Friday, February 3, 2012

Let there be fire!

Over the past 3 days we have been working with a great local chimney sweep to get our 4 fireplaces working (actually 3 because one has a gas insert).  Initially the job was supposed to just be a simple cleaning and inspection since the fireplaces haven't been used in 20+ years. How do I know? Well, I found newspaper from 1992 crammed up in the flues to block the drafts.  First thing he tells me when he gets out of the truck is that the chimneys are capped (sealed).  Crap. So, we work out a deal for him to uncap them and continue the inspection.  We have two brick chimneys (one in the front and one in the back).   He starts working on the back chimney, but finds that the top two courses of brick under the cap are deteriorated and unstable.  Because of this we decide to leave the cap in place.  Taking it off now would mean that I would need to get all of that repaired and it is too cold for all of that right now.

Next he moved to the front chimney.  This one was in much better condition and removing the cap went smoothly.  After a cleaning of the flue for the main foyer fireplace, we were able to light a small kindling fire!!!  We were so excited.

Finally we move upstairs to the other fireplace that shares this chimney.  He begins cleaning the flue only to be stopped cold by a blockage.  The poor guy worked for several hours trying to clear what appears to brick, dirt, and mortar dust all caked together solid about 5 feet up the flue. He could get the chimney sweep pole itself to pass the blockage, but once he attached a brush, it wouldn't budge.   Here is what the blockage looks like.  The red circle is the part that has been knocked clear.
To us, the blockage doesn't look intentional.  It seems to break apart when struck (just not very easily).  We theorize that when the upper part of the chimney was rebuilt, a few bricks fell and got lodged in the flue.  Over time, we ended up with this mess.
The chimney sweep is bound and determined to clear this blockage.  Hopefully he is successful and clears this flue so we can use the fireplace.  If so, then we are only down one fireplace which we can work on repairing it once the weather warms a bit.