One thing that will definitely need to be addressed in this renovation is the fireplace … and the chimney. OK, that’s two things. But we are lucky enough to have access to a wonderful craftsman who can fix all our problems. (Can you tell our fingers are crossed when we say that?) What problems, you ask? Well, take a look and you should see why we are so down on our current situation.
After taking a look at that picture, you may be thinking, “Huh?” We don’t blame you. We have several problems to deal with.
Problem #1: We currently have the firebox blocked off as a result of some bat issues we had last summer. Because of damage to the chimney, bats were able to get into our attic and create a little home for themselves. Bats are protected in the state of Florida, so they cannot be removed during their breeding season, which lasts four months. We noticed them about one week into the season, so we had to wait four months before we could exclude them. (That’s the fancy term used for letting the nest empty and then blocking up the entrance holes.)
During this time, the colony living in our attic got pretty big. We estimate somewhere around 200. (Check out the video at the end of this post if you want to see what dusk looks like when 200 bats live in your attic. It’s crazy.) Thankfully – if there is anything in this situation to be thankful for – they did seem to be restricted to the attic. However, needless to say we did not want them to get into the house, so we covered the firebox with a piece of drywall just in case. Honestly, the only reason it is still there is because we don’t want to see what’s behind it. Oh well, it will all be exposed soon enough.
Problem #2: The current surround is really ugly! The original brick has been covered with what appears to be (pretty cheap) 12×12 floor tile. If possible, we plan to have our mason restore the original brick. Obviously, we’ll need to see what the condition is under that tile, but we’re keeping our hopes up.
Also, while we were browsing cement tiles for the kitchen, we saw some we really liked that were a little too busy for what we had in mind for the kitchen but should look really good as a hearth. We haven’t decided on the exact pattern. We’ll need to wait on the final choice until we see the condition and color of the brick. But here is one we are considering. We want something colorful with a relatively intricate pattern so that it really helps make the fireplace the centerpiece of the room.
Problem #3: This isn’t so much of a problem to fix as an opportunity to make something better. Right now, we have just a fireplace between two small windows. In many of the houses we looked at before we bought this one, we saw beautiful built-in shelves on the fireplace wall. In fact, built-ins surrounding the fireplace seem to be a staple of many Craftsman-style homes. For some reason, ours was built without them, but we can fix that. 🙂 Since all the trim in the house has been painted white and we are NOT interested in stripping it all, we will paint the mantel and the built-ins white as well. This image we found through Pinterest is what we will be going for.
In this process, we will also likely lower the height of the mantel. Some people may not agree with this, but the TV will live above the fireplace. Because of the size and layout of the room, we don’t really have many options, so we will probably stick with this placement. We will take the opportunity to run the wiring through the wall so everything will look a bit neater.
Problem #4: Even though we live in Florida (89 degrees on October 1!!), we would like to be able to get some actual heat from the fireplace. That is definitely not the case right now. We have a set of gas logs that look very pretty when they are burning. The trouble is there is no flue or anything to actually direct the heat into the house rather than it disappearing up the chimney. The result is a house that is still cold despite a substantial gas bill.
We are going to replace the current set up with a direct vent insert. This should be a more efficient set up that will give us more heat and smaller bills. The new fireplace will vent directly out the side of the chimney rather than run all the way up to the top.
We’re thinking that we will use this one from Woodland Direct. It’s minimal appearance should blend in with the surround, hearth and mantel.
We are looking at one option for the chimney right now. Rebuild it completely.
One reason for this is it will need to be taller since the house is growing as well. Another reason is the damage that we mentioned earlier. There used to be a pretty significantly sized tree right next to the chimney. When we moved in, only the stump – and the damage it caused – remained. The base of the chimney was pushed up by the tree roots which made it crack and pull away from the house. (This is where the bats found their way in.)
The plan is to take the chimney down completely and start over. If we can, we will reuse the original brick to build the new chimney. Because we aren’t going to vent the fireplace out the top of the chimney, we can actually just frame it in with wood and cover it in a single layer of brick. We’re hoping this will mean we have enough brick even though the chimney is growing taller. Again, here’s where we are lucky to have a family connection to an expert in brickwork.
Unfortunately, we anticipate running into some issues with the remains of the tree. (This is how we feel about that stinking tree!) The roots are everywhere and are really hard to get through. We have had many arguments with them in the past. We have hired someone to grind the stump on two different occasions, and we even rented a stump grinder and took it on ourselves once. (That is not a fun job.) Yet, still it remains. Hopefully, we will be more victorious this time than in some of our previous encounters.