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Fireplace Tuckpointing and Repair

January 12, 2012

 I love the sound and smell of a wood burning fire…….I KNOW it’s not good for the environment 😦 but I can’t help myself! A wood burning fireplace was a must-have when we were looking for a home to purchase. That, a decent sized yard, and a traditional two-story layout were really our only sticking points.

So, when you buy a house you are supposed to have the chimney cleaned and inspected……we did not, but we should have. Especially since we proceeded to have 3-4 fires a week our first winter  here. I finally got around to hiring a chimney-sweep this summer who did a pretty good job. Our fireplace was filthy so it was definitely needed. He pointed out that the mortar between the bricks was beginning to fail and fall out and recommended using a fireplace repair caulk. He said to massage the tube really well before using to ensure it was soft enough to manipulate because it was difficult to work with. He wasn’t kidding! This stuff was awful to use. Even after we did what he said it came out of the tube like dried glue and wouldn’t stick to the fireplace  bricks.

Also,  I don’t suggest asking your husband to do this on a Sunday afternoon when football is on. He worked on it for several hours with no results and missed the game 😦

Before

Before Close-Up

Defeated….I called a mason the next Monday. A few hours later and  $$ less our fireplace was back in shape. One of the bricks on the back wall was cracked too, so I’m glad we ended up calling someone who actually knew what they were doing. Although, he did have to borrow my desk light (since he forgot his light), a spray bottle, and asked if he could smoke inside, when I said “no” he remarked that he’s “been smoking since he was 8 and that I shouldn’t start because it’s hard to quit” – no kidding! Since he was 8!?

Question: Does anyone actually use their fireplace clean-out? Shoving all of the ash into a hole in the fireplace floor that just dumps it into a another hole in the basement wall (similar to a laundry shoot) so that we can crawl behind the boiler to empty it out makes no sense to me….isn’t it easier to just scoop it out of the fireplace in the first place?

That’s the fireplace looking spiffy and new!

After

Here is the fireplace in use…despite what you would think, our animals have no fear of fire.

The fireplace gets a lot of use

It is important to have your fireplace cleaned because creosote can build up along the chimney walls and ignite, causing a chimney fire that could burn down your house. Burned down house = not good. Small hot burning fires are the way to go  because they cause less creosote build-up. The photo below is a good example in a masonry chimney like ours caked in creosote (this is not our chimney though).

creosote build up

What is creosote?

What most people think of as “smoke” is better termed “flue gas.” This “smoke”, or flue gas is released by the initial fire: the “primary combustion.” Flue gas consists of  steam, and vaporized but unburned carbon based by-products (vaporized creosote). As the flue gas exits the fireplace or wood stove, it drafts upward into the relatively cool flue where condensation occurs. Like hot breath on a cold mirror, the cool surface temperature of the flue causes the carbon particles in the warm vapor to solidify. The actual cause of creosote condensation, is the surface temperature of the flue in which the flue gas comes in contact. This resulting carbon based condensation which materializes inside the flue is creosote. It’s usually black in appearance. It can be the fine black dust called soot, (1st stage creosote); or porous and crunchy, (2nd stage); or it can be tar-like: drippy and sticky, until it hardens into a shiny glaze, (3rd stage). All forms of creosote can occur in one chimney system. Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. If it builds up in sufficient quantities – and ignites inside the chimney flue: the result is a volcanic chimney fire. – Click here for source 

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2012 12:04 PM

    Some projects can be DIY friendly, but it takes a smart person to raise the white flag in defeat. Your fireplace looks toasty and warm now!

    I have highlighted a few DIY tips myself on my blog & did one on cleaning your fireplace. Here’s the link if you are interested for next year

    http://inyourneighbourhood.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/preparing-for-fireplace-season-and-santa/

  2. January 12, 2012 11:13 AM

    You have a Great Dane? Or at least some other giant 🙂 I love big dogs.

    Your fireplace is just lovely.

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