Thursday, December 28, 2017

up in smoke

Several small projects were part of the Construction Extravaganza right from the start, and others developed as part of the process. Here is one of the first category: the chimney.

This chimney was added to the house in 1939, if I remember correctly. (The date was recorded in concrete at the base of the chimney in the cellar. It's 8F right now. I'm not going into the cellar to check.)

13 Oct 2017: southeast corner

When I bought the house, the chimney was venting both a propane space heater in the parlor and a massive old propane kitchen range of which I think two burners were functional. I might have tried to have that range repaired, but the amount of space it occupied it this tiny house was hard to justify. Instead I decided to remove it and do without a stove until I could design a little kitchen and put in a wall oven. Looking back, if I had known that I'd be cooking in a toaster oven for a couple of decades before I could make the kitchen happen, I might have made a different decision! But it all worked out.

18 Oct: northwest corner.
Flashing and loose bricks removed.

When I was working in one of my first forest-related jobs, I bought my little woodstove: a Waterford, from Ireland. Friends from work helped move it into my parlor, and that was a learning experience for me: I learned that there are some tasks one should not allow friends to tackle, period. It was a good lesson.

19 Oct: chimney tile extended; spark arrestor standing by.

I almost changed my mind before buying the Waterford, because I was told I would have to put a liner in the chimney. But when I clambered up on the roof, I found that the chimney was lined with tile but for some reason the top tile was lower than the crown. So I put "add one tile to chimney" on my List. That was in the early 90s.

You've got to love a carpenter who has built chimneys.

Apart from cleaning the chimney every year that I burned wood, I did no other maintenance. The last few times I was perched on the roof performing acrobatic stunts with the comically wobbly chimney brush, I noticed mortar beginning to crack between a couple of bricks on the top row. So of course I added "clean and remortar loose bricks" to my List.

19 Oct: most of the work done

And last year I bought a nearly-new spark arrestor cap for $20 at a tag sale held by the local Animal Control facility. A very useful improvement, but it wasn't even ON my List, darn it!

26 Oct: work stopped by days of torrential rain.

When I knew I would have to reroof the house, the chimney tasks - tile, mortar, cap - were naturally included in that project. The repair and improvement was done before the metal roofing went on, and then the carpenter constructed a custom flashing for it, using the roofing material.

27 Oct: a wonder that rain left any leaves on the trees!

The chimney had a long rest in November, waiting for me to dismantle and clean the stovepipe in the parlor - always a dirty, back-aching, mess-making chore. This year I also had two helpers who would have been happy to track soot all through the house on their eight little feet. And I did it on my birthday - don't tell me I don't know how to have a good time! Or age gracefully!

Early the next morning I lit the fire.
Here is the first smoke rising through the "new" chimney:  

There hasn't been snow on that chimney since.
And there probably won't be til Spring.

Since I didn't burn wood last Winter (in the interest of keeping those eight little feet safe), I have a wonderful stockpile of seasoned stovewood this year. Some from my own property, a bit left over from the 2015 delivery, and this gorgeous truckload delivered last December by my Best Forester Friend:

Flashback: 2 December 2016
 I wish you could hear the sound of the wood tumbling!
It's like the happiest thunder in the world.

I always try to stay a full year ahead with stovewood, but don't always manage it. As this Winter approached, I felt quite comfortable if not actually smug. I'm expecting to burn a LOT of wood this year.
And I have a lot of wood to burn.

I'm rich! Rich, I tell you!

As cold as it's been already this year - minus 4F this morning and up to a rollicking 8F at noon - the stove has been kept well fed. I wonder how much of my massive stockpile will be left when Spring rolls around?



  1. Scary how time can just slip by like that! Although I'm positive I couldn't live that long on a toaster oven alone (even a really good one). Huzzah for the fixed chimney - it looks lovely. And so does that fire. Stay warm!

    1. For so many, many years I was commuting to school (then grad school) and working and commuting to multiple jobs (to pay for the school), so I didn't do much real cooking. The funny thing was how people could be in my house for hours before suddenly realizing what was missing :)

  2. Good to know that chimney only needed minor repairs and is ready to keep you warm this winter. May the new year be filled with peace and promise.

    1. All the best to you and yours for the year ahead, Tammy - and that includes Jingles! And you amazing community garden!

  3. It is an adorable chimney. The spark catcher is a nice addition. Happy Warm Woodstove!

    1. It is a chimney built for this tiny house, that's for sure :) Happy New Year to you, Maywyn! Good luck with your paintings :)

  4. You got it fixed just in time...

    Happy New Year Quinn. See you then ;)

  5. I love how you told the history of your chimney. It's a classic! There really is nothing like the warmth of a wood fire when it's cold outside. If I'm feeling down in winter, lighting a fire will almost always pull me out of my funk. (but you reminded me that I do not think that our chimney was cleaned this year - bad...).

    1. Sometimes early on I skipped a year because I wasn't burning wood every day - only when I was at home. In retrospect, those may have been the worst years for creosote to build up, because I wasn't keeping the stove hot all the time?! But chimney fires are such a real threat, I started cleaning every year. It will be interesting to see how the metal roofing affects that system - no traction that I can see. Uh oh.

  6. You must be so happy with your 'new' chimney and a nice snug new roof to keep you dry. All good improvements!


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