Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Our chimney had seen better days. Last winter it had caused us a lot of trouble with no draw.  Smoke backflowing into the basement.  No heat!
It was crumbling in spots when we moved in, and of course, it's gotten worse over the past four years.

I started by breaking the bricks loose from the mortar with a chisel and a hammer.  In some spots- no hammer required.  It just crumbled.  The upper portion here was the last repair done by the previous owner.  I cursed him as I took it apart.  There were broken bricks, and huge chunks of mortar where bricks should have been.  I figured that was the cause of the decay.

Once I had it all apart I cleaned the old bricks to see what was reusable.
Then I mixed a batch of mortar and started rebuilding the chimney.  Then I understood the problem.  The newer bricks from the last repair were all too big.  There was no way to fit them around the chimney tile without leaving big spaces.  What a mess.

I went to Home Hardware with one of the original bricks.  Who knew buying bricks would be so difficult?  They had "nothing that size".  I went out to take a look.  They had no bricks at all.  Stupid square patio stones.  I needed to fix the chimney, not a walk way.

I asked them to order me some bricks.  The lady didn't know what kind of bricks they were.  Just regular clay bricks.  The size is what's important.  She measured my brick and called her supplier in Quebec.  After several minutes on the phone, they established that I was looking for Ontario Standard bricks.  They should be in in a week.  Two weeks later, when I hadn't heard from them, I went in to see if they had my bricks.  Different lady.  I wasn't listed in the computer.  There was no brick order, either arrived or pending.  She called the other lady.  They broke my bricks.  When they were unloading the truck they dropped the skid and smashed them all.  Do I want them to reorder them?

Are you freaking kidding me?  My chimney is ripped apart, winter is coming, and it didn't occur to these people to at least call and explain?  Yes, reorder the frickin' bricks.

Another two weeks passed, again no phone call, but this time when I went in, they had my bricks.  Yee haw- home to fix the chimney!

It took about 5 days - 3 to 4 hours a day to get it done.  #3 and #4 worked diligently, lifting an old paint can tied to a rope, one brick at a time, half a bucket of mortar at a time, from the ground to the chimney.  We dragged the hose up on the roof so I could mix the mortar from there.
I added a piece of old stove pipe around the top, where part of the tile was broken off.  Wore the skin right off my index finger filling in the chinks at the end, but it's all done now, and ready for winter!

 The view from the ground, with the cap on.


  1. You are so brave to be on a roof! Don't you need to use special bricks for chimneys? Something called firebricks? Or, maybe that is what you have. It's amazing the way people in stores behave. Did they think that since they broke the bricks, you probably would change your mind about staying warm this summer? I have seen some of the repairs done to this house by former owners. It' sad. It is getting cool here, so I can imagine you were getting panicky way up in Canada.

    I just looked at your to do list-Summer. You got quite a bit done! No wonder you don't post very often.

  2. Thanks. I have no fear of heights and excellent balance, so it's not that big of a deal to me. #3 is the same. Husband is terrified of heights, #1 is clumsy, #2 does alright. #4 is a little nervous and a bit clumsy, so he did most of the work on the ground.

    Firebricks go on the inside of a wood stove or fireplace. They're denser and hold the heat in. On the outside of the chimney you want the heat to release, so regular clay bricks are better.

    Yeah, all the interesting stuff happens around here when I'm too busy to write about it. We're getting cooler, rainy weather now, so things start slowing down some.

  3. Brave, indeed! =D But I fear for your safety. I know it’s important to have a functional and clean chimney, but one wrong step could send you to the hospital. I suggest hiring a professional to do it for you instead. You can still help, if you can’t resist. But be sure to have a safety harness on.

    Lakisha Autin