Flues and Winter Blues
In the dead of winter
The original cooking fireplace
Saturday, January 15, 2000
Ah, sweet memories of summer
Remember last summer when we were doing our initial walking tour of the grounds of our new old house?
Here's what the same location looks like in the dead of winter. Five months can make quite a difference...
We've done a lot, but we've got a long, LONG way to go. This is what the restored and gorgeous neighboring houses along main street look like. I keep telling myself that one day ours will finally be finished.
It's tough to renovate in the middle of the winter.
Coping with the flue
As friends and colleagues battle the viral flu that is epidemic in our area this winter, we are dealing with a different type of flue and the rebuilding of fireplaces.
The picture to the right was taken looking down from the second floor. The bricks were removed while the flue liners were being inserted. Very soon this area will be closed off and not see the light of day again.
In the basement is the original cooking kitchen fireplace. This rear chimney is only used now for the oil flue, and we're not looking to make this fireplace operational again. It's one of four fireplaces in the house.
This is what the rebuilt foyer fireplace looks like, with the fire pit enlarged and deepened. We're not quite sure what we're going to do with the hearth. We're considering slate, or we may retile with the spare original tile we found in the attic.
We managed to come up with another fireplace insert, thanks to a friend. This one will likely go in the library-end of the family room.
Naturally, all of this masonry work requires sand...lots of sand. Also brick...lots of brick.
What will eventually become our family room is now the brick/chimney materials staging area. This has created a 'trade conflict' since the framing team needs access to the walls to put in fireblocks, etc.
Outside, at the end of the at the end of the driveway are hundreds of bricks and six tons of sand -- the rest of the masonry material.
In the basement
As the stone masons continue to repoint the basement, the currently-idle framing crew is helping to install a sump pump and concrete slab in the dirt part of the cellar.
Here is part of the excavation. Yes, that's a 14 foot church pew in the bottom left corner of the picture. Know anyone who wants to buy it?
Yet another fireplace insert lurks in the basement, near the boiler and the remaining oil tank. We managed to get the other tank out the door - four guys and a two ton floor jack and two hours of work to move it 20 feet. Talk about HEAVY!!!
Since it's too cold to leave the opening to the outside open to haul dirt, the day's activities center around breaking up the dirt into mounds then hauling those out to the backyard after the stone masons leave at 3pm.
One of the really low (grade level) windows in the basement is slated to be raised 8", but not before we use it as a convenient opening for hauling out the dirt.
Once the dirt has been removed to 9", a small trench is dug around the perimeter for drainage of the 1/4 hp sump pump.
False starts and changed minds
The framers can't do any framing right now, but they were busy over the last week. Upstairs on the second floor, the last bit of framing has been finished, with the exception of some blocking and last minute tasks to be done in conjunction with the air conditioning and chimney work.
With all projects, there are false starts and changed minds.
That happened with the rear stairs. Initially, we planned a railing for the last four stairs, but Corby, my wife and partner in this project, wants to box the whole set and put a small pantry to the left of the stairs. So the four steps were trimmed back and made straight..
What is simple to do with lathe and plaster often becomes an engineering problem when working in drywall. A refabricated curved wall forms the back of the upstairs east bedroom's closet.
To compliment that wall, we decided to have similar curved walls around the chimney at the top of the stairs as well as just inside the master bedroom door.
As part of the last phase of framing work, most of the plumbing in the bathrooms of the former two upstairs apartments was removed. The personal belongings we've been storing in the kitchen had to be moved up to the rear bedroom.
Now we're ready to begin framing the first floor.
Dark, cold nights
The winter nights are really dark, cold and long. During the available daylight -- when it wasn't snowing -- we dug a trench adjacent to the east side of the foundation.
The former owner let several trees grow right up against the stone, and the roots went through the wall between the stones in several places. The trench allowed us to remove these trees. It takes a bit of machinery to dig a trench in a few hours. We employed a small rented front end loader. Now the foundation needs to be repointed to plug the holes.
We gambled with the weather - and lost. By the next morning, we had four inches of snow, with 10 more predicted over the next week.
The foundation wall to the old stable and garage contained a trash pit for the last 50 or so years, but now it's been dug out. The house in the background is not ours, but the house adjacent to our property.
We sorted the dirt from this excavation into two piles: good fill dirt and just plain trash. We may give the fill to local gardeners since much of it is actually ash removed from the fireplaces over the years. Or perhaps we'll spread it out on the backyard before we seed for the spring.
In the end...
We acquired one more item in preparation for a plumbing shutdown next week -- not pretty, but very practical.
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