Posts tagged ‘architectural salvage’

February 18, 2012

The Story of the Fireplace-sized Hole

Hello all,

If you’d rather sell your soul to the devil than consider purchasing an old house, this post might not be for you. But I think Old House People are some of the most fascinating, creative, thrifty people I’ve met. Old House People are not ashamed to show their works-in-progress to other OHP because the shower knows that the showee understands precisely why that hunk of the vinyl flooring that was chewed up by the dog two years ago has yet to be replaced. Why, it’s simply because you aren’t quite to that project yet.  (And it’s just in the one corner, anyway.) OHP understand. Congregants of of the First Church of Ikea most certainly do not understand.

And so if you are an OHP  sort you will comprehend the trauma of having your fun, planned projects (new wood windows, a complete kitchen remodel) suspended due to foundation issues.

Here’s what happened: The foundation guys came to our house and dug deep holes in the driveway around our fireplace. They looked around, scratched their heads, and pronounced that we should remove our fireplace and chimney. Thus saith two different foundation guys: bring down that chimney.

What we learned is that  most fireplaces in modern homes are built on a cement pad. Ours was built on a brick pad, and since the mortar between those bricks was nearly 90 years old, it probably wasn’t a good idea to try to shim underneath it.  So after getting over the initial shock of the idea of fireplace removal, we finally agreed that it would be the best thing to do.

My husband, determined to be part of the “demo” (to use the HGTV lingo), erected scaffolding so that we could remove the topmost part of the chimney ourselves. With him atop the scaffolding and safely roped in, he began the arduous task of chiseling out each brick. Once he had a bucketful, he would lower them to the ground with his McGuyver-style pulley system. I stood at the ready. My job was very important. I unclipped the full bucket of bricks from the rope, sent up an empty bucket, and my husband went back to his glamorous deconstruction work. Meanwhile, I hauled the full bucket of bricks to the back of the driveway and stacked them neatly. I did this about seventy-two times, unloading bricks, hauling, stacking, walking back for more bricks. Let me emphasize the neatness with which the bricks were stacked. My 28 year-old son also got to participate in the demo, and eventually we removed the entire portion of the chimney above the roofline.  The contractor and his helpers and husband did the brunt of the work, but I didn’t want you to think I was uninvolved.

Here’s what our chimney used to look like. May she rest in peace.

While the chimney was being dismantled, the fireplace inside the house was coming out, too. Here’s what it looked like on the day they broke through. I happened to drive by during lunch and this is what I saw. I’ll bet most of you never get a chance to see a fireplace-sized hole in the middle of your living room wall.

Then the foundation people came back and did stuff involving piers and a new cross beam underneath the house.
Dot helped.

Then the reconstruction of the exterior began. A brick mason had to fill in the skirt around the house. New siding was installed to match the old. There was priming. There will be painting, as soon as we get a warm, dry day.

And since we removed the fireplace from the inside, that meant the hearth went, too. Our beautiful 90 year-old honey-colored, heart pine floors had a minor problem.

So we went searching for old wood to try to match our 2 1/4″ , 3/4″ deep tongue-and-groove floors. We found several architectural salvage places in Dallas and visited them one Saturday afternoon. If you are an OHP, you need to know about these places.

We visited Orr-Reed Wrecking Company. They had the wood in the right size but wrong color. But it was an interesting place to visit. They have all the stuff you’d expect: old flooring, old doors, old plumbing fixtures.

We also visited a place that wasn’t new to us and you really must go see, Discount Home Warehouse Architectural Salvage. They are right off I-35 on Empire Central. In addition to their web site, they have a Facebook page where they frequently post photos of new items, so it’s worth friending them if you’re an OHP. This place has entire kitchens that have been removed, mostly from Highland Park kitchens. You’ll find things like old windows, doors, entire sets of kitchen cabinets, hardware, glass doorknobs, old stoves, light fixtures, sinks, bathtubs, and some antiques. This is a great place and the staff are very helpful. They also have a lot of old vintage flooring, but they didn’t have exactly what we needed at the moment. Of course, with all salvage places, the inventory changes frequently.

The third place we went, Old Texas Wood, was quite a trek from Denton, and in spitting distance of Seagoville. That means south and east of Downtown Dallas.  When we visited, we found what looked like exactly what we wanted. It was old pine flooring in the right size and the right color. Perfect!

A few weeks later, and after talking to our flooring guy, we borrowed a friend’s pickup so we could purchase the wood. My husband had been in contact with the owner, Lance Satterfield, several times during the week.  So we headed out in the borrowed truck and drove down there, only to find that they had just sold the entire lot of that beautiful honey-pine flooring two days prior.

My husband said a bad word which I won’t repeat here.

Lance felt terrible, and rummaged around in his very large warehouse and found that he had some pine flooring in exactly the right size. But it was completely raw, unfinished wood. He was extremely apologetic. And so, he GAVE US the unfinished wood. I mean free, which is one of my very favorite things. His workers loaded it into the truck, we thanked him very much, and we left before he could change his mind.  And even though we have to sand and stain the wood, it was free, and we found out about this great business.

Here are some photos from Old Texas Wood. It’s worth a visit.

 When you walk in the front door, you’ll see a handful of architectural salvage pieces such as doors, mantles, and miscellaneous interesting things.

I loved this rounded-top screen door. I also love the contraption on the screen, which I recognize as something meant to keep your cats from shredding the thing to bits.

vintage screen door

Out back is the monstrous warehouse.

And here’s the wood that sits in our living room, waiting for us to prepare it for installation. And the kitty that sits watch reminds me to tell you, since this post is ever so long already, to please consider adopting a pet.


Thanks for reading.

Have any comments about resources for Old House People in the D/FW Area?  Post here or email