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Re: Advice on fireplace
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MDM wrote:
The fireplace is shallow because it was designed to burn coal not wood. The fireplace would have a pan at the bottom that held the coal and then would have a metal door of sorts that would close up the front. The door would have an adjustable vent that you would have used to modulate the burn rate of the coal.


Not necessarily. If it has angled sides it could be a rumford fireplace which is shallow and angled by design for improved heat efficiency over the traditional deep square type.

Posted on: 2015/7/12 23:16
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Re: Advice on fireplace
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I'm with MDM on this one, as usual...

I've got two chimneys in my house, front and rear, and each has 5 flues (5 stories above the basement). So there was "front heat" and "rear heat" supplied by coal burners at the lowest level and the flues were used to distribute the heat to the upper floors front/rear. I completely sealed 8 of my 10 flues and use only two of them.

Out of 6 fireplaces with mantles I've only exposed the brick on one of them floor to ceiling and it looks great but it's a messy job.

A word of caution about opening up the fireplaces: If you don't have the flue capped at either the bottom of the flue (meaning in your fireplace) or at the top of the chimney then you have a HUGE hot air leak during the winter when your home heat is on. And those old brick flues have a ton of leaks in them so you should never EVER run your boiler vent into one of them without a proper aluminum (for gas) or stainless steel (for oil) chimney liner. Serious safety issue...

Posted on: 2015/7/12 18:48
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Re: Advice on fireplace
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Nice mantle. I only have one place that still has the original mantle.

I did the same thing you are planning to do: Two fireplaces I stripped off the plaster and exposed the brick. One fireplace had a couple bricks missing, which required a little bit of masonry work.

It was pretty straight forward work... but it did create a big mess with all the plaster that I had to dispose of. I pretty much filled up a small dumpster.

Worth it though... the exposed brick really accents the room.

Posted on: 2015/7/12 15:18
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Re: Advice on fireplace
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The fireplace is shallow because it was designed to burn coal not wood. The fireplace would have a pan at the bottom that held the coal and then would have a metal door of sorts that would close up the front. The door would have an adjustable vent that you would have used to modulate the burn rate of the coal.

Posted on: 2015/7/12 15:09
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Re: Advice on fireplace
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Sommerman wrote:
Your fireplace looks like almost everyone I've seen downtown. It is shallow because it was never meant to burn anything (I was told). The hole in the cover is where the flue from the coal stove which sat in front of the fireplace connected to the chimney. Your mantle probably came from a catalog. It is possible that some of the houses dating from the 1840's have wood-burning fireplaces and so might the more luxurious later ones such as those on VVP. BTW, is your original flooring yellow or pumpkin pine rather than a fancier hardwood? That's because looms had just been invented to make wall-to-wall carpeting affordable (and your house warmer).
If anyone has a different explanation, I'd be eager to hear it. These houses were built during a time of technical advancement in heating, plumbing, energy, etc. I'm always curious for updates.


That makes sense, yes the floor is pine. I had to stain it a darker color because unfortunately someone had ripped out the metal vents (or whatever they were) from the floor and they had left a really bad patch job in every room. I had to buy reclaimed wide plank pine wood to repair the areas but unfortunately the color still didn't quite match. Once I applied stain the color matched perfectly and now I can't even tell where the patches were.

Anyway back to the fireplace. My goal is to restore my upstairs fireplaces and expose the brick in the bedrooms. They are completely covered and there's no mantle. I don't think I'd take on the project myself though since the same thing happens upstairs where some parts of the wall feel hollow and other don't. Looking through a hole I made inside the closet next to it (see picture below) adds to the confusion.

Any recommendations for a contractor who specializes in older homes?

Resized Image

Posted on: 2015/7/12 13:52
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Re: Advice on fireplace
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Your fireplace looks like almost everyone I've seen downtown. It is shallow because it was never meant to burn anything (I was told). The hole in the cover is where the flue from the coal stove which sat in front of the fireplace connected to the chimney. Your mantle probably came from a catalog. It is possible that some of the houses dating from the 1840's have wood-burning fireplaces and so might the more luxurious later ones such as those on VVP. BTW, is your original flooring yellow or pumpkin pine rather than a fancier hardwood? That's because looms had just been invented to make wall-to-wall carpeting affordable (and your house warmer).
If anyone has a different explanation, I'd be eager to hear it. These houses were built during a time of technical advancement in heating, plumbing, energy, etc. I'm always curious for updates.

Posted on: 2015/7/12 12:13
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Re: Advice on fireplace
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Every other day I find something in my place and say "Why? WHY?"

I doubt there are structural elements in the chimney. Rip open the plaster part and find out! That will be the only fun part.

Posted on: 2015/7/12 3:18
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Re: Advice on fireplace
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JCman24 wrote:
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Yardl3y wrote:
Hi all, wondering if anyone can help me figure out what was done to my fireplace. It looks like it was sealed however half of it is hollow and the other is filled in with brick. As you can see in the video below, the hollow side was covered using what looks like sticks and plaster which makes me think it was done long ago, but why? I assume they would have needed the fireplace to keep the room warm back then. Any help would be really appreciated as we're thinking about opening up the cavity.


https://youtu.be/BaD_YSnfMes





The top part where you're banging isn't necessarily hollow, though it could be. If there's slight separation in the covering over the bricks you could get a reverberation that sounds hollow. On the other hand, there could be a hole there because of failed brick or bricks that were removed to install a vent for an external coal heater. I had the latter... it was a quick job to refill with matching bricks and appropriate mortar.

The bottom is sealed with plaster and lath. It could have been done as recently as the 70s. A proper heating system was probably installed at some point and they sealed it up on the cheap to keep air from escaping up the chimney in the winter. You can just tear that stuff up with a claw hammer if no utilities were routed through the chimney.


Thanks for the reply. Why would they have sealed only half with brick though? Also when I look into the hollow part I can see wood beams from the homes structure, I don't understand how there could be exposed wood there being that it is a fireplace. My other fireplace is not sealed and is all brick inside.

Posted on: 2015/7/12 2:36
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Re: Advice on fireplace
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Quote:

Yardl3y wrote:
Hi all, wondering if anyone can help me figure out what was done to my fireplace. It looks like it was sealed however half of it is hollow and the other is filled in with brick. As you can see in the video below, the hollow side was covered using what looks like sticks and plaster which makes me think it was done long ago, but why? I assume they would have needed the fireplace to keep the room warm back then. Any help would be really appreciated as we're thinking about opening up the cavity.


https://youtu.be/BaD_YSnfMes





The top part where you're banging isn't necessarily hollow, though it could be. If there's slight separation in the covering over the bricks you could get a reverberation that sounds hollow. On the other hand, there could be a hole there because of failed brick or bricks that were removed to install a vent for an external coal heater. I had the latter... it was a quick job to refill with matching bricks and appropriate mortar.

The bottom is sealed with plaster and lath. It could have been done as recently as the 70s. A proper heating system was probably installed at some point and they sealed it up on the cheap to keep air from escaping up the chimney in the winter. You can just tear that stuff up with a claw hammer if no utilities were routed through the chimney.

Posted on: 2015/7/12 2:18
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Advice on fireplace
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Hi all, wondering if anyone can help me figure out what was done to my fireplace. It looks like it was sealed however half of it is hollow and the other is filled in with brick. As you can see in the video below, the hollow side was covered using what looks like sticks and plaster which makes me think it was done long ago, but why? I assume they would have needed the fireplace to keep the room warm back then. Any help would be really appreciated as we're thinking about opening up the cavity.


https://youtu.be/BaD_YSnfMes




Posted on: 2015/7/11 22:05
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