Appreciate Input on My Fireplace

Discussion in 'Bricks, Masonry and Concrete' started by SavvyCat, Mar 14, 2010.

  1. Mar 14, 2010 #1

    SavvyCat

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    Attached are some pictures of my poor fireplace, post foundation repair. I'm anxious to see if it settles into something else over the next couple of months, but broken is broken in most cases. I have been concerned about whether it's just indoor cosmetic damage, so I'll probably have to have it inspected. I have some ideas, some that were already in the back of my mind, and I wonder what you think, assuming it's cosmetic.

    1. Caulk and paint. Someone already said that, and I think that's horrible to do to brick :eek: but probably the cheapest and most practical.

    2. I saw this on a Home Depot commercial a while back and really liked it--cover with 1-inch glass tile. Very chic, but could end up just as dated.

    3. If it's just a facade, demo it! Take all of the dated brick out, replace with wallboard, buy a nice surround and reclaim wall space.

    A couple of notes on the pictures, the night light up by the mantel and the dark switch combo on the brick are the results of my first questions to this forum. :D There were no outlets on that wall, but there was a switch where that outlet is that did nothing but control the switch on the fireplace (for the blower). They work beautifully and it's really nice to be able to put plug-in stuff up there.

    PICT0002.jpg

    PICT0004.jpg

    PICT0006.jpg

    PICT0009.jpg

    PICT0012.jpg
     
  2. Mar 15, 2010 #2

    Wuzzat?

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    A crack is one thing, but in the second photo it looks like the formerly mated surfaces have shifted maybe 1/4" relative to each other. Not good.
     
  3. Mar 15, 2010 #3

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    There should be a steel I beam (called a "lintel") over the fireplace supporting the weight of the brickwork above the fireplace. Otherwise, those bricks wouldn't be supported, and their weight would make that whole brick wall above the fireplace susceptible to collapsing.

    Typically, a steel lintel will have a cross section that looks like this:

    ┘└

    but with steel strapping holding the two sides together (and taller vertical pieces for greater strength).

    That lintel has to be supported by something structural inside the wall, like the top of the concrete foundation walls, or concrete blocks that are resting on the top of the concrete foundation walls. They wouldn't have rested the lintel on the brick facade on each side of the fireplace because those bricks in turn, seem to be resting on other bricks that are resting on the floor. A wood floor isn't strong enough to support the weight of a brick fireplace, so I suspect that whole fireplace area is resting on concrete or concrete blocks.

    If it wuz me, I think I would just chisel out the mortar in front of the bottom edge of the steel lintel, (which I think you can see in Photo #5), pack a 1/4 inch foam backing rod (which you can get from any caulking contractor or building materials supplier) into the gap under the steel lintel and repack that joint on both sides of the fireplace with new gray brick mortar.

    The steel lintel is supporting the weight of the bricks above the fireplace. Something has to be supporting the steel lintel, and it's obviously not the brickwork on either side of the fireplace. There has to be something structural inside the wall that the lintel is resting on. So, the brickwork on either side of the fireplace is just a facade; it doesn't support the lintel.

    So, I'd just redo the cracked mortar joints with new mortar. You don't have to remove all of the old mortar. If you can chisel out the outer 3/4 inch of mortar, you can repack that joint with new mortar.

    You might want to show those pictures to a masonary contractor just to be sure of what's going on there.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2010
  4. Mar 15, 2010 #4

    SavvyCat

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    @Wuzzat, that displacement was the first thing I noticed, but reading Nestor's post, that explains why the whole thing didn't come down, so It's not horrible, assuming he's right.

    @Nestor, good info! Thanks! I'll have to see if I can see deeper into the crack to make sure that is steel going all the way across. I'm on a slab foundation, so it would be resting on concrete, and they didn't do any piers on that side, so the fireplace area wasn't directly disturbed.

    Given what you know about how it's built, if I wanted to take it out can it be removed, or is there a bunch of added labor and structural integrity of the fireplace at stake?

    Thanks again.

    Karleen
     
  5. Mar 15, 2010 #5

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Kathleen: It's not like there's any question here. It's just common sense. You need something to support the weight of those bricks above the fireplace.

    Masonary is heavy and there has to be something strong over a window or doorway in a masonary wall to support the weight of that masonary. Otherwise the masonary would collapse into those open spaces.

    For example, how in the world could anyone lay concrete blocks over this doorway without that steel I beam there to support them? They didn't put that I beam there just to take the picture. That I beam is being used as a lintel and will become part of the building.

    [​IMG]

    Also, take a look at the completed wall behind the doorway. If there were no I beam supporting the concrete blocks, they'd come crashing down too. (Or at least there's be a high enough risk of that happening that no architect or engineer would sign those building plans and no insurance company would be foolish enough to insure that building.)

    If the lintel didn't go all the way across, your fireplace would be crushed under a pile of bricks by now.

    If you wanted to remove anything there, you'd start by removing the bricks at the top of that wall and remove them down to the lintel first. Then remove the lintel. And then remove the brickwork on either side of the fireplace. If there is a brick chimney behind the fire place, you'd have to start with removing the chimney first. Basically, you have to remove the weight from the top down and remove the weight from the lintel before removing the lintel.

    I don't see any real problem there. The gap in the mortar can be fixed by simply replacing the mortar in those two joints. What I see is entirely a cosmetic problem, not a structural one.

    Prove it to yourself:
    Open a new window and go to w w w.google.ca
    Now, click on "Images" and type in the word "lintel" (without the quotes).
    Google will show you example after example after example of structural steel being used over windows or doorways or holes of any kind in masonary walls, and in each case the purpose of that structural steel will be to act as a lintel. That is, to support the weight of the masonary above the opening. Your fireplace would have been built exactly the same way.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2010
  6. Mar 15, 2010 #6

    SavvyCat

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    Nestor:

    I wasn't questioning you, just throwing a hypothetical. I trust that you obviously know what you're talking about. I know the damage is cosmetic, but I started thinking off in another direction of changing the whole look if that's just a brick facade. If it's part of the whole chimney structure, of course I wouldn't touch it. I don't want to remove the fireplace, just the brick.

    Seems like more trouble that it's worth, though. I'll just fix it. You never know. Once the house settles into its new position it might close up. I watch got to watch a crack appear in the wall, widen, and close up while they worked. Reminded me of the Northridge earthquake. Sounded like it, too.
     
  7. Mar 15, 2010 #7

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Kathleen:

    Oh, heck no. Newbies SHOULD question the answers they're given. They should question those answers until they're convinced they have to be correct because IT MAKES SENSE to them. How else are they going to understand the problem and the solution? By faith? Faith is no substitute for reason. If someone tries to explain something to you, and he can't do it in a way that makes simple and complete sense to you, then he doesn't understand it himself. God made the universe simple. The only parts of it that seem complicated to us are the parts we don't yet understand. Once we figure them out, then they turn out to be simple too. eg. gravity, the tides, rainbows and DNA.

    No one in here can stand on a pedestal and say "Don't question me!" My Gosh, that's what we're here for!

    In this case, it just struck me as blindingly obvious that there had to be something over that fireplace to support the bricks, and that no one even could build that fireplace opening without something to support the brickwork. It stuck me that the same thing should also be obvious to you, but now I realize that it wouldn't be to someone new to this sort of thing. After all, the Romans built openings in masonary walls without steel or even stone lintels. They used arches, and those worked too.

    Sorry that you may have taken my comments wrong. You question us, girl. You keep questioning until you understand. That's the purpose of this web site.

    I'd just take a small masonary chisel and chip out the mortar with the gap. Typically, you need 3/4 inch of depth for the new mortar to lock into the joint well. You can also use a hand grinder to remove the old mortar, but it'll create an awful lot of dust, so don't do that unless you put up plastic sheeting from floor to ceiling all around the fireplace to contain the dust. Dampen the surfaces of the brick and mortar you want the new mortar to stick to, and add some white wood glue to the new mortar to help it stick well. And, if you're fairly new to masonary, use masking tape both above and below the joint to keep the new mortar off the faces of the adjacent bricks. Wait a half hour after placing the new mortar and then pack the joint with a small piece of 1/2 inch copper pipe to "tool" the joint so that it looks like all the others.

    Or, just leave it the way it is. It won't do any harm. And, that way if anyone questions you about why those bricks seem to be floating in the air, explain to them that it's not magic and there has to be a lintel under there somewhere to support their weight. Otherwise, gravity would take over. Make it a conversation piece. Dazzle people with your understanding of modern masonary construction techniques.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2010
  8. Mar 15, 2010 #8

    SavvyCat

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    Okay! Okay! Not to belabor the point, but I wasn't sure if it was part of the whole fireplace/chimney structure, or just fancy brickwork to match the inside with the out. You're right, it's obvious that as a facade it would need something to hold it up.

    The larger question isn't why it hasn't dropped down, but why the top part hasn't toppled over. I want to know what's behind it since it has broken the seal from the wall on either side. I want to know if it's open enough that I'll be invaded by baby geckos again. :)

    How about if I just tile over it with something like this:

    http://www.joetheprogrammer.net/images/fireplace.jpg

    I dunno. I'll probably just do as you suggest (or find someone who will).
     
  9. Mar 15, 2010 #9

    oldognewtrick

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    Savy, you have a prefab insert fireplace. The brick on the wall is just a veneer its not a structural chimney. Something has caused the hearth to deflect, I would go to the basement, crawl space and see whats supporting the hearth. If you don't stabilize the hearth it will probably continue to move. Somethings going on under the floor.:2cents:
     
  10. Mar 16, 2010 #10

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Oldog/Newtrick:
    She says the house is built on a slab, so there is no basement or crawl space. Everything just sits on that concrete slab.

    Kathleen:

    So, is there a chimney built out of the same kind of bricks on the outside of the house behind that fireplace? It's not just a galvanized steel chimney?

    If so, then I expect that the brickwork on the inside of the house is, as Oldog/Newtrick said, just a facade, and completely independant of the brick chimney on the outside of the house, and that you can remove that brick facade inside of the house without affecting the operation of the fireplace or chimney at all.

    As for tiling around the fire place, you CAN use mosaic tiles (as is shown in your picture). However, from a practical standpoint, when it comes to ceramic tiling, it's always the grout lines that require all the maintenance, and create all the problems. If it wuz me, I'd minimize the amount of maintenance, cleaning and problems I have with the grout by minimizing the amount of grout. That is, I'd use LARGE (12 inch square) high gloss dark porcelain tiles so that I have very little grout to contend with. Also, I'd use a dark tile and dark grout so that any soot deposited on the tiling won't show as much. Like maybe a dark blue tile and brown or black grout.

    More like this:

    [​IMG]
    The bigger the tiles, the less grout, and the less work you'll need to do to keep the grout clean and free of soot. If you opt for a dark grout, then it won't show soot staining from using the fireplace.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2010
  11. Mar 16, 2010 #11

    SavvyCat

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    My fireplace is kind of interesting. There is a brick chimney outside, but that doesn't mean it's not hiding something. There are two small air inlets out there controlled by dampers on either side inside the box, and another airflow control at the front, along with a forced air blower.

    I was playing with Photoshop ( not one of my better skills). What do you think of brick versus no brick?:

    PICT0015.jpg

    no brick.jpg
     
  12. Mar 16, 2010 #12

    wseand

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    I like the idea of getting rid of it. It looked like there was a problem with it anyways. When your hearth starts breaking away throwing new mortar on it is a band-aid. I would suggest putting a new small hearth, trim, and mantel on it though, either tile or wood. Otherwise you have a big hole there that looks out of place. The brick doesn't match your room design, so if possible 86 the brick.
     
  13. Mar 16, 2010 #13

    SavvyCat

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    Yeah, it would need a nice surround. I'm going to find a picture and try to put it in. Like I said, Photoshop isn't one of my skills. :)

    I didn't know my room had a design. LOL! I just got the rug, after looking for a couple of years for some plain and square. Home Depot Dot COm! On sale, free shipping.
     
  14. Mar 16, 2010 #14

    FoundationMan

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    Depending on the soil in your area it looks like you may have some upheaval either under the fireplace footing or under the piers. Check around the outside for areas where water may pond next to the base of the fire-place. If piers were added, the soil may have compacted at the surface allowing water to work down through the disturbed soil. If water is able to pond, redirect it away from the house, and as it drys, things should get better.
     
  15. Mar 16, 2010 #15

    FoundationMan

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    If your home is build on expansive clay soil it is likely that moisture has encroached under the fire-place footing, or piers that were installed during repairs. Moisture expanding the soil would cause upward pressure on the fireplace causing upheaval resulting in the crack. Check outside around the fireplace for areas where water may pond. Keep excess water from the foundation and the crack will likely close.
     
  16. Mar 16, 2010 #16

    FoundationMan

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    Check inside the fire-box to see if any grout has fallen. If so it may be dangerous to fire it up. Also problem may be result of the fireplace footing or piers under the fireplace heaving due to swelling soil. Check outside around the fireplace for ponding water. The crack inside appears to be the result of heave.
    If water is expanding the soil under the foundation support, it is likely lifting the fireplace and the water needs to be rerouted. If the fireplace was piered the contractor may need to come back and build up the soil to shed the water away. That should fix the problem. You may find more information on heaving at my website: repairfoundations.com or contact me: richardrashinc@tx.rr.com
     
  17. Mar 16, 2010 #17

    sonyac

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    I work for Advanced Foundation Repair in Dallas. From what I can see in the pictures it looks like the interior brick is veneer and is non-structural. You have two basic approaches. The first is to tuck point the brick, that is fill in the cracks and openings. This is the lowest cost approach.

    The second approach is to remove the brick and replace it with something else. Generally, but not always, the brick above and to the sides of the fireplace opening is laid over sheetrock. Sometimes the mortar messes up the sheetrock and you need to replace it or refinish it. Once you remove the brick and clean or replace the sheetrock, you can go with any standard interior finishes.

    Hope this helps!

    Foundation Repair :: Advanced Foundation Repair Construction Services
     
  18. Mar 16, 2010 #18

    SavvyCat

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    More fun with Photoshop. Not my style of surround and I haven't created a hearth, but I'm just having fun. Certainly changes the look of things, doesn't it?

    Untitled-1 copy.jpg
     
  19. Mar 16, 2010 #19

    inspectorD

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    Now your on track...start chiselin. Looks very formal, and classic at the same time. :D
     
  20. Mar 16, 2010 #20

    SavvyCat

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    Thanks! Yeah, it looks less "den" and more "living room." I need to get rid of that door, first. I've got that dog door sealed shut with screws and a glue gun, but because the storm door was thrashed little critters keep getting in. I'm thinking a full lite with mullions. And it's not a standard 32" rear door--it's 36", which might limit me.

    Gee, I act like I have money. Think a $1,000 budget should do it? LOL!
     

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