Saturday, August 29, 2009

It’s Because of the Trees

Well, it’s not really because of the trees, but I’ve complained enough about local business people lately, that this time I’ll blame it on the trees.

It is the trees fault that I have decided not to rebuild the chimneys this year. The intent has always been to restore the coal burning fireplaces so I could burn coal. A few years ago, right after I lined the flue in the kitchen with a stainless steel liner, I actually bought 50 pounds of coal.

Even though I lined that flue, the chimneys don’t go through the roof any more. The plan was to hire some people to line the flue for the parlor and the flue for the dining room, and then have a mason come out and take the chimneys out through the roof. Also a few years ago, I bought 600 bricks just for this job.

Of course, the real question many people are asking right now is why on earth would I want to burn coal. I don’t really have an answer for that. I just want to. I have two coal burning fireplaces and I want to burn coal in them. Many of my friends put in reproduction natural gas fired inserts.

They are very fancy and look like mansion quality coal baskets in the days of old. They are small and designed to fit in these old coal burning fireplaces. They look nice, but are really just ornamental, because they put out very little heat.

For those of you who are not familiar with an old coal fireplace, they have a very small fire box. Mine are only 11-inches deep and then taper up. The reason they are so small is because coal burns so hot. I’ve read that coal burns between 2000 to 4000 degrees, where as wood burns between 500 to 1200 degrees. It takes very little coal to generate a lot of heat.

This is the hearth tile for the parlor

The dining room will look similar, but incorporate these tiles.

From my estimates, the cost would be about the same regardless of whether I line the chimneys for coal or put in the reproduction coal baskets. The stainless steel liner is very expensive, but so are the reproduction coal baskets. Not only that, but I would still need to line the chimneys with a class b liner if I put in the coal baskets. I would also need to run gas line to both fireplaces. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reproduction job would end up costing more. For once though, cost isn’t the issue. I’ve planned and budgeted for the chimney repair.

The problem is these 2 tress in the side yard. One is a holly tree that is totally in the way and it really not very attractive. It was growing right up against the 2 store addition I took down and it is really very lopsided. Not only that, but it spawns little holly trees all over the yard. I hate it.

The other tree is only a few yards away and has major problems. It is probably 30 feet tall and has rot and fungus. It arcs out over both my phone and power lines and this past winter a branch broke off and hung on the phone line. I really like it, though, and as it turns out I will be able to save it, but it will take a major pruning to do so.

Two weeks ago I called a licensed arborist/tree trimmer to come out and look at my trees. I called on Monday and he was at a job and said he would call back Tuesday, which of course he didn’t. I called again this week and had him come out. He said we can save the big tree and I will get several more years out it, which is great. He is supposed to come back this week on Tuesday to do the work. What do you think the odds are he will show up?

Also this week, I called a mason about looking at my chimneys. He was driving and said he would call back when he stops. He never called back. {Sigh} I just don’t have it in me to deal with these people right now. This room started 12 months ago when I began the cabinets. I just want to finish the dining room with out having to beg people to come over and take my money. I shouldn’t have to. If I pursue the mason and a chimney liner guy, the whole thing will drag out for months. I just know it.

So, I’m not going to do the chimneys this year. If I didn’t have to deal with the stupid trees, I most likely would have pursued the mason harder, or maybe started sooner, so it’s the stupid trees fault. I’m going to do the drapes and blinds, finish the floor, and tile the hearth and I will be finished with this room.


alicia said...

I've had the same problem with contractors, and I feel the same way about it. In fact, my bf and I recently had to back out of a contract and cancel the deposit check because we could never get a hold of the contractor. Very frustrating.

I love those hearth tiles!

Greg said...

it is frustrating. I wish we had an Angie's List for our area, but we're too small.

Ragnar said...

Sounds seriously like things are the same all around the world... in our small spot of the world in Austria, Europe we've been trying to get hold of a plumber for months now. The first one gave us an estimate that was way beyond our budget. The second one (who already installed our bath tub to our full satisfaction) promised to try to get the estimate done before he went on holiday on July 17th. Guess what... the estimate has yet had to show up! We tried o call him three times since, the first time no one answered, the second and third we got one of his guys who said the boss would call back. Well, that was several days ago...

Greg said...

It is amazing how common this is. I'm not sure if most of them are bad businessmen or if there is just not enough competition and they can afford to blow people off.

St. Blogwen said...

I think if I had to do it over, I would have gone to tech school and become an employed electrician or carpenter instead of an unemployed architect.

Kate H.

Greg said...

Yep. Answer phone calls and show up on time like the rest of the world and you can make a fortune.

Katherine said...

What is going to happen to your insurance when you start burning coal? People around here just deal with it because the coal is so cheap and toasty that they don't care about higher insurance premiums.

Greg said...

A) Who says I'm going to tell my insurance company.

B) It won't be the primary source of heat, so it may not even matter.

Jayne said...

Gorgeous hearth tiles! Wow.

Katherine said...

No, just tell the whole internet community! Seriously, I am curious as to what the insurance deal would be for multiple you get nailed just for having the one and the additional ones are free, or what?

Also, I am really hoping for you that you get this coal fireplace working...I had a thought this weekend about how nice a warm, toasty coal fire would feel in a dining room in...damp, chilly January! You deserve to have multiple rooms in your house that can be heated and entertained in without heating the entire house.

Greg said...


I'm no insurance expert but I know that my policy states that the house has two fireplaces. It does not say what I'm allowed or not allowed to burn in them. I could burn wood, fake logs, gas or pellet inserts, or coal. The important issue is that when they are rebuilt, they are brought up to code.

When I said I'm not going to tell my insurance company, I meant that I'm not going to tell them because it doesn't matter. There is no "getting nailed" for anything. It states in the policy that the house has 2 fireplaces. I'm not trying pull anything over on them.

I'm not sure why your friends get higher premiums for burning coal. All states are different. Maybe it is because they have an old, out of date coal fired boiler and the chimneys aren't properly lined to meet modern code. The system could be considered dangerous because of its age or design. Is that the case? You tell me.

Katherine said...

Yep, I think the case is that the furnaces and chimneys aren't up to code. My neighbor's place caught on fire for that very reason about 2 years ago.

But another insurance company had problems with a coal stove in a parlor...basically same as a wood stove only coal. Perhaps because it was antique pot-bellied.

I find this frustrating because I would love to put this Dutch enamel coal stove in my office at home. Perfect size etc.

Greg said...

It could also be because the stove installation did not meet code. There needs to be a certain amount of clearance around the stove and/or it should have a non-flammable backing, and it should sit on a non-flammable surface.

Of course, some insurance companies are just skiddish about anything they don't understand.

Katherine said...

Ok I get it.

Well I do hope that you get the chimneys done (and the kitchen one...). The weather where I am is just beginning to show the signs of what is guaranteed to turn me into a little ball of warm blankets in front of the tv, like last year, unless I do something about heating and insulating the downstairs better.
I am still mostly in denial about the coming gloom.