“That Flue! What Is It Good For?”


The week started with a bang — the equipment rental truck arrived at 9:30 instead of the promised noon, and dropped off the manlift, also known by many other names, including cherry-picker, cage crane, and ‘boom monkey.’

Jason and crew were not far behind, and they got to work immediately moving it into position to take down the chimney. We had cleared a path yesterday between our lumber pile and the porch, but the manlift car was wider than I expected and Kyle and Marsh and I had to widen the path further, including completely taking down the clothesline in back *sniff* .


Jason confirmed that from this posture — basing the car on only slightly sloping ground, without triggering its onboard out-of-level alarm — he could just reach the top of the chimney. Kyle said, “let’s do this!”


With a sledge, a crowbar, a pickaxe, and plenty of elbow grease, half the chimney was down before lunch:


From this angle you can see the hole in the eave where it used to be:


In this view you can understand how hopeless the situation was, and why the chimney had to go. Not only was its condition decayed and compromised, but the basic construction method had left those vast unprotected vertical channels on both sides of that corner, where water could freely seep down both next to the chimney itself and behind the house-wrap. That vertical edge of vinyl J-channel — I guess they thought that would work as flashing, somehow? WRONG.


So there’s a story behind this fragment of a beer case package: Do you remember I mentioned that when Jason originally inspected the top of the chimney (as best he could at the time) that it looked as if it had had a few scraps of flashing misapplied, and then sealed with about 12 tubes of caulk? In demolishing it the truth came out: the caulk — about 1-inch thick in places — had been used to affix cardboard from a couple of twelve-packs. Not a code-approved flashing material. I am not making this up.


The end of the day saw Jason on the porch roof sweeping away some of the brick debris stranded there (for safety’s sake of people walking below).


And after the crew left for the day, I and a friend (old childhood friend of Marsh’s, new and very welcome friend of mine) Doug sorted the collapsed chimney into parts to save, perhaps to use in building an outdoor grill or fire pit — and hauled the rest away by wheelbarrow to the dumpster.


All that’s left:


Tomorrow the crew moves on to rebuilding the roof over the stairs, introducing PROPER flashing techniques where planes intersect, and patching the roof. There may be bat evictions. And down below we will tidy up the foot of the chimney and pour concrete into the flue duct to seal it up.


As for our friends that visited — they stayed through lunch (most of which they brought with them), toured the house and property, and shared richly of their Maine knowledge, of fishing, hunting, land use, conservation, logging, geography, camper living, resources by town, photography, wildlife, history, construction, and lots more. Marsh and they reminisced about school days, family, how towns and times have changed — and not changed. Doug hauled creosote-stinky blocks with me, which of course is one of the time-honored rites of passage to become a ‘friend.’ Also ‘not friend,’ depending on how much creosote and how many blocks, so it’s always a bit tricky.

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