September 17, 2009

The New Hearth - Laying the 1st Course

Well, technically we've begun phase 3 of our hearth project, which is bricking up a portion of the alcove for the woodstove. That is going to take some time, so this post is to give you a peek at our start.

Dan volunteered to lay the brick, so I volunteered to clean them.

Cleaning bricks is actually more fun than it looks.
Considering that most of them were encrusted with the old mortar, it actually wasn't too bad of a job. That mortar was so soft that it mostly crumbled off (which was the reason we had to tear down the chimney and fireplace in the first place.) It took me a day and a half to do about 200 bricks. As I worked with them, I was fascinated to see the personality these old bricks have; being handmade, each one is truly unique.

I was especially pleased with how many different colors there are...

Old bricks in a range of natural colors.
... everything from terra cotta, to almost purplish. And, being the brick cleaner, I got to choose which colors we would use. Eventually they will all be used for various projects around the place, but for the woodstove alcove, I liked the darker ones best (as I think they will match my dark cherry living room furniture best.)

For the first course however, we used something different.

1st course of bricks
Close-up of the bricks we used.
There were about a dozen or so of these bricks with holes in them lying around the place. They were the perfect solution to an issue we had to resolve, that of clearances.

Anyone who has ever had a woodstove is familiar with clearances. Even so, common sense would tell us that one can't place an iron box full of burning wood too close to things that might catch fire. But, since not everyone has common sense, there are codes to cover this sort of thing, i.e. how close a woodburning stove can be to any given wall.

There are a number of options to bring clearances up to code. The simplest is distance, by placing the back of the stove 30 inches, and the sides 18 inches, from a combustible wall. In our case however, the back of the alcove isn't combustible, as it's the back of the brick fireplace in our bedroom. The wood walls on the sides however, were a consideration. The alcove created by tearing down the chimney breast didn't give us the clearance room we needed using distance alone.

The clearance can be decreased to 14 inches on the sides, with a brick wall against a combustible wall. But by adding a one inch ventilated air space between the wood and the brick, the clearance distance can be reduced to 7 inches. This we could do.

Creating a ventilated masonry wall, requires vents at both bottom and top of the wall to allow for air circulation behind the wall. Those holey bricks will serve as the bottom vents for this. In addition, Dan did not put mortar between the bricks on the bottom course, except in the corners for wall stability.

The plan is to brick the alcove to about the same height as the fireplace, add a brick ledge, and then finish the top of the alcove with mineral (cement) board. We won't have the same clearance issue to deal with at that height, but we wanted the extra measure of safety the mineral board will provide. I'm going to look for some fancy air vents to set into the top of the mineral board to complete our ventilated air space. The stove pipe will be double walled up to the ceiling. From the ceiling on up through the roof, we will use prefabricated metal chimney pipe UL Type HT class A, approved to 2100° F. This will bring the entire system up to code.

And last but not least, for those of you who have been wondering if Rascal has to snoopervise every aspect of every project, the answer is ...

Our very own personal snoopervisorYES!

Next - Finishing The Brickwork

The New Hearth - Laying the 1st Course is copyright
(both text & photos) 


Theresa said...

Looks absolutely great! Good idea with the venting down in the hearth area. Yikes, UL103HT is mightly expensive pipe. We know, we had to go through 30+ feet of height from first floor ceiling to roof and beyond. Great stuff and worth every penny for piece of mind. Good to see Rascal doing so well with all the supervisory tasks!

Leigh said...

Theresa, it's outrageously expensive! And has put a serious dent in our dwindling savings. But... it is the system that comes with the stove. I would have loved to be able to find something less expensive locally, but around here, it is gas FP's that are popular so it's difficult to find someone knowledgeable about woodstove heating systems. Anyway, you're right about the peace of mind, it's priceless.

Julie said...

Is there anything that isn't expensive anymore? I love the brick and the colors are great. Just think when your done its all going to be just beautiful!

Renee Nefe said...

How very fortunate you are to have the perfect solution (the bricks with holes) right there on your property!
Will you be able to get the stove installed before it gets too cold there? I always worry about being warm enough...of course I'm sure you have plenty of nice cozy blankets to bundle up in.

I'm currently working on 3 yarn projects for winter warmth, one knitted and two crochett. :D Now watch it be a very mild winter. LOL!

Flower said...

Your work is paying day at a time! I can't wait to see the stove in-place and keeping you warm!

Helen said...

One of my students has done a whole two year course just on bricks- I am sure you could sue those as an inspiration for something fibrey Glad to see Rascal in the centre of things as usual.
Ps we have just had a wood burner put in and it is fabulous!

Leigh said...

Julie, you're right about that. It's amazing anybody can afford to do anything these days.

Renee, the goal is to get it in before we need it! But, things always seem to take longer than than we first think. Good for you too, on those projects. I need to follow your lead!

Flower, that's how I need to think of it, one day at a time. It's so easy to get overwhelmed that it's better to just focus on the task at hand.

Helen, funny you should say that because just yesterday I started thinking about designing some fabric for living room draperies! I love a wood stove too, funny how it's so comforting, isn't it.

Anonymous said...

this is regards to catzee. we had a similar situation in 1978. we moved from apt. to a house. cat can finally play outside as a cat should. she goes missing after 3 months. we search high & low, nothing. 2 months later i get a letter from apt. management chastising me for abandoning my cat. seems she went "home" 16 miles. can you imagine? i picked her up, kept her inside over the winter. let her out in the spring. she lived almost to 18.

Sharon said...

The bricks will be an art form. Have you decided on a stove yet? Ian keeps going up above Doyle for more Forest Service firewood, this morning again in fact. We're good for this winter - hope to maintain heat without propane. Wood heat is the best - forced air is just weird - transient.

Robin said...

Fun, fun. I love the different colors in your bricks, but I don't envy your brick cleaning job. Hopefully you will get the stove in on time. Lee and I barely got ours in last year before the weather turned cold.

Leigh said...

Anonymous, thank you so much for this encouraging comment. I did put up a poster at our old apartment complex. The only time she got out there was when she "escaped" so it's hard to imagine she'd find her way there, but who knows.

Sharon, we've got a Woodstock soapstone stove. And I have to agree with you on wood heat. I don't know why, especially since it's less convenient, but it is so superior to central heating. It seems more real and comforting somehow.

Robin, that's the plan! If not, it'll get mighty cold around here!

Judy said...

Well, you've inspired me. Somewhere, out behind the old chicken house, is a pile of bricks that need to be cleaned so they can be used.

I already have a stone fireplace, but I bet they'd make a nice outdoor bbq.... hmmmm

Leigh said...

Judy, so glad to know I've encouraged you! Let me know when you get that BBQ done and I'll come see. :)