Saturday, January 16, 2016


Finally an upbeat story reminding us to do and not INVEST PASSIVELY.  

Cement binds.  Its mortar of concrete is ground stone.  

Grind the stones to dust; pulverize them.  Add water to the dust and fill the space between puzzle mounted stones and any space between them is forgiven   You have a sealed fireplace chimney. 

When water permeates the stones, because cracks in the cement allowed the water to gather and freeze, expanding the cracks, then water gets into the fireplace.  

The fireplace insert that was the rage in the 1930’s was a heatilator, with self-contained interior vent-paths on each of its sides, with openings at the bottom to draw in cool air and openings up top to release the hot air, having passed through the fire heated iron lining to the left and right of the fireplace.  How heatilating!

Because our fireplace stones had been laid and cemented around this enormous 1935 iron heatilator box, all our options for the fireplace addressed inserting an insert inside and up the chimney, through its flu, of which there are two running through the one chimney,

The water that permeated the stones for the past 80 years, corroded the iron.  As the iron rusted thin, it became brittle until, at last, gashes breached its elemental fabric. 

-- Such that I could bend and pull out the pieces.  The Mason observed that our old corroded heatilator box even came with its own (corroded) flu flap, which was incompatible with the flu cap wire that also ran through it to the chimney top.   

So you could never close the heatilator flu containing the fireplace box without catching the wire running up the chimney to the chimney-top flu cap. 

As for the two flues inside the chimney, they run parallel, side by side.  

Surrounded by cemented chimney stones are two clay lined flues running up to the chimney-top, one is for the fireplace and the other for an oil burner below the house.   This took me a while to comprehend.  There are two passageways, the big fireplace is only using one of them.  It is like only 4 inches square... I know this as if I always knew but I assure you, that is not the case.  Was this small opening causing smoke to pour out when we lit a fire?

Water had also rotted the fan of our forced air oil burner and, along with its corroded 300 gallon iron oil tank, it is now gone from the basement. 

In order to heat and cool the house without oil or propane or other fuels, we are using an electric powered Japanese freon-manipulating Heat-pump which also provides cool air through the old oil burner ducts that snake through basement ceiling.  The installers humored me when I asked them, rather than mounting the air-conditioners around the house, to mount them in the basement ceiling and use the old ducts.  

This is the same split system whose condensers you see everywhere, hanging from brackets mounted into the buildings throughout the shanty tenements in the shadow of the Marriott skyscraper along the windy streets of old Shanghai.   

However, our one big fan vented condenser runs its recycling freon through three differing units also mounted into the basement ceiling.

Realistically a zero degree temperature must make it a strain for that freon to produce heat from temperatures lower than the outside weather, but this is a system that is still somewhat incomprehensible and as they say about our judgment of it, the jury is still out. 

So every shanty apartment in old Shanghai has its split duct condenser hanging from the walls.  It is just another example of how our ancient worlds (of the 1930's) live on.

For the Shanghai of 600 years ago, go to the Yu Gardens.

And we're really straying from the topic of successful fireplace masonry.

So I thought that the self-contained re-purpose idea of using those oil fired forced air heat ducts to run the modern heat pump was a good idea, even though it also sends cold air through the floor vents and cold air tends to settle on the floor.   

We just have to remember to kick around the air during the summer. 

The mason man's first job was to re-point the chimney-top cracks.  He also restored the original stone grill (that Candlewood Isle Founding Father Mr. Ducey must have built his own in the back of the house). 

Smoke still poured into our a-frame living room especially as the fire in the hearth died down, so while the mason scanned the internet for a replacement heatilator (I think he did) I drove around the entire Candlewood Lake searching for insert ideas, two places, and then visited the guns and weapons stores -- a Japanese Guy named Hans was quit forthcoming there.   Yes they are collectible saved from the trenches during world war I.  Yes they work.  And if you want magazine guns, there's an extra form to submit.  And I didn't take pictures, no.  

I also visited the pipe by the damn and lake pump.  I drove around the entire Candlewood Lake.  

What of the wood? Buy proper wood.  Don't use the cuttings from your crazy scissorhand prunning  There's Crenolite?  Pine oils?

Forget it.  All the  cuttings are going in there, and yet the chimney is clean (I bought and ran through it a 50' chimney sweep rod.  Nothing.)... 

So the mason just pulled out the entire interior and relaid the stones without the heatilator, kept the vents to the sides, used the original wood mantle, and raised the fireplace one foot, building a hearth stone that looks as if it was always there.    

We've still got our $5 four flap screen in front of it, it’s low cost attributable to its light weight, which is of course preferable.  And I was at last able to use my Columbian artifact antique bellows with the copper embossings of owl chewing lobster tail on one side and eight-pronged man on the other.  

The turning point for the commercially manufactured wood burning inserts with the glass window was my visit to the New Fairfield thrift store.  I may have actually bought nothing but when the lady behind the counter heard me talking about the woodburning insert with a neighbor she said, all those fuels are dirty.  There’s a reason we no longer use wood as fuel, it’s the dirtiest there is and when I walk down the street I have to breath the smoke from the homes heating themselves with these woodburning inserts.   

Well you can always get pellets. 

That was pretty illuminating.  Even though fossel fuels are NO LONGER the subject of international price-gouging, electricity is still cleaner.  

Finally, in the lower back of the fireplace box the mason installed a vent pulling air from outside through an opening at the bottom of the chimney. 

The Mason is James Delafield, referred to us by our primary country cottage counselor, Joseph Snopkowski.  Green Star installed and continues to support the Heat Pump HVAC system.  

Monica's insisting that we raise hearth is transformative, even as it looks as if it was always there.