fireplace chimney gone featured

Fireplace and chimney, be gone!

With the kitchen done, what’s the next logical step, the next logical room to tackle? Well, in our minds that was the living and dining room. As it’s practically one open space, we’re going to tackle them together. The cycle can restart, and hence it’s demolition time!

Back in the days when the animals could still speak and the previous owners had the house remodelled to their wishes, some funny things happened and decisions were made that nowadays would be… Well, frowned upon. It must have been très chique back then, but in houses today you can’t really get away with it any more. What I’m talking about? This:


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A friggin’ huge open fireplace. Wrapped. In copper plating.

To give you an idea of how massive and impressive this thing is: our ceiling there is 3 meter high (or nearly 10 feet). That pedestal protrudes nearly 1 meter and is 2.5 meter wide. Like I said, it’s huge.

I quickly discovered that the copper plates were riveted onto an iron frame. That frame was then resting on something of the chimney, and screwed against the wall. I didn’t feel comfortable trying to get the thing off, not knowing how much it would weigh (my guess? Too much) or how it would come down anyway (to this day I still don’t know how it ever got into place, as the direction of the riveting suggests it was assembled before being put in place). So I had a go at it with my crowbar first, trying to pry it inbetween the plate and the frame.

Very soon I decided this wasn’t the way forward: it would cost me too much blood, sweat and time (not tears) to get it all of this way.

We then tried grinding away the rivet heads.

This worked out a little better, but still took quite some time. And then the grinder decided it didn’t want to play anymore, so we needed yet another solution.

Enter attempt number 3: a hammer and a chisel. The copper rivets were actually soft enough that two or three blows was all it took to get the head of as well. Same result as the grinder, but a lot faster. And once all the heads of a plate were gone, it was simply a matter of popping it off.

A little later the frame was getting visible.

With all the copper gone, we could take the frame off and out to the garden. It still was more than heavy enough for two men, so again, don’t ask me how it ever got in place. I guess Superman once visited while on vacation and threw it in place since he was here anyway. BAM. Just like that. But I digress. With the frame now in the garden, we cut it up so that it would at least not take up so much space any longer, and be easier to carry around. And off it went, to the scrap metal pile I keep.

We now had the old chimney visible, from back when the house was built. Well, the upper part of it, the lower half has been reworked during the upgrade to copper.

Those dark yellow, orang-y patches you see on the old part? Those are newspapers! Apparently it was very common in those days to put those against the wall before putting up the actual wallpaper, as some kind of protection for the plaster or to get the wallpaper back off more easy. They did contain some nice surprises, like these small ads.

If you don’t speak Dutch it may not be as funny to you as it was to us though. The big one, with the drawing, is about kidney conditions, that all of them are serious because if left untreated they can become chronic. Well duh, captain obvious! Or the top one in the second column, about an itch at your derrière… But we also found a date!

Thursday March 15, 1934. We’ve always been told that our house dates from 1932, and this could confirm that. Suppose construction started late 1932, then Spring of 1934 is feasible for interior decoration.

Before taking down the rest of the chimney, I went up and demolished the last part of the chimney still standing on the second floor. Part of it had already been taken down by roof guy and his men, now for me to take it down to the floor. Before…

… and after! I put up some scrap board in an effort to protect the floor, as we still hope to salvage it somehow later on.

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I did this first so that any debris would be tunneled nicely down to just above the floor instead of falling out of the ceiling, ending up God knows where.

Then I could have a closer look at the chimney downstairs, if it could be removed safely or not. For that I made a hole so I could peak inside, and removed some plaster to see how well the chimney actually supports the concrete deck above.

Turns out it’s actually a small hole through the concrete, and the deck isn’t supported by the chimney. Time to take it down it is!

The brick upper half didn’t really pose a problem. Hammer drill in hammer-only mode is all we need to get it down.

Then we hit something. Something big. Something sturdy. Something that wasn’t going away easily. A big slab of concrete.

First I attempted to get it to bits and pieces by hammering on it…

… but that didn’t do anything worth the effort. I remembered I had a gift from the gods, also known as Thors hammer…

The concrete ended up broken in pieces, releasing all iron reinforcements it contained (six of them, a pinky thick if you don’t have oversized pinkies anyway). The remaining brick part was even easier to get rid of, so that was gone in no time again.

All that was left now was to get that giant piece of stone from the pedestal to the back of the yard, in the greenery with all the other stuff I’m keeping for God knows when. But for this one we already have an idea, it’s going to be a meaty one! Just don’t expect it to show up again anytime soon. To get it there though wasn’t that easy. We used some kind of cart, a bunch of OSB boards, pallets and other scrap woods to create a path from the living room, over the step of the sliding door down onto the terrace, to the grass and so on to the greenery.

It’s tucked away safely now, away from the elements’ possible influence. And it only took us one hour to get it there! That’s nothing compared to all the work done before!