Sunday, August 28, 2011

No Chimney Cap?

Starting this spring, we've had some major fireplace problems, especially in the Kitchen. With the amount of snow we had this winter, it was only expected that we'd have a very wet spring when it all melted. Every time it has rained since then, we've had to put buckets in the kitchen fireplace to catch all of the water (and once, a mouse, but that's another story..).
The water that comes dripping down our massive chimney is not pretty... By the time it makes it to the kitchen, it is covered in 240 years of grime and soot. The water in the buckets is black and nasty. Oh, and doesn't smell so good either. Just what you want in your kitchen while you're trying to eat.. Days after a rainstorm, the kitchen still smells because now all of the bricks are saturated. A couple weeks ago, we've started to notice leakage in all of the other fireplaces as well.. and no, really strong plug-in air fresheners PLUS all the windows open don't completely get rid of the smell, in case you were wondering.

About a month ago R realized that we had a HUGE hole in our chimney cap, and that's why the water has just been rushing into our kitchen's indoor water feature. His guess was that with all of the snow piled up on there this winter, the cap just gave out. Last weekend he was in the attic putting some boxes away and realized that all of the water had washed away some of the mortar in the chimney and we can now see straight through it. We knew that eventually the chimney would have to be rebuilt at least in the attic, but it was something we were hoping could wait until we were ready to finish off the attic.

With the impending Hurricane Irene, R had had enough. He called a local chimney company, A to Z Chimney Sweep, and Jim came out the next day. He said that he had been to our house a couple years ago to look at the cap (great... so it's something that has been in bad shape for a long time.. not a good sign). The previous owner decided not to spend the money to fix it, seeing as he'd be selling the house soon. So, now it's up to us. Jim went up on the roof and took a look around. Turns out that hole in the cap was a lot bigger than I had imagined (I was thinking like 1'x2'). Turns out it's 5'x5'. No wonder we have so much water! I'm surprised we haven't been flooded out of the house! Jim also thought that the fact that we have oil heat aided in the demise of our cap. He said that so many years of oil heat coming up through there have just eaten away at the metal.. then the heavy snow was the last straw and it just collapsed. Because of the size of the chimney, we have to get a new cap custom made. We've decided to go with stainless steel, which comes with a lifetime warranty (will it still be there in another 240 years?), with screens around the sides to keep out birds and other animals. Our bedroom fireplace has evidence of mud nests built by swallows. This takes time though, so it wouldn't be ready before the hurricane, so Jim put up a temporary piece of sheet metal, to get us through the storm.
He tied it on with strapping and it did a great job! It survived the 70+mph winds and 24 hours of heavy rain. It did keep us entertained, flapping around up there, making noises that sounded like thunder (we had neighbors asking us if we heard the strange noises during the storm, which we had to admit was us...). But most importantly, it kept us mainly dry. We did get a couple drips in the kitchen toward the end of the storm, but it definitely performed beyond our expectations!

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