A Chimney Story
Okay kids, sit back in your chair with a warm cup of
hot chocolate and listen to a story like you have never heard
After having completed the
restoration of the front Parlor, We set out
to decorate for Christmas. We spent a ton of money on
"Victorian" Christmas ornaments and all the works. So we invited
some family to come celebrate with us.
The room looked great. It was
Norman Rockwell all the way. But something was missing?
What could it be?
The fireplace! of course! Let's get
that bad boy all fired up? After all, I spent a few
months of my life restoring it, so let's bask in the warmth of
her glow. So, I lit her up and she looked great, just like I
wanted. The picture of Christmas bliss is complete!.
After about 20 minutes, we began to notice a smell, something like
burnt gas fumes. (remember folks, this is a "vented" gas
fireplace) Soon, I realize that there is no updraft.
Keep in mind that I spent some very uncomfortable time inside this
chimney (literally) when I was repairing it. I know that there
is no obstruction as far as the eye can see up the flew. But
that is where the story takes a bit of a "twist"
Okay, lets go to the diagram. When
the house was built, the architects wanted the chimneys to both be
turned sideways to keep the symmetry of the house going.
Symmetry is a key element in Eastlake architecture. But the
fireplaces in the bedroom and the parlor face the front of the
house. So, they twisted the chimney between the second and
third floors. This being said, that is why I could not see any
obstructions when I looked up the chimney from the parlor. I
could only see to the point of the twist.
Okay, now back to Christmas day. So we had to
kill the fireplace. Needless to say my Holiday spirit was
waning at this point. I spent a year of my life working on
this room and no fire at Christmas? So out come the egg nogs.
My Bother-in-law and I had a few of them. We quickly came to
the conclusion that something was stuck in there, and the only way
we were going to find out was to go from the top of the chimney
down. So, I grabbed the camcorder and wrapped it in bubble
wrap and duct tape. I then made a harness to be able to lower
that bad boy down the chimney with the light on to get a glimpse of
the problem., so off to the roof we go.
Click here to see the actual video
So, we climb up on the roof. It is around 7
degrees outside. Mighty cold! We are way to high up, and
we had a few drinks under our belts. Anyway, the video starts
with us on the roof then down the chimney she goes. (We sped
up the video for the long journey down. and back) What you see
on the tape is the obstruction coming into view. The camera
makes a perfect landing right into a pigeon corpse. After the
camera would go no further, we pulled it back out. We go back
in the house, shake off the cold and watch the movie.
So here it is, some 20 feet down inside the chimney
is a dead bird, some bricks and various rubble that look to be
completely blocking the chimney., hey that's just great. Now
We decided to go back up to the roof and lower a
weighted string down the chimney to the obstruction. Then we
marked the string at the opening of the chimney and pulled the
string out. This gave us a measurement of exactly how far down
the chimney the obstruction was.
We measured the height of the chimney from the roof
line up to the opening at the top.
We went in the house and measured the thickness of
the roof joists and the height of the chimney inside the attic from
floor to ceiling.
Measured the floor joists above the third floor
Added all the above measurements together and
determined that the obstruction was 2 1/2 feet from the ceiling on
the third floor bedroom wall.
We drew an "X" to mark the spot and started
We managed to remove a few bricks and put a light
inside the chimney. Sure enough, there it was, 1 dead bird,
and a bunch of debris. We removed the bird and soon discovered
that the debris was not just resting there. It was concrete!
But why?, well we know that the chimneys were replaced a few years
ago, from the roofline on up. Apparantly, the shmuck who built
the chimneys managed to drop a bunch of wet cement and a few bricks
down the flew while working. My guess is that there was an old
birds nest (not this particular bird) in the twist of the chimney
that held the cement until it dried.
This is a close up of the cement plug. So out
came the chisel and hammer and working through a small hole in the
bedroom wall, I began chipping away at the problem. It only
took an hour or so and the plug was removed.
This is a picture of the twist inside the chimney
after the obstruction was removed. There was a strong updraft
of air just pouring through this opening.
Next I mixed up a little mortar and closed the
chimney back up...
Last step was to crack open a few cold ones in front
of the fire and toast to another problem solved. This Bud's
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