Saturday, November 29, 2014

There is Nothing Quite Like a Wood Burning Fireplace

The Gas Fireplace with a Remote Control Just Didn't Cut It


This article could also be known as "How to Convert your Fireplace Back to Woodburning" and "How to Replace a Missing Damper Knob for a 1920's Fireplace"

When we moved into this new home a year ago, we were greeted with a gas powered fireplace. Having had wood burning before we were hesitant but so many people talked about the benefits of gas. After a couple of fires, we still couldn't see it but thought we might be stuck with it. Sure, it's nice to just push a button and have the flames licking the logs but there wasn't the smell of wood char or smoke in the air. It was nice not hauling in logs (or stacking them on the porch) but I also had to figure out what to do with all those little boxes that kids' snacks came in, and how to recycle newspaper (let's not talk about all the twigs in the backyard after a thunderstorm). I also didn't like the idea of spending money on gas with the heating bill already out of control last winter.

Kindling Box
So this week we had an appointment with a chimney sweep and kept our fingers crossed. I should add that we had made the decision to at least have a consultation but it was actually pretty difficult to find someone that would look at the fireplace and tell us if we could burn wood in it. Maybe it's because of the time of year, but we also made this appointment over a month in advance. In fact this was the chimney sweep's only open appointment until the new calendar year so I actually booked it and worked from home for that four hour window.

We were very happy to find out that yes, this fireplace was indeed a woodburning fireplace originally. Now there are probably some of you who are saying, "Well of course it was you dumba$$, the house was built in the 20's so why would you think it was originally for gas?" Well that would make perfect sense but because of the small size of this fireplace we had been told it may have been originally to heat coal. So there! It turns out that our fireplace is a Class A fireplace, with a teracotta liner, and could easily be coverted back.

So on Thanksgiving Eve, we set upon the task of converting back. It really wasn't that difficult but it was messy. First we scooped up all the little rocks, fibers and sand and ripped the guts of the gas powered apparatus out of the fireplace and swept and vacuumed the remenants. We then pulled the gas line out, turning off the valve downstairs first, and capped it for extra measure. The hole that was drilled for the gas line was filled with furnace cement. That was probably the most challenging part as the first tub I purchased was dried out and I had to make a second trip for the exchange.

On Thanksgiving we went out in search of firewood. Now I know that it's probably not the most likely day to get it but we found a gentleman open during the holiday, as his workshop was also his home, and spent a good half hour loading a crate of wood into our truck, and then another half hour stacking it on the deck railing in our backyard. I would say we have enough for most of the winter. It may be a new holiday tradition because I can't imagine Christmas without a fire.

Damper Knob from Old Door Knob
Now that we had the fireplace in working order again, we began to focus on the little details. When we moved in we discovered that the damper knob was actually missing and the damper itself was seized. My husband is a pretty handy guy and used an old vintage crystal door knob for a temporary damper knob but it never quite matched the fireplace. The chimney sweep was able to free up the damper (it's now in working order - it just needs some "jiggling" when you open and close it as it has some grooves for the almost 100 years of turning it has experienced), but now we really examined the knob situation. We looked at vintage hardware stores but could not fathom spending a couple hundred dollars for a replacement. Instead we found a "new" vintage doorknob at a local antiques marketplace. It actually was a complete kit or set, with two knobs and the mechanism. Because it's a coppery metal and oblong rather than round, we think this is a better fit. For better control, my husband drilled a hold in the bottom of the knob (where the collar is) and then through the remaining stub that was attached to the actual fireplace and made a pin with a nail that was cut down to fit. It's now pretty secure.

Damper Box Lid Detail - Old Insulated Milk Box
We did also find a new box to hold kindling. When we moved we never anticipated needing a grate or a box, or a log holder for that matter, ever again so we are now on the hunt for all those tools again. This new kindling box is made out of a vintage insulated milk box and because it has a lid, seems like a safer way to store newpaper and wood near the fireplace without the threat of burning embers hitting those flammable materials. 

I plan on curling up in a chair tomorrow with a plate of homemade cookies and a good book, next to the fire. . . That has been on the list of necessary weekend activities for this long break. Now the only problem is that we are forecasted to have a Sunday on the last day of November close to 60 degrees?!!! I'm pretty sure it won't last so maybe next weekend!

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