Sealing the Old Fireplace


November 10, 2013 by stpaulhaus

Our new home has a wood burning fireplace.


Our new home does not have a functioning wood burning fireplace.

During our home inspection, the inspector suggested that we do not use the fireplace unless we had it repaired. Much of the mortar between the clay chimney liner was cracked or missing which is a big fire hazard.  I don’t know a whole lot about wood-burning fireplaces or chimneys–but I will just take his word for it.  Considering it costs over $200 just to get someone to evaluate your chimney and tell you what is wrong with it, I don’t think we will be in the market for a new chimney lining at this point.

chimney lining

We did consider a gas insert, but those run about 3-5k, and the shape of our fireplace is not very conducive of gas inserts.  The fireplace is a Rumford fireplace which is very narrow, shallow, and tall. I was only able to find a couple of units that would work decently well so our options were limited.

I started to look at electric inserts.  We have been very happy with our electric stove that we purchased a couple of years ago from Plow and Hearth (this one here) , so I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go that route again.


I pulled out the painted sheet metal insert that was there when we moved it.  Behind it was a bunch of very dirty insulation, and this fun little thing:


A trap door.  Again, we know nothing about fireplaces so this was very exciting.  After doing a bit of googling, it is apparent that it is a door was used to sweep ashes down the shoot into the basement where the cooled ashes could be more easily cleared away. It is in fact not the secret entrance into the Bat Cave (damnit).  I think it is super cool so we decided to leave the door there.

I used a small piece of insulating foam board that I found at HD to seal both the top of the fireplace under the damper as well as the trap door area.  It is easy to cut to size.


I’m wearing a winter hat because I had just gotten back from a walking tour of Victorian houses in Minneapolis, and I was still freezing.


I used a turkey carving knife because I saw that on TV once. We don’t have an electric one sadly, but we do have a regular one that we got as a wedding gift.  First time it has been out of the box.



I did put some new insulation up there before placing the foam board just in case. We didn’t want to do anything too permanent in case we change our mind in the future and want to go with a gas insert, or even less likely, return to a wood burning fireplace.

DSC_0473 DSC_0474

I made the fit snug enough that once it was pushed into place it would hold itself up.

To seal the trap door area I used another piece of insulating foam board cut to size.


The trap door was then replaced.


The walls were brushed clean and everything was swept up. There were still ashes in there from gawd knows when.

The previous renter (which we learned today has rented the lower unit for the past 27 years–WOW) had left behind an old electric log set behind, so I just put that back in for now along with the old stove pipe cover I got from my mom.  Perhaps you recall this hanging on the kitchen at our old house?


Once we pick out the new log set and get that installed I will have to take another photo.  We have our eye on a couple different models but haven’t picked one out yet.

I also finally got around to de-boxing many of the decorative dining and living room stuff this weekend; however, nothing is put away in a proper spot. It is nice to have the boxes gone. I did throw a few things on the mantel for now so it isn’t so bear.


I’m looking forward to putting up a lot of Christmas pretties very soon which will give me some time to think about some more permanent mantel decorations.  I am nowhere near organized enough to be one of those people who changes their mantel decorations each season. IDK maybe???

In this shot you can see the wing back chair and foot stool that we snagged from a neighbor for free. It could use a re-upholstering, but I love it.


Now we just need a couch, a new paint job, and some honeycomb blinds and this room will be done.  Now where are my paint swatches…

8 thoughts on “Sealing the Old Fireplace

  1. Erin says:

    Love it! We haven’t dealt with our family room fireplace yet – it is wood burning, but there is a very very old gas insert in it, but we have no idea how to turn it on and the previous owner said they used it once and it set off the CO alarm 😉 Lovely! (one in nearly 30 years) I do want to have it inspected and get a gas insert (since we have a wood burning stove in our sunroom if we want that) but that will probably be a few years off.

    • stpaulhaus says:

      HA! Wowzers. I’m assuming the inspector suggested that you have it inspected by a chimney person and/or a heating person. I called 3 different places that our inspector recommended and they were all asking over $150 to come out and have a look see. I guess I have no experience in that but I was completely thrown off that it cost so much just to look at it. They inspect it with cameras supposedly. Maybe your insert just needs a tune-up?? Why do inserts have to be so expensive?! Gah!

  2. Damn the wood work in that room is awesome. Can’t wait to see what paint color you go with!

    • stpaulhaus says:

      I am looking forward to the many many hours of paint color debating. I have a book that has a chart of common wall colors for craftsman homes in the 1920s so I will most likely go with something similar to what they suggest. They are all the in warm cream, goldish yellow, ochre, olive green, and brownish red color families.

  3. tboard says:

    wow! Your place is looking great!

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