Our house has a beautiful fireplace, which I don't think I have a photo of. This is yet another part of the house that has both benefited and suffered from the benign neglect of the former owners. Nobody ever did much work on this house, which means that nobody did idiotic ill-advised renovations.
(This isn't our living room, but it might as well be. Just switch green to brown, and make the proportions a bit wider.)
The Good Part
Unlike so many of the houses of this era that we saw while house-hunting, our house's fireplace has never been painted over. It has rustic brown bricks, the world's tiniest hearth, and it is surrounded by unpainted gum-wood cabinets. (You should have seen some of the crimes against architecture that we saw. I think my "favorite" was the Art and Crafts fireplace with the dimensional, pictoral tiles -- they formed a landscape -- that someone had sloppily, maybe even drunkenly, painted with pink and purple sparkle paint. It was an abomination.)
The Bad Part
Not much gets built with brick in the Bay Area these days, because un-reinforced brickwork tends to crack and shatter during earthquakes. After the 1989 earthquake, many chimneys in our area were found to have cracked all the way through, at the roofline. One of the masons that looked at our place told us that repairing this kind of damage formed the bulk of his work for the past twenty years.
Our chimney is just sort of sitting on our roof. If you pushed on it hard enough, it would tumble off, and crush our neighbors' cars. Our chimney is a loose tooth. And it's been sitting, loose, on our roof for the past twenty years.
This gives me nightmares.
Also, the mortar on the lower part of the chimney has pretty much disintegrated, and you can just brush it away with your fingers. (Please don't come over and pick at my chimney; this totally freaks me out.)
Finally, we don't seem to have any kind of damper, and we don't have a chimney cap. I honestly can't figure out why rainwater doesn't pour down into our fireplace every time it rains.
The Fun (But Terrifyingly Expensive) Part
Tomorrow, the masons we've hired are coming over to take photographs, which will be submitted to the city, in advance of starting work on our chimney. Once we get the permits, they'll be tearing down the chimney above the roofline and replacing it with re-enforced masonry. They'll be installing an actual damper and a chimney cap. And they'll be re-pointing the brick on the outside of the house.
Robb spent part of the weekend working on a firewood rack for the back yard.
We're both delighted about the prospect of sitting in our living room, in front of a delicious-smelling, crackling, actual-log fire.
Who wants to come over and have a drink in front of the fire, in a few weeks?