As they’d say in the city where I went to university. As I type this, we’ve still got a lovely balmy evening of 21 degrees Celsius, but when the day began, it didn’t look as though we could ever get up to the forecast 24 degrees that we actually did hit during the afternoon. It was warm but dull and overcast, and when I started to get the tools and materials together that I would need to do the work on my chimney stack that I had planned for today, it even began to lightly spit with rain.
I’d got some little square paving blocks from Point P which I thought would be ideal for supporting the slab on the top of the chimney. I’d started with four and then increased that to eight but when I tried to use that many, there was very little space left for the smoke to come out! So I went back to my original idea of four, and lucky I did too. It was hard enough bedding just that few straight and level in mortar on the rim of the chimney while balancing on my roof ladder and the roof ridge, without having to do twice that number! I also wanted to step them back from the edges a bit, to give the chimney that ‘French look’ and also so rainwater running off the slab would drip off its edges and not run down the corner supports washing away the mortar over time, so that would mean that the blocks wouldn’t be fully supported by the rim of the chimney. A tall order maybe, so I faced what was really only quite a small job with a certain amount of trepidation.
The little blocks came with spacer bumps on their edges that were great if you were using them as they were intended, for paving, but a bit inconvenient for what I had in mind. So to start off with, I had to mount them in my Workmate two at a time and grind each edge flat with my angle grinder. Easy enough, and the whole time I was doing it, Scratchy, my next-door neighbour’s cat, was asleep next to me in the long grass at the end of my house. Cool or what… Then I was ready to start the job up-top, in earnest.
When I put my ladder up, two old ridge tiles shifted a bit and a large lump of mortar fell out from under one of them, so I had to make a mental note to knock up sufficient mortar to re-secure those before I finished. As I mentioned above, bedding the little blocks on edge, not fully supported by the rim of the chimney and so as to give a level platform for the slab that they were going to support, was challenging to say the least. But I did the best I could and was fairly happy with the final result. Anyway, as proclaimed in the title of this post, here it is – see what you think.
For the time being at least, the slab is only resting on the corner supports and isn’t yet secured in any way. This is for several reasons – obviously, it will keep the rain out when the inevitable happens in the next couple of days or so, and by placing it on the blocks while the mortar connecting them to the chimney is curing, I’ve ensured that they are are as true as possible to the underside of the slab and that the mortar joints will be better than if they’d been left with no pressure on them at all. However, I’ve also got something else in mind. All of the ‘damage’ to the chimney stack had been caused in the past by heat, smoke and caustic fumes rising from the fireplace below and attacking the joints between the blocks used in the construction of the chimney and, to some extent especially around the lip of the chimney, the blocks themselves. So if I could keep the ‘products of combustion’ away from the chimney itself, not only will that not continue to happen in the future, but the repairs that I’ve just done will surely last much longer than they might do otherwise. And the way to achieve that is by extending the flue pipe from my wood burner right up to the top of the chimney, as I’d originally intended, instead of just having a couple of lengths of tubing on top of the stove with the smoke etc then entering into the chimney at quite a low height. Sure, it’ll cost a bit more, but I’m coming round to the way of thinking that not to do so would be a false economy.
Having the flue pipe going right up the chimney will involve having a securing bracket right up at the top and to fit that, I’d need access to the inner rim to drill and plug it for fixings, ergo the slab can’t be permanently fixed, at least for now. And if I drill its four corners and plug each supporting block, it might be that using four large brass dome-head screws to hold it on will be the best way anyway. But whatever, I still have those options by not fixing it on for now – and I don’t think we will have winds strong enough to blow it off in the foreseeable future in any case.
Now to finish off, a couple more pics. The first shows the finished chimney, all ready for me to press on next week and install my wood burner (at last!!) The second shows what I started with yesterday. It was quite hard work, but I’m very happy with the improvement and think it was well worth all the effort 😉
Ah yes, what else… After I’d finished the work on the chimney and cleared up, I couldn’t resist getting my new chain saw out, cutting down the other dead tree I have, and chopping it up for logs. Good fun! The tree wasn’t that big – diameter at the base around six or seven inches I’d say – but its wood was lovely, very dry and hard to cut, real quality stuff. I’m sure it’ll burn a treat. Then I thought, what the heck, before I collapse with exhaustion, get the mower out and cut the grass at the back, which was getting to the verge of being out of control again. So all in all a great day’s work! So I can take tomorrow as a rest day – might be nice to nip out to Galinat and fit my new carb rubbers that have been sitting all week on my kitchen table. Who knows, if it’s nice, might even get to fly 😀