Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fireplace, Hearth & Chimney Restoration Begins

Our first major project at the Amstel House is the restoration of the kitchen fireplace, hearth, and chimney. We are restoring the fireplace to its original size and configuration, c. 1738. The project is expected to take about 5 weeks to complete.

On-site work began last week. Carpenters arrived Thursday to cut an access hatch in the ceiling of a second floor bedchamber (our current office) so the masons can get into the attic above to work on the chimney. Conveniently there was an obvious area in the corner of the ceiling that was patched with plaster, and the plaster had cracked in a right-angle pattern suggesting a previous access hatch. We hoped if we opened the same area that we would see evidence in the framing of an original hatch. So, with fingers crossed the carpenters opened the hatch...

...and found no framing - darn! It was apparent that someone had previously cut through the ceiling in that area since the original lath was cut back below a large timber, and the lath used in the patch was sawn rather than hand-split.

After consulting with our architect we decided to move ahead with our original plans to finish the opening permanently with a jamb, trim and panel so we will always have easy access into the attic for storage, maintenance and to trap the occasional squirrel or raccoon (if you live in New Castle you understand this!). We'll finish the plaster around it and paint it after the chimney is finished. Here a detail shot of the trim and door: On Monday the masons arrived for their first full day on work. Scaffolding was set up at the rear of the kitchen wing, taking a good portion of the day. The investigated the chimney as well as the condition of the other two chimneys and took some very valuable photos of the other chimney, flues, and roofs. As you might guess the photos reveal that additional work is needed (ugh!). But more on that later...Toward the end of the day the began deconstruction of the kitchen chimney. Meanwhile, I spent about two hours trying to pick appropriate bricks out of a huge pile of (mostly) 18th century bricks from a nearby house that was torn down (the owner was gracious enough to donate bricks for our project). For a novice like me, picking appropriate bricks is tougher that I thought. When I brought my first cache of bricks back to our site, the masons reviewed them and gave me some additional insight into picking good bricks. So when the weather clears up I'll go back to try again.

That pretty much wraps up the first couple of days from my perspective!

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