Tag Archives: chimney

Chimney Flashing Roof Repair

September 30, 2011

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It’s all Hurricane Irene’s fault. And Hurricane Lee’s fault.

During the torrential rains, my son reported dirty brown dripping water coming from the attic hatch located in his room.


I hate roof leaks. It means going into The Attic (insert creepy organ music) and scuffling around the giant fluffs of dirty cellulose insulation and suffocating bat dung. *groan*

Well, we didn’t have to go far into The Attic (insert creepy organ music). As soon as we popped the hatch, we saw that the chimney was crying wet. Most likely, the flashing. Which meant that the husband would have to go clambering atop the roof to see what was up.

Our roof is scary. It’s steeply pitched and it’s a long drop down. I always freak out when he goes up there. What I want to do is run away to the store or the movies where I can not think about him being up there. What I wind up doing is balancing the ladder and biting my nails as he skitters across the shingles. He’s never fallen– never even slipped (as far as I know), but he did lose grip of a Shop Vac one time…. oh, that was an event to remember. We laid that poor thing to rest.

Anyway, yesterday, he went up to see what’s up with the flashing. Our roof is 15 years old so I can’t say we were very optimistic. The shingles are, surprisingly, in very good shape for their age. The flashing…. not. The husband reported that it appears that the roofers had “cobbed” together bits and pieces of aluminum, stuffed them beside the chimney and slathered them with caulk (which has since eroded). That probably explains the water damage in the son’s bedroom closet….

So he came down and we did a little investigation online about chimney flashing. I’ve done roofing jobs as a kid and installing a roof is actually not too difficult. But the flashing requires a lot of skill. You can’t just slather caulk on the seams and expect it to last very long. After a half-hour of slogging through boring chimney repair websites and unhelpful videos, we found this video about elastomeric paste. This stuff looks good!

I think this may solve our problem, at least until we eventually get the roof redone and the chimney removed (We no longer need the chimney since getting direct vent appliances). The husband went to the Big Box retail stores and guess what— SOLD OUT! Everywhere! Looks like everyone is slopping this goop onto their Irene-stricken and Hurricane Lee-battered chimneys.

So he wrapped the chimney in a tarp. Did a good job. I’m thankful he used the green tarp instead of the fluorescent blue one.

If I ever get the chance to take a little break from my job and build my own house– NO CHIMNEYS! I’m sure in their heyday they were a marvel of modern Stone Age technology. But in a rainy (constantly rainy) climate, they really stink. The era of the chimney is over, as far as I’m concerned.

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The Chimney and the Barn Owl…

January 31, 2011


…not a very good combination. šŸ™

Do you hear that tinkling sound, the sounds of shards of glass falling to the cold, concrete floor? That’s my heart, busted into little bitty pieces. šŸ™ A beautiful barn owl died in my chimney’s water tank duct last week.

It started late in the evening. I was upstairs, and the kids were eating dinner downstairs. Suddenly, a huge crash was heard in the first floor, or in the basement. The kids called me down to investigate.

We figured the sound was coming from the basement. This has been ONE heck of a winter, I tell ya. Deer eating everything, possums and raccoons are squirrels nesting in the house walls, the basement… ice dams the size of Goliath dripping down into the garage and inside the walls… *sigh* It’s not a happy year for home ownership.

So I expected the intruder to be a squirrel. We have a lot of squirrels, and they all seem determined to make my life as miserable as possible. They nest in the walls, loudly scratching and squeaking all night…

I had no idea if this squirrel was rabid. I was a little afraid of the what-ever-it-is in the ducting.


I took a stick and banged on the duct. The thing squirmed and scratched. We wondered if it was a bird or a squirrel. It scratched like a squirrel, but it wasn’t as rough. Those of you lucky folks who have had squirrels nesting in the walls, you know what I mean when I say “sounds like a squirrel.” They have this unmistakable (read: ANNOYING) sound. But if it was a bird, why didn’t it fly back up through the chimney?And it was 10pm, what bird in its right mind would be flapping around the roof this late??

OK, I admit, NO, we DON’T have a chimney cap. Oh I know we should. The previous owners did us the honor of fixing the chimney (complete with lightning rod, the old pastor who lived her was deathly afraid if lightning), but never installed a cap, and never lined the chimney. So it’s a wide-open gaping hole for nasty squirrels and their riffraff.We haven’t had any problems with the chimney (that I know of) until now.

Anyway, the thing wouldn’t come out. I rapped on the duct a few times, but couldn’t drive the critter out. I tried to lift the ducting just a little, and when I did, I felt something furry at the end. EEK!!! I was now too terrified of lifting the ducting and having a live squirrel jumping out at me. I did what any respectable wife would do in such a circumstance: I’d wait for the husband to get home.

By the time he got home from work, it was very late and he was exhausted. I supposed the critter would have to wait until morning. Hopefully, he’d come out by then. The critter. Oh, and the husband, yeah.

Well, we went down next day, and I rapped on the pipe, hoping the scratching would cease. No scratching! The critter must have escaped! But the pipe made a dull *thud*. Oh no. It’s probably dead. Ugh. The Hubs geared up in his special superduperheavtyduty latex gloves (squirrels have sharp teeth, you know), and he lifted the ducting.



I thought it was a squirrel.

He pulled it out and we both stared for a minute. I didn’t see the little squirrely ears. What happened to its head?!??!!?

Then it hit me. It’s a bird. Oh, Lord. I thought maybe it was an osprey, as we have some around here. The Hubs exclaimed, “It’s an owl!”



I almost cried. That poor, poor owl. A squirrel would have deserved such a fate, but an owl?! Owls are good, gentle creatures. They don’t bare their sharp little teeth and maniacally chatter at me from the trees. Owls don’t steal the bird seed that I leave for the cardinals. That poor, poor owl! I was crushed. I regretted rapping on the duct. Maybe I killed him!! But then, maybe the fumes from the hot water tank overcame him.Wah!!!

So, a poor owl is dead. Wah. And we have to cap our chimney, pronto.

It will be a busy spring for me. The ice dams in the house are causing terrible leaks. We may need to repair the roof and do some interior repair work. What a winter. I can’t wait til it’s over!

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July 14, 2007


We’ve been really pushing ourselves, working all day on our projects (and eating nothing but leftovers, too). We have two teams going: one group is out in the trench for our drywell (the Outside Crew), the other is inside working on the plaster/lathe removal and wall/chimney repair (the Inside Crew). Here’s some great progress we’ve been making!

The Outside Crew has been digging, digging, and digging. At 47 inches below grade, the rocks are smaller, but there are still plenty of them. The bigger kids are having a hard time getting down into the trench to dig, so the smaller guys take turns scooping dirt into a bucket. We hope that next week we will have our materials (rain barrel, PVC pipes) and do a dry run on our drywell system. The crew has done a marvelous job calculating the slope of the trench (1/4 inch per foot for a 23 foot run), and it looks good. Next week, we’ll test it out. If it works, we’ll lay the rocks and gravel, glue the PVC together, and fill in the trench. Yippee!

Here are the kids in the trench for a photo op.

Kids' Ditch

Time for a funny picture:

Trench Line

The Inside Crew has removed all the plaster and lathe now (unless we suddenly decide to rip out more walls). Today, we removed the decrepit old carpeting, pad, and half of the underlayment to see the condition of the original pine flooring. We are not sure if we are going to refinish it so as to keep it exposed, or go with wall-to-wall carpeting. Can’t decide yet.

Pine Floor 1

Pine Floor 2

The floor, for its age (150 years) is in marvelous shape. I just can’t decide what to do yet. We like the warmth of carpet, but I hate to cover this nice wood. I do love wood floors. And keeping it wood would be much less expensive than w-w carpeting. Hmmm….

The Inside Crew has also completed the removal of that ugly half-wall that hung down from the ceiling. The wood and junk has been removed from all around the chimney, too.

Chimney without Half Wall

Lots more to do, but ain’t progress wonderful?

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Half Wall, Before and After

July 14, 2007

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What a difference open space makes. I described this half wall in an earlier post. I took down the plaster, lathe, and plethora of wood pieces that made up this ugly thing that hung from the ceiling.

Here’s BEFORE:

Half Wall

Here’s AFTER:

Half Wall After

I have been wanting to remove this thing for years. It is like breathing easy!

Next, I’m hoping that nasty drop ceiling goes!

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My Ingenious Husband

July 14, 2007

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Remember how I discovered an old stovepipe vent in our chimney? How it had never really been filled in, except with a brick and some joint compound? We had to shut off our hot water tank so no exhaust fumes would come into the house. We had to figure out a temporary cover so we could turn our tank back on.


My ingenious husband (who was in no mood to mortar bricks all evening) came up with a solution: a paint can lid fit perfectly over the vent hole. Seal the lid on with duct tape, and there you go! We hung a carbon monoxide detector closeby, just in case. It has not gone off at all.


Good job, honey!

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Oh. My. Gosh.

July 12, 2007

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Today I was feeling well enough to demolish a little section of plaster and lathe. A small job, right? I took down plaster from a half-wall that has irked me ever since I bought the house: a short, ugly little “wall” that hangs down out of nowhere from the ceiling. It’s only purpose is to support an even uglier drop-ceiling in the kitchen.

Half Wall

There was once a full wall here. Someone chopped it in half and left the upper half hanging. It was really cobbed together. Here’s a close-up of one side. The chimney is behind this section (the white cracked plaster is part of the chimney– someone had pasted joint compound around part of the chimney).

Half Wall Close Up

I always wondered if there were perhaps plumbing pipes installed in this half-wall, or loads of electrical wire…. I am pleased to say the interior is empty. And it is not a load-bearing half-wall, either. So I was so happy! I can get rid of this lousy wall!

But then I found this jaw-dropper:

Stove Pipe Hole

Someone was hiding something beneath the plaster and lathe and 70s paneling. At one time, a stove pipe was vented through the chimney, to vent a woodstove. The people never took out the cast iron fitting when they removed the woodstove. They just slapped a brick over it and slathered joint compound all around it. After a few decades, the compound has weakened. Thus belies the source of our moisture and mildew problem.


The area was home to an enormous mouse nest. An area about 1 foot by 2 feet was filled with frass, fluff, and stuff. And plenty of stinky, fresh mouse droppings. This was obviously an ideal home, since so much heat and moisture leaked out from the chimney here.

I had to shut off our hot water tank, which vents right up through this chimney. We have no hot water until we plug the hole. Thank God we replaced the furnace last year with a new direct model and that no longer vents up the chimney.

We are fed up with the chimney. I think this may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We are looking into a direct-vent water tank and just may remove this troublesome hole in the house.

“As is.” They sold the house to us “as is.” …. sighhh….

Other bad news. Our property is affected by the Sauquoit Valley Pumping Station. Looks like our taxes are gonna go up through the roof again. I wish those greedy politicians would leave us alone. We have enough to do and pay for.

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Mrs. Mecomber, Tear Down This Wall

June 28, 2007

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Well, the heat and humidity eased a bit today, enabling us to take down more of the wall surrounding the chimney. We’d already taken down a good portion of the plaster and lathe in the kitchen that surrounds the chimney. We’d removed plaster and lathe from one wall in the living room, but more had to come down, since some previous remodelers had laid the chimney on top of a wall with wallpaper and then built another short wall on on side. It’s very difficult to explain… it’s difficult to view… I’ve drawn a primitive diagram that I hope will explain how things look.


This is a bird’s eye view of the center if the house. You can see the different rooms (Living Room, Breakfast Room, Kitchen). The central chimney is tucked inbetween these three rooms. Water damage and mildew growth is labeled. The blue lines along the walls show where plaster and lathe needs to be removed. There is a false wall, too. After the chimney was put in, the owners built a false wall on top of the original wall between the LR and Kitchen.The only reason I can think of why they did this was to widen the space to insert a furnace heater duct in the wall between the chimney and the stairwell.

The problem is that they built the chimney and this false wall on top of a plaster wall that had old wallpaper on it (as shown by the blue lines in the above diagram). The wallpaper is so water damaged from the leaky chimney that the mildew has eaten the wallpaper away in spots.

So we’d already torn down some of the plaster and lathe in the Living Room that surrounds the chimney. We’d torn down the false wall and the plaster and lathe on the Kitchen side. Today we finished the Living Room side, by removing two studs from the wall on the other side of the chimney. We then removed the plaster and lathe and wallpaper from this section. In other words, we’ve now got three out of four sides of the plaster/lathe surrounding the chimney down.

Here’s the section before:

Here’s the section after:

Below are photos of the sections of wall we took down. You can see how old the wallpaper is and see the extensive water damage from the chimney. This side of the wall faced the chimney– they built the chimney on top of this wall with the wallpaper left intact. It was doomed to fail, not to mention a great fire hazard.

We still have a small portion of plaster/lathe to remove (the part of the wall toward the Breakfast Room). That will be our most difficult job, because the walls are in total disarray in that area. Originally, there was a full wall there, not a half-wall with doorway. Originally, this was not a Breakfast Room, nor was the Kitchen the Kitchen. Whenever this area was redone, the owners chopped only half of the wall (the bottom half) to open up the space to make a Kitchen and a Breakfast Room. The upper part of the wall is still intact, covered with paneling. Under the paneling are busted sections of old gypsum board, shims of scrap wood, and loads of joint compound.

Once we get this figured out, the rest won’t be as bad. We just have to figure out how to cover the chimney.

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Good News, Bad News

June 26, 2007

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Well, the bad news is that we aren’t going to rip apart the whole place all at once. It is just too expensive and too messy for us to handle. Doing the house piece-meal has its drawbacks, but on the good side, we can go at our own pace and avoid debt. So right now we are handling the most crucial of repairs: water damage and mildew growth from a leaky chimney.

We’ve removed the one wall from the Living Room, and part of a wall in the Kitchen. I’d wondered if the chimney was original to the home. We’ve discovered it is not. Bummer. This means that the chimney is of a lower-quality build. The original builder was very careful and thorough with his work. All owners after him were not. This is classic remuddling.

The chimney was built over an existing plaster wall. The plaster wall still has the original wallpaper. I can’t believe they built a chimney on top of a wall with wallpaper! All it took was a little leaking, and the paper rotted. Mildew growth all around the chimney must be removed.

You can see in the above picture the lathe and the plaster. The wallpaper is that brown papery stuff behind the bricks. That blue stuff is paint. After they built the chimney, they smeared joint compound all over the brick, then painted it over. Through the years, they painted it sterile white, then mustard yellow, then pink, then that Eisenhower blue. In the 70s, they smeared paneling glue all over it and stuck fake-wood paneling on top. I could scream in agony.

After days of indecision, we decided not to remove the chimney (yet). It would be a much larger and more expensive undertaking than we are prepared for. I also need my Kitchen and Living Room back soon. We will install an interior chimney liner to vent out hot-water tank vapors. Then we will remove all the plaster and lathe around the chimney, replace the walls with drywall, and paint. I have no idea what I am going to do with the actual chimney, how to cover it. That joint compound is like concrete. I could try scraping off the paneling glue, but that would be weeks of painful work. I sure am open to suggestions.

Here are some close ups of the wallpaper.

Actually, that wallpaper is not even the original wallpaper. There is another layer of wallpaper beneath what you see (it is hard to peel the two apart, but the original looks flecked). I think the layer that you see was put up in the late 1910s or early 1920s, as it has that Art Deco/Art Noveau look.

Even the layers of wallpaper border, at the top of the wall, remained intact.

The good news is I can finally install some electrical outlets since we have the walls open.

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