or if it will be all wood stoves.

Of course if they have an insert, it is a different story, as you know. Sorry, the original photos are deleted or not loading on the thread, and I can not see what kind of fireplace it is.
 
Last edited:

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,148
central pa
What I meant was that the liner is certainly significantly smaller than the cross sectional area of the original masonry chimney which was designed for that open fireplace (especially if they have two side by side liners). I should be more accurate with terminology and not assume that it is 'undersized'.
That certainly is true. But honestly most old fireplaces have drastically oversized flues and they can be made to work much better by downsizing a bit. Clearly not down to 8" that's not going to work