In Glad Company: The Chimney Sweep Comes To The Brick House

What a day's excavation unearthed

The bug guy sprayed for ants in the basement, but he couldn’t do anything about the boiler not venting. That was a job for the oil guy, he said. So we called the oil guy who said, yup, there was a venting problem alright, but it wasn’t a job for him. We needed a chimney sweep. So we called LaBrosse Chimney, whose tag line is “Chimney Wise: Your Educated Chimney Professionals.” The next day, they were at our office, schooling us.

Our building is the Micah Whitmarsh House, better known as The Brick House. Built in 1767, it appears on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest brick building in East Greenwich. Before my brother and I purchased The Brick House as the new home for our ad agency, we had an engineer inspect the building to make sure it was structurally sound. Silly us. The engineer marveled at the support columns in the basement hewn from cedar limbs. “This building was standing long before you guys got here,” he said. “And it will be standing long after you're gone.”

Still, 245 years don’t pass without signs of age. According to Ernie of LaBrosse Chimney, mortar had crumbled to the point where it was obstructing the flue. And the mortar dust had company – birds, mice, squirrels, and other critters had found their final resting place at The Brick House. If we didn’t fix the chimney soon, we might join them.

Ernie detailed the chemistry behind the crumbling mortar. He described the tortuous path of our choked chimney flue. He expounded on building codes and brick densities and boiler fire forensics. Clearly, he was the right man for the job. Then he said he was bringing his jackhammer. All visions of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins vanished.

The LaBrosse truck arrived at 7:30 on Saturday morning – this was not a during-office-hours job. After hammering through the bricked-in fireplace in one of the first floor offices, Ernie cried out, “Look at this!” We ran into the room and found him holding up a petrified bird. “There’s all kinds of great stuff in here,” he said with an archaeologist's glee. Minutes later, he yelled out again: “WOW, I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS!” What had he found? Gold doubloons? The Holy Grail? Micah Whitmarsh himself? No, just the biggest build-up of soot and mortar crumbs he had ever seen.

Ernie and Dan filled bucket after bucket with the debris and trudged outside to their truck. With a long rope, they hoisted wood and bricks and screen to the roof. They snaked a gleaming stainless steel liner down our chimney and attached it to our boiler. After disposing of the petrified bird, they patched the fireplace in the first floor office. By 3:00, the job was done.

The name of the liner is the EverGuard® Forever Flex™. It comes with a Forever Warranty™, which suggests the liner will help vent the heating system at The Brick House for a long, long time.

Long after we're gone, of course.

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GameMaker May 03, 2012 at 01:16 PM
What type of mortar did they use to patch the soft colonial brick?
John Walsh May 03, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Don't know. I'd have to ask Ernie. Our focus was more on the "treasures" he discovered than on the rebuild. Thanks for reading the post.
Martha Reynolds May 03, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Ooh, petrified bird! Very cool. Great post, John. And, happy (wait, let me count) 245th birthday to the Micah Whitmarsh House! Long may it stand.
John Walsh May 03, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Thanks, Martha. It was an epic day at The Brick House.


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