1846 Homestead Renovation

Reusing the Original Stone in the New Fireplace

Things I Hate for $1000

If you have read anything on this blog, you can probably guess that my number one most hated thing when we started was having to alter the house.  I wanted to keep it original.  Period.  The first thing we needed to do was shore up the foundation and get the house out of the dirt.  That made sense.  Of course, the first thing we had to do was (insert drum roll here) tear down the beautiful (to me) chimneys.  Dang it.

Looking at the photo above, and also now that I am in a more rational state of mind, I can see clearly that the chimneys are in terrible shape.  There was no way we could have patched them and ever had them be functional.  I can see that now, but then, it hurt like crazy.

Phase One

And there went my dream of keeping the house completely original.  We rented scaffolding and began to take them down, brick by brick and stone by stone.  We salvaged the stone and hoped reuse it somewhere in the addition.

The stones were hand quarried, most likely from somewhere in Hill County.  The stones had dates and initials carved in them and I didn’t want to lose that history. They needed to be on display.

This is how we ended up on scaffolding on a fairly breezy weekend removing bricks and tossing them down into the yard and then carefully removing the crumbling limestone and sliding it down the scaffolding decks we had turned into ramps.  Those stones were large and they were heavy!

Another sign that the chimneys needed to come down was actually the ease with which they came apart.  We removed each brick and stone with no more than an couple of taps from a hammer.  It was just a little bit scary.  The mortar was gone and the fireplaces and chimneys were little more than dry-stacked heaps.

Fortunately, we were able to get them safely to the ground and stacked in some sort of order.  The bricks?  Not so much…they are still scattered under the now high grass impeding mowing.  I feel a bit like Scarlett O’Hara.  I’ll think about that mess tomorrow…or whenever I must.  We just need to deal with one disaster at a time!

Phase Two

We had a gentleman come look at the original chimneys before we took them down and the plan was that he would be back at the end of the summer to rebuild them and the fireplace in the new addition.  Well, summer began to come to a close and he wasn’t ready to show up.  He had been sick.  He had a falling out with his team members.  Then he was three weeks behind on a job and pushed us back three weeks.  And then another three weeks.  And another three weeks.

Finally, we gave up hope that he would ever come and found someone else to come and build the chimneys.  Unfortunately, the new guy’s price for the fireplace in the new addition was about what we had budgeted for all three chimneys with the other guy.  That is how we ended up with one fireplace and deferred the two fireplaces in the old house until later, which, turns out to be a great deal anyway.

The gaping hole in the living room where the fireplace was supposed to have been built at the end of the summer made me nervous.  We were supposed to move in the end of January and we had no fireplace. It was a bit breezy in our living room for a while.

On December 26, the stone guys showed up and started building the fireplace.  Luckily, we were able to use the old stone on the interior and new stone on the exterior.  We carefully selected the stones with the graffiti on them to be lower on the wall so that they can be enjoyed for years.




Thankfully, even though the weather was bitterly cold, the stonemasons were able to complete the fireplace and exterior chimney in record time.  We are incredibly pleased that they were able (and willing) to use the old stone on the interior.  They were good sports when I had a specific stone that needed to find a home.

The (Semi) Finished Product

We will be installing a mantle as soon as the weather gets a bit cooler.  It is an old sill long from under the old house.  It has had cut pegs in both ends and I will have to make a decision about which end needs to come off before we can mount it.  We will also be cutting space in the mantle so that two electric boxes can be installed in it as well.

All in all, if the original fireplaces had to come down (and they did…they really did), I am so pleased that we were able to keep them on display in this manner.  I think the color variation in the stone is spectacular and there is just so much to enjoy when searching for dates, initials, drawings and fossils.  The grandkids are going to love it!







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