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This Old Crack House

From log house to farmhouse. Farmhouse to townhouse. Townhouse to apartment house. Apartment house to crack house. Crack house to our house. Our house to our home.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another Day at Woods Auction

Since we go to this place so often I have decided to post a permanent link to their site under "Additional Links" to the right of this page!
We spent Sunday at the auction. We have been going to this place for almost 10 years and Elizabeth has been coming with us since she was a baby. Today she bought her first items, with her mommy's help of course. The owner told her to hold her card up until he says that she can put it down but her mommy and daddy know better! You would think that she would be interested in little girl stuff. Here is what she bought



and here is Deborah trying one out.



Two oak rockers. One is arts and crafts and the other is mission style. If you want to know what the difference is, it was $20.00! We don't know where we are going to put them but I'm sure it will be in front of a fireplace!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What a Difference a Day Makes

Here is that one smoke chamber now.



Why am I so Anal? I wouldn't have been this thorough except for the fact that some inspector dude is going to look up here and we actually will be burning wood in this fireplace. I learned a very good lesson today though. Don't wear a white T-shirt while doing this kind of work;

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More Chimney Lining Fun!

Two more chimneys got lined during the week. Deborah helped me get these things onto the roof through the access hatch and I got to steer them down their respective chimney(s) which is currently six and a half feet shorter than it needs to be and about 4 feet below the roof line. The idea being that I will build the remainder of the chimney around the liners versus adding to the chimney and not having liners that are long enough. The shorter liner with no insulation wrap went down without a hitch and dropped right into the smoke chamber where I could wrap some ceramic blanket around it and pull it back up into the throat of the flue and plug the remaining gaps with more ceramic blanket material. This plug then gets a couple of coats of refractory mortar to seal it properly. This chimney will get the vermiculite/Portland cement treatment which acts as an insulator and will re-enforce the structure of the chimney. No I don't have a cement mixer so all of this is done by hand and carried up a ladder in a bucket. Fortunately it doesn't weigh a whole lot so it is manageable.

The other liner was another story! This one had the ceramic blanket wrap and the armor mesh covering to protect it as it was lowered into the chimney. This particular chimney flue has a twist and a bend in it. Since the ceramic wrap adds another inch to the diameter of the liner I had to press the bottom end a bit to "ovalize" it so that it would go down the bend into the throat at the top of the smoke chamber. I had to compress about 2 feet of the liner before inserting it and as it was lowered it had to be lined up in the correct configuration so that when it hit the bend it would be properly aligned. Of course none of this mattered because we hit our first snag ten feet into the chimney. The good news was I hadn't plugged any of the holes that I had uncovered which had serviced wood burning stoves in the past.

After lowering the liner a mere ten feet it was stuck on a ledge of mortar that closed the opening at the twist point. The chimney is 12" X 12" at the top and most of the way down, but at this particular spot it narrowed to 12" X 9". Deborah held the flashlight as I whacked the end of a crow bar with a hammer through a 6" diameter hole in the side of the chimney. After about an hour I was still having trouble removing the mass of mortar that was causing the snag so I opened up the hole in the wall to this. This is in our second floor bathroom. (That's right, the one where the pipes freeze every year and mushrooms grow out of the ceiling!);



Now I could get a hand with a chisel and a hand with a hammer into this space and after a few whacks I had a box of this;



Deborah tugged as I pushed from the roof and the liner dropped another three feet before it got caught up again. At this point there was no turning back. I was unable to lift the liner back out so I twisted it and pushed. I'm sure if anyone was watching they would have laughed.at the strange man straddling his stump of a chimney hugging a large steel tube while twisting like a loon! It dropped another few feet and was ready to enter the 45 degree bend part where the opening narrowed to 12" X 8".

There is a large hole in the side of the chimney in the dining room. I uncovered it when repairing a bulge in the plaster. I can only guess that this was for a clean-out door.



I had to insert a 1" X 2" wood board into this opening and lay it on the bottom part of the flue so the liner wouldn't get stuck as I pushed and twisted the liner from the roof. Deborah stood on a step ladder with her hand on the wood to cause the liner to bend in the desired direction. After a little more pushing and twisting the liner was in. It was a little awkward removing the strip of wood but I got it out too. By the end of it all the view looking up into the firebox was this;



This will be plugged with ceramic blanket material and sealed with refractory mortar. You can see I have already started patching the smoke chamber. I wouldn't be so thorough except that a city inspector is going to shine a flashlight up here and I am better off doing the job right first time. Besides, we may actually burn wood in this fireplace so I know he is going to want to see the smoke chamber lined properly. I never expected that I would actually get this liner into the throat of the chimney. I thought I would have to seal it at the opening for the clean-out door so of course the liner at the top is sitting about 8 inches in the chimney stump so I need to get another 8 feet of flex liner to finish the job. The one next to it is extending about 5 feet out of the "stump" and can be sealed inside a tile liner when I finish building the chimney. I never was good at math. Just to prove my point, I have to buy 394 bricks and haul them up 3 flights of stairs, not the 170 I previously estimated.

As of today the liners are plugged and the first coat of refractory mortar is applied. I've run out of refractory mortar so it will be a few days before I can finish this. I must say that being cramped up in a fireplace applying mortar with a 1" putty knife for several hours is character building. I never realized that I could get so dirty either!

Friday, August 17, 2007

This Couldn't Happen to a Better Person!

I went over to the "Old Crack House" today to do some work on my chimney liners and confronted this in the back yard.




It is laying across the main power line to the house but hasn't pulled the line down off the wall!



Guess what I spent the day doing?
Let's all sing......

"I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK
I sleep all night and I work all day."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Today Was My Lucky Day!

After working on the "Old Crack House" for a few hours on Sunday afternoon vacuuming dust from the bathroom and giving a fireplace mantle a renewed finish with a bit of shellac I decided that I needed to walk home and get my bag of polypropylene fibers so I could patch some plaster so I can get some walls smoothed out in the next few days. After walking about one and a half blocks (just down the street really) I noticed a door in the alley with a pile of wood around it that was being thrown out at one of our neighborhood rental units. I don't need doors unless they are tall and wide. This was neither but it had hardware! So I took the entire door, it was heavy, too and walked back to the "Old Crack House" where I removed the hardware that I had an immediate interest in. I put the hardware in a bag and took it home where I immediately proceeded to strip the paint from it after showing my scoop to the missus, of course! Within a couple of hours the paint was off and I had oiled the movable parts and was ready to return to add the finishing touches so I could see if I could put the new hardware to use. I still have the three complete hinges to remove and the door knob plates which I probably won't use, but I wanted these;



By 11:00 PM the bell was finished and installed





and the letter opening looked like this



These were sprayed gold and then given three coats of amber shellac to amplify the detail. I then spray clear enamel gloss varnish on them to protect the shellac but didn't get the letter opening sprayed yet. We may not use it anyway. That bell just got two coats of clear shellac to make it shine nicely.
I also got my plaster work done between sprays and coats of shellac. So I guess you could say I was plastered and shellacked on the job!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Let's Take a Chimney Break

I found this in my " Lee's Priceless Recipes" book;

To Frost Window Panes
Take Epsom salts and dissolve in beer. Apply with a brush and you have the finest window frosting known.

I thought that if I took Epsom salts and then drank a beer I would be burning porcelain, not frosting windows!

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Saga of Lining Our Chimneys. (continued)

The first chimney to be lined was the easiest one to work on. This is the big chimney on the cottage side of the house that served the original kitchen in 1845. The firebox is large and I can stand up in this fireplace. My head is about level with where the chimney liner will rest at the top of the smoke chamber. The 20' chimney liner is made of a corrugated stainless steel and weighs a mere 25 lbs. I was able to push this liner up the chimney single handed with my eyes closed. If my eyes were open they would have been filled with sand and dust falling from inside the chimney as the liner brushed the sides. The flue opening is 13" X 16" so an 8" round liner has plenty of wiggle room. Ideally I should have used a 12" liner but we have no intention of using this fireplace to burn wood in. The original plan was to install a small wood stove but that has already changed. If for some reason we would ever need to burn wood or use a wood stove then the minimum liner size permitted is a 6" round. I would have to reduce the area of the fireplace opening if we were to ever use this as a wood burning fireplace. The difference in price between 6" and 8" liners was minimal so I went with the larger liner.

Last Friday I sealed this liner at the base of the chimney and patched the smoke chamber where some mortar was missing leaving brick exposed. It was sealed by using a piece of backer board cut to rest on a ledge at the throat of the chimney. The dimensions were something like 12" X 15". An 8" diameter hole was cut into the center of the backer board and the chimney liner was inserted into this hole. Any gaps around the liner and the edges of the backer board were plugged with strips of ceramic blanket material.

I mixed up about 10 gallons of cement using 4 parts vermiculite to 1 part Portland cement. The first 5 gallons was quite wet since I needed it to make a seal around the base of the liner and the backer board. The second batch was more dry. These batches were poured down the chimney from the roof. The purpose of this initial dump of "cement" is to seal the liner. Subsequent dumps are going to be made that will insulate the liner from heat loss and add some structural integrity to the chimney since it will fill any gaps where the mortar has deteriorated. The subsequent dumps will be made later this week after the plug has cured a little. In all, I need about 24 cubic feet of this thermal cement which means that I will be making alot of trips to the roof this week!

After the water stopped dripping into the fireplace, I coated the backer board and ceramic blanket material with refractory mortar. I put it on with a narrow scraper then use a paint brush to cover the surface. I will need to apply a second coat later this week. Here is a picture looking up;




I need to place the other two liners down their chimneys. This will require some help because they have to be installed from above. I don't need help putting them down the chimneys. I need help getting them onto the roof! They are both going to be harder to plug too. I can't stand in the fireplaces and will likely have to tie a paint brush to a stick in order to apply the refractory mortar. Oh, I forgot to mention that I also have to rebuild 6.5' of the chimney around the liners. That is the sucky part because I have to haul about 170 bricks up three flights of stairs!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Saga of Lining Our Chimneys.

The Prologue

We decided years ago that it would be "sooooo kewl" to be able to use all seven chimneys in this place. Like at Christmas or for a special occasion and I have had six years to plot and plan how I was going to achieve this. If you research chimney lining you will discover that there are several ways to line a chimney. They all say that they are better than the competition and they are all fairly expensive if you pay someone else to do the job.
There is also some math involved. The area of the flue has to be at least 10% of the area of the firebox opening in order to ensure proper draft. In our case this would mean building smaller fire boxes in several cases which is fine because modern codes require that fire bricks be used to line a fireplace using refractory mortar in the joints. There is also one room where we decided that a wood stove would be installed because the original marble fireplace had been removed 40 years ago and would be extremely hard to replace.
If I put on my "Superman underoos" I could do all this. It is not beyond my level of confidence and our roof isn't that steep. Besides, it sure beats plumbing! However it will have to be done in two or three phases because of cost. We currently have three stainless steel chimney liners. All are 8 inch round flex liners. One 25 feet long and two twenty feet long. The longest one is laying like a snake on the third floor. It has the ceramic blanket and stainless steel mesh wrap which is rather expensive. The other two arrived about three weeks ago and one is still in the box . The other one is in the appropriate chimney already held up by a stick of wood. These two will get a mixture of vermiculite and Portland cement poured around them for insulation. That is easier and cheaper for me to do. If it had not rained two weeks ago and I hadn't skedaddled out of town for 5 days last week all the liners would be in their chimneys waiting to be plugged and sealed.
So, a couple of weeks ago I went to get a permit from the city building inspection office. Do I need a permit? I really doubt it but if there was a fire and the chimneys were not inspected by some kind of professional, I'm sure our insurance company would try to re neg on the contract. So I went to the permit office to apply for the permit. Since there wasn't a box to check on the form for lining chimneys I had to sit and talk with someone who knows nothing about lining chimneys. She called the supervisor and put me on the phone with him. He knew something about lining chimneys but not what I was doing. In fact he did ask me WHY I was wanting to line my chimneys and whether my fireplaces had smoke shelves. After throwing words at him like refractory mortar, ceramic blanket, vermiculite cementeous plug, chimney cap, titanium steel flex-liner and house built around 1845 he granted the permit and said that since I seemed to know what I was doing that he would just shine a light up the fire box to make sure everything was sealed properly.

I will update this info as I do the work so everyone out there in "Houseblogland" can learn that this is not an unachievable task. What does it cost to line a chimney? That depends on how you line it and what special liner attachments you use. The long liner and wrap kit was about $600 on eBay. The two 20' liners were bought on eBay for under $600. A 5' roll of ceramic blanket was $30 on eBay. (The ceramic blanket will be used as a non-combustible plug where the liner meets the smoke chamber and sealed with refractory mortar on some of the chimneys.) Vermiculite comes in huge 20 lb bags at $12 a bag. I may need 12 bags for two chimneys. One chimney has a large volume. I wanted to try to double line it so I could install an additional wood stove. There is a bend in the chimney and I can't get two liners down it without them touching at this bend. They need to be separated by 2 inches. I may end up pouring loose vermiculite down this one so that I have options in the future. Refractory mortar is $20 a gallon at a brick yard. For me, when all is done, the cost will be about $400 per chimney, some are more costly than others.
I think Santa is in for a surprise this year!

Stay tuned boys and girls. This information is really smokin'!