Old fireplace/chimney are a mess! Help!

Discussion in 'Builders' Talk' started by GloriousEuropa, Aug 11, 2019.

  1. GloriousEuropa

    GloriousEuropa New Member

    It used to have an old back boiler that the plumber took out when fitting entirely new plumbing and heating.

    I was dusting it out last night and noticed inside is an absolute mess. I expected neat brickwork but it’s a mess of infill and loose stones and bricks.

    It also alarmingly goes below the floor level.

    We want to restore it and put in a log burner eventually. How do I tackle this?

    Many thanks


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  2. Joe the Plumber

    Joe the Plumber Active Member

    I'm sure someone with more experience will be along shortly, but that's all the stuff that would have been there when the house was built. It looks awful, but once it's tidied up, it will be fine.

    Ours looked very similar but I managed to get some contemporary bricks, built up the sides and a hearth, and formed an arch at the top. Our local chimney and fire chap sorted out a chimney liner and closure plate and we put a nice woodburner in.

    Fear not, you've got the basis for a nice fireplace there.
     
  3. GloriousEuropa

    GloriousEuropa New Member

    Thanks for the reassurance Joe.

    How much of this did you do yourself?
     
  4. masterdiy

    masterdiy Active Member

    GL, mine was just like yours, now its like this.
    Nice job to do. IMG_20190811_230713.jpg
     
  5. GloriousEuropa

    GloriousEuropa New Member

    Looks beautiful mate.

    Yours was really as bad as mine? With all the crumbly infill?
     
  6. Joe the Plumber

    Joe the Plumber Active Member

    I did the brickwork and hearth, and repaired the plaster (those random orbital sanders are marvellous...), but the stove and liner I left to our local stove chap.
     
  7. masterdiy

    masterdiy Active Member

    Almost.
    Had a 70s fireplace that almost fell out. Tiled surround & hearth.
    I took the brickwork back to the side, left just one brick each side.
    Several out the top & fitted lintel.
    Then bricked up as pic.
    Fitted new liner.
     
  8. GloriousEuropa

    GloriousEuropa New Member

    Hi Joe and Master.

    I did some more work today. Hopefully this will give a better idea.


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    I take it everything outlined here can be taken out?

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  9. Joe the Plumber

    Joe the Plumber Active Member

    Be very careful, but that looks like just what I'd take out. The original lintel looks solid from your photos. Save all the decent bricks too. You might need them later.

    I still think that's going to make a really great fireplace.
     
  10. GloriousEuropa

    GloriousEuropa New Member

    Thanks again Joe.

    Yeah I intend to recycle some bricks :)

    Thinking of putting an oak fascia on the lintel. Is it safe to drill into? Or will that compromise the integrity?
     
  11. Joe the Plumber

    Joe the Plumber Active Member

    Is it stone or concrete?

    Either way, as long as you drill it over the supporting bricks each end and don't go mad with the hammer action, I'm sure
    it would be okay. I definitely wouldn't drill it over the open section.

    If it's stone though, I'd make a feature of it just as it is. Some nice repointing, clean up the bricks and it will look
    very smart.
     
  12. GloriousEuropa

    GloriousEuropa New Member


    I think it is concrete, Joe. Take a look at the pics further in this post showing the lintel :)

    Did some more work today. My arms and hands are dead. Wish I had £1 for every strike of the cold or bolster chisel with my lump hammer! And some of that old cement rendering beneath the plaster does not want to move!

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    I take it that slanted infill **** isn't the gather, especially since it's below the main lintel right? It can all just come out?

    I have no idea what this molten metal **** is wedged into the right edge of the lintel

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    And I'm alarmed at how thin the lintel is. I thought it would be twice the width of a brick, but it's like 2/3 the width of a single brick!! :eek:

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  13. Joe the Plumber

    Joe the Plumber Active Member

    Hmm, interesting, and still looking good. If the lintel is reinforced concrete, it should be okay, but if you've got any concerns, you could put a piece of decent steel angle in behind and underneath it, just to make sure. I did that with mine (I think it was 3" x 3" and about 3/8" thick), which originally had no remaining lintel, albeit I curved and welded it to support a shallow brick arch.

    Looking at the smoke on the inside of the original bricks, I'd suggest that's been used as an open fireplace before it had the back boiler fitted. I don't think the slanted infill is part of the original fireplace. And I've no idea what the lead bit is. Character...?!

    Incidentally, my original post saying that the stuff you're removing was part of the original fireplace was clearly wrong. It's all from when the boiler was fitted I'd think.

    I must add that I am only a plumber, so please, if you've got any doubts, do have a chat with a local fireplace person.
     
    Dam0n likes this.
  14. GloriousEuropa

    GloriousEuropa New Member

    Had another really hard day today. Went for it and got it all done, including clean up with 10+ rubble sacks. I bought an SDS drill to help as it was recommended by another forum. You can see the streak lines where it went through decades old cement render and plaster. The remaining stuff is as hard as diamond. I guess I just tediously chip away at it delicately by hand until it's all gone?

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    This was the finished result. I tried to scrub the fireplace with a scrubbing brush and hot soapy water, but it just smeared soot everywhere.


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    This may be my lack of experience, but I don't think it can be an open brick fireplace, as some of the bricks are just too stained, others cracked faintly, and just generally unsightly.

    Definitely all needs repointing though. Does it need special fireplace cement? Or will standard mortar work? I've got a back of builders sand, lime, and cement downstairs if that helps.
     
  15. gas monkey

    gas monkey Well-Known Member

    I think the finish you have in the right decor is a winner people would pay a lot for a finish like that but its all up to your taste any how good luck im sure it will be a winner
     
  16. GloriousEuropa

    GloriousEuropa New Member

    Thanks Gas Monkey! :)


    Some more pics for clarity of the terrible old pointing. And I need to brick up the hole left by the old pipework and infill!

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  17. Joe the Plumber

    Joe the Plumber Active Member

    That's come out a treat, in fact it's really lovely. Thanks for keeping us posted. My old pointing was just like yours incidentally. It's all part of the character.
    If it was mine, I'd be quite tempted to leave the lintel just as it is. It goes rather well with those bricks I think.

    As long as you're careful (face shield, dust mask, ear defenders, good gloves), a twist knot wire brush and an angle grinder will get all the remaining old mortar off the bricks:

    https://www.screwfix.com/p/norton-expert-twist-knotted-cup-brush-75mm/9294h

    Try not to damage the face of the bricks if you can help it though. I'd definitely not try to remove any of the blackening. As Gas Monkey says, that's a wonderful finish.

    As to re-pointing, how old is the house? If it was built with lime mortar, that's what I'd use. You can get it from here:

    https://www.lime-mortars.co.uk/

    If it's fairly recent, you can use ordinary cement based mortar, but the lime is lovely stuff, and you can chose the texture and colour to suit your decor.

    What a great transformation from the photos in your original post. I'll bet you're pleased you've done it now.
     
  18. Mr Rusty

    Mr Rusty Well-Known Member

    It looks very similar to the one I have just done, so some advice based on my experience. I decided to leave the back bare brick along with all the blackening, and clad the sides in fireboard fixed with board adhesive + few screw/plugs, and skimmed. (not skimmed on the fireplace inside faces, just painted smooth board). The brickwork on the sides of mine was worse than yours with many damaged bricks and was just not good enough to leave exposed. It looks good now, and no problem with the materials as such, except after 100 years of continuous coal fires, the bricks were loaded with combustion products. The water in the board adhesive drew salts from the brick to the surface which I am still fighting a bit, but the stove isn't in yet, and we are not living there until hopefully next month.

    It's 100% hygroscopic salts from the brickwork, because when the air is dry, no issue, and when it is humid, like it is at the moment, the salts draw moisture from the air and crystals grow on the surface half way up the fireplace - the salts have migrated to the surface drawn by the drying adhesive.

    In hindsight, I should have sealed the bricks with something - SBR maybe? - or not used fireboard, but I suspect any plaster/cement base would have had the same issue. anyone else have any thoughts on this? I'm hoping that once the stove is in the heat will help, or I might have to strip it and do it again.
     

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    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019 at 7:36 AM
  19. ramseyman

    ramseyman Active Member

    Looks good, think you'll find the salt problem will disappear once you get some heat on, the surrounds will act like a storage radiator and will still be quite warm in the morning after a fire.
     
  20. Mr Rusty

    Mr Rusty Well-Known Member

    Thanks. It's got a nice green slate hearth now - went up to Honister slate mine and picked up some tiles.
     

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