Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fireplace stonework is done! (Part X)

Completed: Six stone arches and approximately 250 square feet of dry-laid stone, using only rocks found here on our farm. It took way too long, but now that part is finished and my life can go on. In retrospect, I think it would have been cheaper and faster if I had taken a job frying burgers at McDonalds for 3 months and paid the stone mason to do all of this with artificial stone veneer. But that wouldn't have been nearly as satisfying. This photograph is of the south-west corner, taken from the near the kitchen door. The contraption on the right is a gas powered winch (attached to a special ladder) that the mason brought to the job so we would not have to lift the buckets of concrete that we placed inside the stone walls.

I wanted to have power available to the mantle without always exposing an ugly electric outlet, so I came up with this way to hide the electric box when not in use. This small stone will remain in place unless something on the mantle requires power. Presumably, the doo-hicky requiring power (a clock or Christmas decoration?) will cover the ugly outlet when the stone is not there. This will have to suffice until wireless power delivery becomes more feasible! My father-in-law recently made the walnut mantle from a piece of stock we found in one of my barns. The 3x8 stock was to be used for making corner braces in the house, but I had culled it long ago because one side had numerous bug holes. (we turned that side down for the mantle). In fact, this same piece of walnut served as our lunch table a couple of years ago when we were cutting the beams for the house frame.

Here's a picture of the North-East corner of the fireplace structure. The shelf is already proving to be a nice place for books and random clutter to accumulate. I cut the stones for this arch a little bit differently. I made it easier to work the regular field stones into the arch, by cutting the arch stones with corners on them. I think this is more commonly done when mixing stone arches with brick work, but because my stone work is coursed and the field stones are rectangular in nature, the effect worked nicely here too.

The 2-by-4 "crown molding" at the top of the stonework is temporary. I intend to replace it with an oak trim board and dental molding. Placing trim here eliminates the requirement that the last course of stone exactly match bottoms of the timbers.

Here's a peak inside the stone walls. There's a lot going on here! To keep the hot flue surfaces safely away from the timbers, to make room for the wood cook stove alcove, and to get the flues to line up with the yet-to-be-built chimney, I found it necessary to cant the flue liners 25 degrees for a small distance. The tiny pizza oven flue at the top of the photograph is tilted 30 degrees, which is the absolute maximum suggested by fireplace guidelines and code books. The white powder near that flue is more of the perlite insulation on top of the pizza oven. On top of this I placed some leftover firebrick and aluminum foil to keep the concrete from mingling with and/or displacing the perlite.

Finally, here's a picture of the finished stonework, taken from the great room. The green rebar protruding above the loft will be contained within the cores of concrete blocks used to build the chimney. These cores will be filled with grout (concrete with small aggregate) to tie the blocks and the rebar together. This type of reinforcement is only required in areas of high earthquake probability, but I thought it sounded like a good idea for a chimney that I hope will last several hundred years.

You might notice from this photograph that the fireplace is neither symmetrical nor centered in this hammer beam bent. Although centering the fireplace might have proven more aesthetically pleasing, we had several reasons to keep the fireplace off-center... the primary reasons being: 1) I didn't want a chimney sticking up through (or shading) any part of the south roof, which is covered with photovoltaic solar panels, and 2) there will be a bar to the left of the fireplace that will allow conversation, food, and dishes to flow between the kitchen area (the pizza oven area!) and the great room. Were the fireplace centered, there would not have been enough room to incorporate the bar. Even with these solid justifications, I still occasionally find myself second guessing the decision to off-center the fireplace. Oh well, there it sits... all 30,000+ pounds of it, literally etched in stone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Almost to the Loft with Stone ( Fireplace IX)

Slow. There is no better word to describe the pace of dry laid stone work, using real stone and keeping tight joints. But I'm almost to the loft! Once I get to the loft, I've decided to build the rest of the chimney with cinder blocks and parge it with lime based stucco. Stone would be nice all the way up, but it is too much work and I need to get on with this house (and life)!

In the first picture you can see two corbels jutting out from the stone work - these will support the mantel (yet to be made! wood? stone?). On the right side of the picture you can see the arched cookbook shelf that I built in to the stone structure. Why go to all that trouble to incorporate a book shelf into a stone wall? Because my wife wanted it... any more questions?

Here's a picture of the front of the fireplace. I highlighted my "dragon rock" with color in this photograph. The dragon rock is a stone that I was trying to remove iron deposits from, but I put down my chisel when I discovered the rusty spot looked very much like a dragon. It was this rock, two years ago, that first convinced me that I shouldn't always try to remove the naturally colorful deposits from the stones.

This third picture shows the stonework around the pizza oven. This is my favorite wall in the whole structure. The colors, stone sizes, balance, and joints just look right to me. I can't figure out why. If I could, I would have made all of the walls look like this one. My consolation is that this is the wall that guests will stare at the most... waiting for their food to come out of the oven.

Finally, a technical photograph. Previously, I had been laying up all of the stones "dry," then numbering them, so that the stone mason could help me disassemble and then reassemble the wall (a few courses at a time) with a dab of mortar between the stones. After watching the stone mason use a grout bag to mortar bricks in the arch, I wondered if he could use the grout bag on the dry laid stones. I asked him, and he said "sure." So now I dry lay the stones and the stone mason leaves them where they are (no disassembly required!) while grouting the joints on the back side of the wall. Just as before, we'll carefully place wet concrete inside of this wall and the structure will be super solid.