From our "It's Always Something" file:
When your house is as old as ours is, it's always something. This week, it's the bricks in the fireplace box.
The house, built in 1927, is graced with a terrific fireplace. It uses a gas starter, it draws well and it throws out heat like crazy, especially since we burn that good almond wood. But every so often, thanks to the inexorable forces of earthquakes, gravity and age, I need to re-stick the bricks in the back of the box.
These are the ones that stacked are vertical-plus, cantilevered out toward the center of the fireplace as the box narrows toward the chimney. They're not often a problem. It's been probably 15 years, or maybe more, since I last had to fix this. And you have to fix it. It's bad when a problem with your fireplace causes your house to burn down, you know?
We have been graced with an almost endless supply of firewood, so we burn fires often. And Saturday night, as I got the fire going because it's been cooler than usual here this past few days, I noticed that three bricks were lose - hell, they were about to fall out. That would not be salubrious.
But the fix is an easy one, fortunately. Pull out the loose bricks, knock the old mortar off of them, apply new stickum – I've been using stuff that comes in a tube and that can be applied with a caulking gun – and reinstall the bricks.
Since they're cantilevered, they resist the notion of remaining in place so I had to find a way to brace them so that they'd stay in position while the stickum – special stuff designed for just this use – dries. The grate, a great old wrought-iron thing that we've had for 30 years, worked well for this, braced on end with a foot on each of the two upper bricks.
Hey, presto! Job accomplished. And we're looking forward to many more fires through the holidays and beyond. Wish you were here to share them with us.