The Fireplace

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted a log burning stove. One of the (many) reasons we picked this place to live in was because of the relative ease of installing one at some point in the future.

We’ve taken our first steps towards that now!

When we moved in, every room was stained yellow with nicotine. There was some serious discolouration going on, and we have had to literally rip out everything but the walls themselves to get rid of the smell. One of the dirtiest rooms (but not the dirtiest – the winner of that award goes to the third bedroom) was the livingroom.

When we first arrived and after getting most of our stuff in, I took panoramic photos of each room. I knew that we would eventually look back on them to see just how far we’ve come, give us an idea as to how much progress we have made. Unfortunately we’re not quite at that stage just yet, but with the work on the fireplace we’re one step closer!

Here’s a cut-out of that first livingroom panoramic photo. Forgive the fairly poor quality – it was taken at night time, with bad lighting, and of course it is a panoramic photo which means lower quality, plus what should be straight lines are curved due to the way the image has been stitched together.

The earliest of days

Besides the plastering work (a very rough wave pattern – there’s a name for it but I can’t remember it, so will just call it plaster) and the colour it doesn’t look too bad on the surface. The plaster is frail (I suspect it was a “lowest bidder” deal, so very cheap) and stained yellow with nicotine. You have to make some allowances as the photo was taken under a yellow light (that was also stained with nicotine making the effect worse…) but the fireplace was originally white. So were the walls to either side of the fireplace – the wallpaper had been painted white at some point in the (distant) past and had become stained yellow-brown over time. The patterned wooden coving across the top of the fireplace is less damaged, but is still stained – compare it to the white new-home card by the TV on the lower right hand side and you can see a clear difference.

The fireplace in there is an old electric one. Very inefficient, not very warm, and smelled like stale cigarette smoke whenever it was switched on.

The cat enjoying the meager heat, making sure to keep off of the dirty carpet

That is another poorly-lit picture taken not long after we moved in. Unlike the cat, we couldn’t bare the smell from the fireplace, nor the cost of running it, so we ripped it out. The crap tucked behind it was vile. Old cobwebs, covered in nicotine-stained-brown dust, dead spiders and bugs and other things I’m not sure could even be identified.

We took the opportunity to try cleaning the plaster work and found that parts of it were chipping off when brushed with a damp sponge. It had never been cleaned, or at least cleaned so long ago that it had gone frail with time. Yuck! We eventually decided to just chip off the existing plaster and put new stuff on, but in doing so we discovered that the fireplace had been put together somewhat haphazardly.

The odd-shaped quarter-circle on the left side above the opening is some kind of sandstone-like material, uon which the plaster has unfortunately fastened to quite well.

The existing space for a stove isn’t big enough. We learned that we would need to get it widened, deepened and lowered to ground level.

So we did.

Well, sort of. I should say at this point that I didnt do any of this work going forward, we’ve used contractors instead. There’s no way I could do a good enough job with zero experience, so would much rather get a professional in. Also, I don’t want a chimney breast falling on my face.

The contractors widened out the existing fireplace and found a single stack of bricks at the rear holding the back of the fireplace up. It wasn’t doing much though as the bricks were loose, so they knocked them out and rebuilt the back.

The back of the fireplace being rebuilt

Doing so meant we couldn’t go as deep as we wanted, but I don’t mind too much. The stove will stick out a bit more than planned, but in my head this means that slightly less heat will escape via the chimney.

It wasn’t long before the Lintel went in after the back was rebuilt. Once that was done and the supporting bricks were replaced, we had a lovely looking… hole in the wall.

Lintel is in, bricks are in

The next step is to get it plastered. Unfortunately before it can happen I’ve got to get the rest of the horrible plaster crud off of the chimney breast.

But hey, guess what? In my infinite wisdom I’ve booked a plasterer for two days time, leaving me one day to get the existing plaster off the chimney breast.

I think I’m going to need to treat myself to an SDS drill…

Whilst we were all in the room looking over the work done, a nuthatch flew in the window and got very scared. It hit a few walls before getting dazed and falling to the floor. We managed to catch it and took it outside (we didn’t want the cat getting hold of it!)

Check out the little thing:

It sat around on our bird feeder for about 30 minutes then flew off. Seemed happy, hopefully it is alright.

We’ve only got one (as far as we can tell) that visits us so we’re keeping an eye out to make sure it comes back!


Ben says:

Nothing beat wood heat, glad to read you’re one step closer to it.

matt says:

Thanks Ben. It’s been a while coming, but we’re getting close!

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