Sunday, March 28, 2010

Prepping for the Move

Today at the Delaney House, we removed the 1904 chimney.
The chimney can't be moved with the house. First, an old chimney is a precarious thing, and the chimney would most likely collapse if we attempted to lift it.  It also weighs an incredible amount, so moving it would be extremely difficult. Phil made it clear to us that, if we're going to move the house, we have to remove the chimney.

We started yesterday. Tom was up on the roof, chipping out each brick. After the 1989 earthquake, the former owners had the chimney rebuilt above the roofline (this was a common occurrence in Berkeley), so the bricks were held together by new cement.  It took all day for Tom to chip off the mortar, and throw each brick over the back of the house into the yard.  

Then today, the work started moving.  We removed about 20 feet of chimney, starting at the roofline and going all the way down to the basement.

Old chimneys tend to have seriously crumbling mortar (part of what makes them dangerous). The Delaney House was no exception - the bricks are deteriorated, and the mortar was easy to separate.  Each brick lifted off relatively easily.

The problem, then, is what do you do with the bricks?  Above the roofline, Tom threw them, but after getting down into the attic, we had two options: lowering them, in buckets, through the hatch into the bedroom, and then carting them outside; or dropping them down the chimney and removing them from the basement.

We opted for the basement drop.  Tom lifted each brick off, and dropped it down the flue into the basement, where I pulled the bricks out of the clean out door.  It sounds simple, but it's filthy work: Tom was coated with dust and soot, and as the bricks tumbled to the basement, they dislodged more soot, more mortar, and often turned to dust themselves.  The basement quickly filled with dust, coating me.  (Nowhere is there a more happier crew than them what sing chim chim cheree chim cheroo)

It took several hours, and the more we dropped the bricks, the more unstable the walls of the chimney in the basement became.  We had to be careful that the walls didn't collapse before we got down below the first floor.

Late today, we finally removed the fireplace bricks, and got down to just below the floor joists.  By this time, the north wall of the chimney was mostly gone, and several bricks were missing in various places around the remaining chimney.  We disassembled two of the remaining walls, and the west wall fell over into the basement.  

Now the basement is full of dust, mortar and lots and lots of brick.  We tried to keep the bricks from breaking, so we can reuse them as planter walls (like we did on Parker Street) or pathways (like we did on Fulton Street).  

Then we went back home and took long showers.  We're exhausted, and our arms and legs are sore from all the lifting (we figured we had to move 1500 bricks today).  But now the Delaney House is really ready to move.

However, every silver lining has a dark cloud: we have to do it all again next week. The Cheney Cottage has a chimney too.


  1. All dat heavy liftin'? Now you really built like a brick shit house! You so CRAZY!!!! But really, I hope the bricks were much lighter than your matzo balls. I love you(s).

  2. I can't believe you're casting aspersions on my balls (matzo, that is). Now that we've moved 1500 bricks (and 1500 more to go this weekend) I probably could take you in a fair fight. Hmm, well, maybe not. With muscles we're loaded.

    Anyway, come visit and we'll talk. I adores ya.