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“Raising” a brick/masonry fireplace?

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by double_entendre, Dec 31, 2018.

  1. double_entendre

    double_entendre It's nothing personal; just your existence.

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    We have a mid-sixties home with a brick/masonry fireplace not unlike this.

    I’m about to embark on a project to put bookcases on either side of it and it occurs to me scope creep is in order. It’d be nice to raise the fireplace about 18”.

    Is that within the realm of DIY? What’s involved? Does the entire chimney have to be replaced? Any online or book references you can direct me to? If I was to pay someone, what would it cost in SoCal?
    #1
  2. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    I suppose you have no interest in a California joke? :-)
    It might save you money to fly a KY mason out there to do the job. Really.

    Do you mean jacking the whole enchilada up from the base? Or a raised hearth?
    In your picture we cannot see the hearth in front, only the firepit floor.
    #2
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  3. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    I raised my cabin around my masonry chimney (wood Stove) It did not end well! The chimney had to be taken down brick by brick!
    #3
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  4. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    With log homes such as I built from scratch and have lived in for many years-you have the opposite problem as log homes (built from green, not dead standing or klin dried) settle about 4-5" as the logs cure out over ~ 7-8 years. Allowance must be made for the whole house to lower itself-more in some places than others, of course. Head space above windows and doors is commonly done to avoid crunching them- meanwhile the chimney stands the same as always if proper foundation was in place and the roof comes down around it if a central standing chimney structure like mine.
    #4
  5. gmk999

    gmk999 ____ as a Rotax

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    If the firebox is tall enough you can put a floor/ raised hearth up a few inches. A mason can do that for you , but to rebuild a smoke shelf and Damper is a huge task.
    Yuuge.. iu.jpeg IMO it would require a rebuild from the floor up.
    I would rethink this one.
    Opinion.
    #5
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  6. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer Supporter

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    I ripped mine out last fall... a total pneumonia hole that sucked warm air out of the house 24/7. fuck some caveman stuff, but if you must.... the stack is no doubt double wall stainless and will need to be shortened... special parts and code will apply if you need insurance.
    #6
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  7. double_entendre

    double_entendre It's nothing personal; just your existence.

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    Nope, I think you're right. The brain damage to improvement factor just isn't there.

    Continuing on the topic, if I yank off the top 5 feet of brick over the fireplace, what would I find behind it? I'm contemplating built-in cabinets and was debating having them go straight across instead of flanking the brick.

    [​IMG]
    #7
  8. gmk999

    gmk999 ____ as a Rotax

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    That is a good question.. It is so hard to say. Can you get a look above the ceiling? Does it continue as brick through the second floor or attic.
    I would be inclines to believe that the body of the fireplace /chimney is cinder block (CMUs) and the brick is a veneer face. If so you can remove the veneer and cover the block with a noncombustable material like firecode sheetrock, durarock, or plaster then build your shelf unit from there.
    BTW the floor looks great.
    #8
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  9. double_entendre

    double_entendre It's nothing personal; just your existence.

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    Good question. I should know—I’ve been up there enough—but I can’t recall. Have to grab the ladder and give it a look.

    Thanks for the compliment on the tile! Lotta work to do yet dealing with effervescence. Pain in the butt. Tried some sulfuric acid this afternoon. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve got muriatic acid in the garage if I have to go that direction.
    #9
  10. broncobowsher

    broncobowsher Long timer

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    California, in town, are you even allowed to burn wood?
    There might be some gas options that might retrofit in better. Do you have gas?
    #10
  11. Motopsychoman

    Motopsychoman Not a total poseur Supporter

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    If you decide on making any changes, get rid of the brick chimney. Fit a double-walled, mineral filled flue. It is a lot safer.
    Personally, if you want heat, I'd rip out the whole thing and put in a perfectly nice wood stove. That's what I did 17 years ago.

    And yes, you can operate a wood stove or fireplace in California, except on Spare-The-Air days. Unfortunately, we've had a lot of those in my neighborhood last year.
    #11
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  12. double_entendre

    double_entendre It's nothing personal; just your existence.

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    I got up into the attic and there’s just a metal duct above the ceiling. I guess the next step is to rip out a course of bricks and see what’s under it?

    Oh sure. We’re grandfathered in. Our furnace is original to the house and probably not cleaner than wood. (OK, I know that’s not true, probably.) The air the furnace puts out smells awful, though. I’ve thought about replacing the furnace of late. Would that be the furnace or the ducts that cause that smell?

    Technically, I’m sure you’re right that gas is the better option from a logical standpoint, but it’s just depressing to me. It’s like a gas BBQ. If I wanted to cook on gas, I’d use the cooktop. If I wanted to heat the house with gas, I’d crank on the furnace. :gerg

    In 20 years or so, when we retire (thanks, Great Recession, not to go all CSM), I wonder if burning wood will be an option anywhere.
    #12
  13. Motopsychoman

    Motopsychoman Not a total poseur Supporter

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    The bricks going up so high are probably decorative only. I'd expect there to be no more than a couple of courses of brick higher than the top of the firebox that are functional. Probably sheet rock behind the rest (which will undoubtedly need replacing when you peel of the bricks).

    The smell could be coming from either the furnace or ducts. Dead critters maybe? Replaced my 1920's gravity furnace during the same renovation that got rid of my fireplace (and installed the wood stove).

    And you are probably right, in 20 years even my EPA approved wood stove will likely be banned.
    #13
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  14. double_entendre

    double_entendre It's nothing personal; just your existence.

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    By the way, the flue for our fireplace tends to close on its own from time to time, filling the house with smoke. I just clipped a chain to it and called it good, but that’s hardly the ideal long-term solution. What’s involved in replacing that? Doubt it’s something I’d tackle, but it needs to be done.
    #14
  15. Motopsychoman

    Motopsychoman Not a total poseur Supporter

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    I know on my folks house, the damper just dropped into the firebox one day. The solution was easy: a spring operated cap on the top of the flue that was connected by a long steel cable that dropped down into the firebox and secured to the side. It had two positions: open and closed.
    #15
  16. ericm

    ericm Long timer

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    If you're going to rebuild the fireplace, consider a modern EPA rated insert. The way stove makers meet EPA regs now not only makes for less emissions but gets a lot more heat out of the wood. A decent EPA insert will produce real heat. With a regular fireplace most of the heat goes up the chimney, and it pulls a lot of room air up the chimney which means that it pulls in cold replacement air from outside, making the rooms not next to the fireplace colder instead of warmer. A modern stove or insert doesn't do that.

    Your county may well require an EPA stove/insert if you do any permitted work to the fireplace.

    Also look into replacing the old furnace. We replaced a 30 year old furnace last year just in time- we'd scheduled the work and the old furnace died, so we were without heat for only a couple weeks. The new furnace is much more efficient so we don't have to keep the house cold in order to not spend a fortune on propane. If we didn't raise the temperature the furnace would pay for itself in 10 years or so.

    If you're going to upgrade the fireplace do it sooner rather than later. Eventually they won't permit any changes that include wood burning, but existing stuff will be grandfathered. There was talk of that a few years back in my area but they backed off for now.
    #16
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  17. double_entendre

    double_entendre It's nothing personal; just your existence.

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    Huh.

    Dug in very briefly about EPA rated fireplaces and it looks like they’re all glass windowed. Is that right? I guess it makes sense, but I find it pretty hard to get excited about that. Not rational, I know, but I’m pretty sure this guy wouldn’t forgive me. Until I put the tile in, they would lay on the carpet in front of the fire (we’ve got 3 cats) and sear themselves. :lol3

    [​IMG]

    (@Sfcootz because she’ll like the pic, I suspect. :smooch )
    #17
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  18. Motopsychoman

    Motopsychoman Not a total poseur Supporter

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    My wood stove has a glass door.
    Actually my cat, "the potato", sits on the chair across from the wood stove when it's cooking. She's no fool.
    #18
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  19. double_entendre

    double_entendre It's nothing personal; just your existence.

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    :lol3 Definitely no fool. (Potato. :rofl)

    The cat in my pic just turned around to face the wall to warm up his other side.
    #19
  20. terdog

    terdog Adventurer

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    Knock out the front of the brick, and line the existing chimney with a nice ceramic tile.
    Install a "free standing" wood stove and run the flue pipe up into the existing chimney
    #20
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