Chimney Disaster!

Oh the joys of home ownership.  Just when you think you’re making some progress, something happens to remind you that you bought an older house.

Perhaps your chimney needs to come down?  Uhhgg.  I guess this would qualify as a venting post… and a warning to make sure you have a great home inspector!

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This is the culprit, a poorly conceived (read ‘cheap’) chimney that was added as an extension to the house in the 70’s.  It is leaking water into the adjacent roof and ceiling.  Hubs and I noticed that the ceiling in our bedroom was starting to discolor, and as the rain has been bad this summer, it got worse and worse.

After two chimney sweeps and a mason coming by, the consensus is the flashing (lead guard from the chimney to the roof) is pulling away from the bricks which could be replaced.  Here’s the kicker, they built the chimney with the wrong kind of bricks… the type that suck in moisture like a sponge.  In the winter the water in the bricks causes them to crack when freezing and thawing.  It’s already cracked all the way down to the foundation.  Not to mention, the huge concrete block on top (the crown) is also cracking and a mess. Apparently we could seal it, however, this will still be a problem in the next few years.  The advice is we should just tear the whole thing down!

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The good news, it’s a short chimney and it’s on the exterior wall.  The bad, it’s huge!  And, it means we will have a big hole in the middle of our bedroom to reconfigure!

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Did I mention the mold?  Yeah, that’s what really got me going, the ceiling in the bedroom was starting to smell and mold.  We have moved out of the room (have to get our bed out of there!) and have been crashing in the guest room for the last month as we’ve tried to figure out what to do.  It’s so sad to look at!  We also will loose the brick fireplace in our room and we will have to reframe the wall.

A few silver linings:

  • We should be able to at least knock it down ourselves (with a little help from our friends/family of course) I’m seeing a tear down party in our future.
  • Secondly, we will re install a propane fireplace. It will be efficient, not require a masonry chimney build which will help the cost, and will also heat this section of the house which will help our oil bills.
  • We’re trying to put in a few replacement windows (on either side of the chimney) while the wall is open which will allow us to us a window A/C in the summer and be more efficient in the winter.
  • We will be able to address some exterior issues that would have needed help anyway, and may also be able to reuse the bricks in a patio down the road.

I’ve been trying to look at the bright side of spending thousands of dollars to repair something we had no idea was this bad, but what can you do?  We can’t afford to rebuild the brick.. estimates are between $13-14k to do that.  I don’t want to give up on the room entirely and loose all the character it had.  However, we can’t have a moldy ceiling (hello, we have a baby!) so we’ve got to do something and quickly… which reminds me, I gotta get these plans finalized so we can get the house back together before it starts getting chilly!

Will keep you posted!

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6 thoughts on “Chimney Disaster!

  1. What a mess. But I love how creatively you are thinking through this. Love the idea of a propane fireplace. I can’t wait to see the pictures of the new fireplace and windows . . . don’t forget to post “tear down pics” as well. Hugs from Hotzona.

  2. I feel your pain – reminds me of our traumas in Maine 😦

    Let us know when you need help with the demo – I like destroying things, especially if they are already broken 🙂

  3. I don’t know what bricklayers cost in your area but $13 to $14K sounds like an awfully high estimate… especially if you are going to demo the old one yourselves. I’d look into a second or third estimate… that brick inside had a character I’d miss if I had to let it go, and you can still do the propane fireplace option into the new chimney.

    • I know, right?! We did get two estimates, one was 13k and the other 14k, but that included demo. What we decided to do is to demo ourselves, not rebuild the chimney but instead do a jog on the outside of the house to vent the new fireplace. It’ll also save us on the cost of rebuilding in brick. The bricks on the interior are recycled and in worse shape than the exterior so we really don’t have much choice but to take them down : ( Now I have to put on my design hat to figure out how to bring some interest back… Thanks for your comments!!

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