Reinstating fireplace

Hello, I have a 1930s end terrace house which was built with four fireplaces - two up two down. One of the downstairs ones is still functioning, but the two upstairs are bricked up. I want to install decorative (ie non functioning) fireplaces upstairs. How does one go about this? Is it difficult/dangerous? Alternatively, how much might it cost to get someone to do this for me? Any advice greatly appreciated. Thank you Sam
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wibbled on Thursday 06 May 2010 12:06

Shouldn't be hard.
The main snag will be if the lintel (if any, see below) was removed over the opening (you'd have to insert a new one). But this is unlikely.
What I would do, having worked on a couple of fireplaces here, is:
Remove the plaster, working from the floor near the air vent, upwards.
You should be able to locate the lintel under the plaster. Now work sideways until you meet the join where the infil brickwork meets the wall brickwork (hint, expect a continuous vertical join, not staggered here - it is unlikely that the infil bricks were staggered into the originals).
Clean up and now you have the opening defined - the section of bricks that you may safely remove.
I would open out the plaster to the ends of the lintel too, to show that the lintel supports haven't been hacked away (I had this where someone had bodged in a fireplace that was a little too big and had chopped back the side bricks).
Note - you may not always find a lintel - there may be a course of soldier bricks instead or a lump of iron.
Now, remove the infil bricks. Starting at the vent opening would probably be easiest, working upwards until you have a column removed, then take out the remaining sides. Expect soot, birds nests and all sorts of crap to be inside so cover the floor well and have a hoover handy.
Don't forget to leave a vent in your new installation if you are planning on lining it and closing off the flue above.
Cheers
Tim
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Tim Watts

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Tim Watts wrote:

On the last two I've done there was an iron arch with just the 5mm or so edge showing from the front. Difficult to see until you're right up to it.
Not a difficult job, but messy.
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That's absolutely brilliant - thank you very much Tim. Really appreciate your help.
Thank you
Sam
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wibbled on Thursday 06 May 2010 14:24

Found a couple of piccies too:
http://photos.dionic.net/v/public/bungalow/2009-08-07-img_0002.jpg.html
(Lintel'd, ironwork mine due to lintel slipping 'cos some wally had cut the bricks back too much). This one is blanked over with plasterboard now.
http://photos.dionic.net/v/public/bungalow/2009-08-09-img_0020.jpg.html
The iron bar just visible is also mine - the bricks looked like they *might* be slightly loose... This fireplace now has an Aga in.
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Tim Watts

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<snip>
That post deserves a place in the wiki. Great stuff.
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Graeme

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Nicely done sir!
when lining out the "recess" so revealed, I suggest you use some insulated plasterboard secured to battens to "block" the chimney. As Tim says, include a vent - a cheapo plastic "hit and miss" type will do - open the vent in summer, maybe close it in winter when/if it's too draughty..
I did a fireplace like that recently and also lined the rear (vertical face) with insulated plasterboard too - as there was only one skin of bricks to the outside!! I also doubled up the insulation on the piece blocking the flue (i.e. the horizontal piece of pboard).
Cheers JimK
(NB unless you happen to have some insulated pboard knocking about I expect you could make some by glueing "Kingspan" (or others) foam insulation board (or even polystyrene at a pinch) to the back of some plasterboard.
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Thank you all so much for your help.
I have a couple of additional Qs following on from these responses, if anyone has time.
If taking off the plaster does reveal soldier bricks instead of a lintel, am I safe to go ahead and remove the infill brickwork?
And also, can I check that you suggest, once opened out, I should block the flue completely with a piece (or two) of insulated plasterboard, which should also include a vent?
Thank you again,
Sam
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wibbled on Thursday 06 May 2010 16:07

Yes, unless they look like they are going to fall out. If you have any doubts, you could do what I did and angle grind a slot under them and bang in a bit of 2" x 1/4" flat steel bar, overhanging the edge of the original opening.

It's probably a good idea to reduce unnecessary amounts of hot updraughts out of the chimney pot, which must be balanced by cold air coming into your house somewhere else.
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Once again - thank you - that's really really helpful indeed.
Best,
Sam
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If it backs onto an outside wall, put in an airbrick to the outside above the level you're going to block off so the flue is vented to the outside, and then you can completely block it off from the inside, and avoid the heatloss from the room up the flue. It must be open or vented at the top too.
I dropped arial cables, and a lighting cable down the flue from the loft for concealed illumination. No flues on that side of the stack are still used (probably not a good idea if they are unless you use pyro;-).
I blocked it off with a piece of plasterboard held in place with some bonding coat plaster, and a Klik lighting socket to connect up a small under-cupboard style fluoresent lamp. On top of the plasterboard I put about 8" of fibreglass loft insulation, both to act as thermal insulation, and to cushion the blow of any bits of mortar which fall down the flue and hopefully don't smash through the plasterboard (onto the HiFi).
Might want to make provision for a mains socket at the back of the fireplace, and possibly speaker and other connections too.
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Andrew Gabriel
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Probably doesn't apply to houses as late as the 30's, but on our 1900s house, all the rooms originally had fireplaces, and the upstairs ones had all been blocked off. When I had floor boards up to put in extra sockets and reposition rads, I found that there were still stone slabs under the floor, where the hearths had been, and that all the rafters supporting these had the ends burnt off. There was quite a lot of clinker on the ceiling below too! Basically it had only been the floorboards that had been holding the floor and the ceiling and suspended kitchen ceiling below it up! Very glad I had some acroprops while new rafters were sought!
If your upstairs floors feel at all springy, you might want to check around the fireplaces while you are at it.
S
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you mean joists (not rafters).
JimK
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Oops! Indeed: and it was a pain resupporting the shortened burnt ones - and as it happens, others where the ends had rotted in the wall. Actually this was a very good example of one of those jobs (moving the rad) that you both wish you had never thought of, but end up very glad that you did! (Floor still feels a tad springy though - but at least I know there is a fair amount of wood and steel actually supporting it now!)
S
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Funny, just been rooting around in the same place in a 1909 house. No burned timber, fortunately. The hearth has a high cement mortar top, poured over clinker. One thing I'm sure you couldn't do today is that an iron gas pipe is cemented into the hearth. I can't work out what for, because there's a separate outlet for a gas fire (in lead pipe, T-ed off it, so probably added later), so it's not for that. I couldn't see where the gas pipe went after vanishing into the hearth. It might run up the wall to wall mounted gas lamps, but I already found two of those on the opposite wall, and the bedroom isn't big enough to need that many gas lamps. It might have run down the wall in the living room below, but I can see that room had a ceiling mounted gas lamp. I would love to have found some of the gas lamps dumped under the floor or in the loft, but alas I never have. I long since disconnected the gas lamp supply anyway.
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writes:

It can be interesting under the floors and in the loft of these old houses. Here, the town had just got its own gas and electric works as the house was being built; then the supplies went national. Thus there were the fire places; local town gas pipes - large bore iron; electricity in separate rubber coated wires inside a network of iron conduit, with a separate lead earth 'wire'; then more iron pipes for national gas; and then maybe two more rewirings and then the central heating. Result, floorboards like matchwood from all the ups and downs, and joists notched all over the place. I have had to 'rebuild' a number of floor boards from virtual splinters, as they are all odd sizes, and not easy to replace. On the plus side I've assembled quite a useful supply of iron pipes, rescued from under the floor, for which I have found numerous uses in garage and garden. I'm going to miss them when they've all been used! (Similarly, extensions had been done in three steps, from porch to bathroom, to full width. This meant a handy amount of redundant lead flashing and a number spare rafters just left loose in the roof space too.
S
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