Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes ... Old Chimneys Need Special Care, Warns Peter Fall

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes ... Old Chimneys Need Special Care, Warns Peter Fall

Article excerpt

Byline: Pete r Fall

I MUST confess, I do like Christmas and New Year. The giving and receiving of not just presents but hospitality and friendship makes all of the stressful preparations worthwhile. Mind, I'm not like my grandchildren who wish it could be Christmas every day - must be a song in there somewhere!

The part I really enjoy is once the heat of the celebrations is over and you sit back in peace and quiet, tucked up in your warm home, surrounded by presents and decorations with the faint smell of wood smoke in the air. Hang on, we don't have an open fire and certainly don't have a wood-burning stove.

That was the scene of a friend of mine. Their home is a smart 1930s semi with modern central heating, uPVC double-glazed windows, all of the fireplaces bricked up and the pots capped off at roof level. Were they on fire or was the wood smoke from outside? Neither. The cause was next-door's celebrations. No, they weren't on fire either - it was from their living room fire.

Like many homeowners they decided it would be perfect if they could have an open fire to add to the Christmas effect. So dad had bought the fire basket and a stock of logs and set to reopening the old flue. He'd not suspected there could be problems lurking up the chimney, other than Father Christmas.

Unfortunately, after many years of non-use, this 75-year-old chimney was in need of repair. Not just sweeping but major relining. Older chimneys are square brick tubes lined by the bricklayer as the chimney was being built, with a fire-resistant type of mortar known as parging. Over the years this dries and crumbles. You may be familiar with the little lumps of cement that drop down the chimney from time to time. Eventually, the mortar lining breaks off completely, exposing the bricks and their ordinary mortar joints to the smoke.

Most of our older houses have at least a couple of fireplaces and some as many as five, with their flues all running up the same chimney breast. …

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