I need a chimney expert, blocked off fireplaces...

PmknfrmrOctober 4, 2012

First of all, hello! My name's Alex and this is my first post on this site.

I'm considering purchasing a 1797 Federal Colonial in Massachusetts, and among many other things, I have questions about the chimneys and fireplaces. The first floor has two big grand fireplaces, with bays about 4 ft wide, and the second floor has some smaller ones. EVERY fireplace in the house has been covered over with plaster and I believe brick, and had a stovepipe put through the opening. The chimneys in the house are all small, maybe 20 inches square where I can first see them in the attic, and the same where I can see them again down in the basement. Each chimney is surrounded by closets (which are extremely unusual in colonials I've heard?). I have a suspicion that based on all this, the house's original chimneys were much wider, and were replaced with skinnier ones at some point, and that the actual fireplace bays may no longer exist. All this is based on my guesses though, I can't see into any of them, but could a 20 inch chimney somehow support a 3-4 ft wide fireplace bay? I don't think so... but....

Who knows about this stuff? Any info at all would be appreciated! Thanks, Alex.

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It should not be too difficult to find masons in MA who specialize in old house work. Try Google search for masonry restoration, old house restoration, etc.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 5:13AM
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Well, thankyou for the suggestion, but I'm not looking for a mason. I was a mason's assistant myself for several years, and I'd be doing any of the work I chose to if I ended up purchasing the house.

My question is more along the lines of trying to identify what I've got going on as far as the fireplaces, before I decide to purchase the house, without having to try to convince the owner to let me sledge my way into the fireplaces.

Can anyone shed any light??

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 1:40PM
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LOL - now THAT was helpful. "Try Google". Don't you think he has already Googled stuff and found no answers and THAT'S why he's here?

Sorry Pmknfrmr, can't help you. Just thought aka's response was amazing.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 8:34AM
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It is not uncommon in older homes to find that the masonry and timber structure works together to support the load of large fireplaces and hearths. It's not ideal for a few reasons, most importantly - the proximity of combustables to the firebox and flue. The larger fireplaces sound like excellent candidates for a smaller, more efficient rumford firebox and new TILE liners installed from above. Reducing the firebox dimensions (firebox within a firebox) will give you more clearance to any framing, raise the hearth to increase clearances there and slide in a tile liner, use a hose every few tiles and pour in a slurry solution of 6 parts vermiculite to one part type S masonry cement between any gap between tile and masonry chase. It will be a lot of work, but you know that if you've done that kind of work before; the bright side is you'll have safe, efficient, and value-adding functional fireplaces in the home. Also one of the reasons many of those older fireplaces were closed off/plastered over is there was no damper in place, so when central heating came about they caused the house to be drafty and inefficient.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 4:15PM
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