But first I have to tell you about the chimney…

Okay I know I said I was off to find perspective but first I have to tell you about my chimney. Why? Because I am procrastinating. That’s what I do.

Anyway, we are walking around the side of the house and happened to glance up toward the chimney. Imagine our shock when we see that the chimney is leaning away from the house leaving a gap of about three inches at the top. What lies below the chimney? A 500 gallon propane tank! This is one of two chimneys on the house and it is the larger of the two. It is a double flue with a fireplace in the second floor master bedroom and a wood stove setup in the basement. I imagine it weighs several tons as it is about 40 cinder blocks high and about 5 feet wide and 2 1/2 feet deep. We had several people come out to look at it and not one of them could offer a clear solution to save the chimney as there was no way to tell why it was leaning away without digging underneath to examine the footers. So the solution: tear down the chimney, fix the hole it would leave behind and consider rebuilding in the spring. Can you imagine my sadness to lose it? I was conflicted but was convinced by the latest contractor that saving it was not an option. It was clearly unsafe.

The first step was to remove the propane tank so we have been without furnace heat for a couple of days now. Next the crew would come out and dismantle the chimney from the top down, block by block. The chimney came down yesterday but not as planned. Turns out the chimney was apparently an afterthought when the house was built. Whoever built it did not do a very good job and I can’t imagine there were building permits or inspections involved. During the demolishing job the crew got to the fireplace level in the bedroom and found that the chimney was attached to the hearthstone in the bedroom. Apparently quite unusual. Upon further investigation it was determined that the hearth was the only thing that held the chimney to the house. To make matters worse, the only thing that held the hearthstone to the house was the chimney! A two hundred pound slab of slate on top of a brick stoop with nothing underneath to support it. When I say nothing, I mean nothing but a hole! No floor joists, no framing…just air! A hole with nothing below it but a foot of space and the drywall ceiling in the basement. So the wrecking crew had to come into the bedroom and dismantle the hearthstone brick by brick and when they got to a certain point the remainder of the chimney and the hearth just fell away. I am very grateful to the crew for spotting it when they did. Had they continued with the dismantling on the outside, the hearthstone would have fallen through the floor and into the basement and someone on the outside might have been killed when the chimney fell away.

My feelings of remorse about losing the fireplace are completely gone now. I can only imagine what would have happened if the chimney decided to go while were fast asleep in our bed. Most likely it would have taken the hearthstone and the majority of the wall and windows with it. Who knows if the ceiling would have held and what about the propane tank below?

So last night we hooked up an electric heater in the bedroom and hung blankets and placed couch cushions in front to the plywood covered hole of the former fireplace. We stayed warm but now we have a hole in the wall and one in the floor to deal with before winter sets in. I anticipate a busy weekend.


About Susan Warren Utley

Susan Warren Utley is a wife and mother living and writing in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Her stories are inspired by the unexpected twists and turns of real life and by her muse, a feisty Jack Russell Terrier who occasionally answers to the name of Lucy. View all posts by Susan Warren Utley

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