Another Bill. But Another Discovery Too.


Leca pellets.  Light Expanded Clay Aggregate.

Some of the escapees from the chimney. There were a few more, but not too many. I just saved a handful to show you. They bear a striking resemblance to the stuff I use on the greenhouse staging so these won’t be going to waste.

Several years ago, when the leca was poured into the chimney from the top, the pellets found every nook and cranny of the cavity between the pumice liner and the chimney wall, self levelling from the bottom up. A big chimney takes an awful lot of them. An awful lot indeed. So if you happen to be fiddling with the register plate in the fireplace and expose a hole, well, you know about it pretty quick. Gravity you see. Takes no prisoners. And pretty quick describes fairly accurately the speed with which our contractors dealt with it. Quicker than I could open my mouth to draw their attention to the problem. Which as Mike would likely tell you, is pretty damn quick.



The unsightly metal bar which previously protruded a centimetre or so below the fireplace beam has now gone and been replaced with a shallower but slightly wider one. You can just see the glimmer of steel on the middle front edge. But it is heaps better than the original bar and will no doubt achieve a cloak of invisibility when painted black to match the register plate.



The fireplace now stands empty.

There was nothing really wrong with the woodburner which occupied this spot up until a few days ago. True, it was a little on the large side. But it had big double doors that we could open and enjoy all the benefits of an open fire with a fraction of the mess. They just don’t make them like that any more. The plan, which I thought perfectly sensible at the time, was to remove the woodburner just long enough to sort out the metal beam (and maybe do something different with the hearth) and then put it back. Simples. Yes?




The woodburner sitting forlornly among the general builders’ clutter.

No, these days everything has to be compliant. Your fireplace fitter of choice must be registered, if you wish to remain comfortably insured. Any one of them will happily take out your old stove for you. But unless it is compliant he won’t put it back. And therein lay the rub.

So what does it take to make it complaint? Among other things, an air inlet. From outside the building to within. The regulation came about in response to our desire in modern times to have houses which are as airtight as possible. A fire will consume a large amount of oxygen, drawing in the air around it and propelling it up the chimney. If there is insufficient air coming back into the room there could potentially be a problem. Which is all perfectly understandable in the usual run of things. But a medieval English cottage is a long way from a Passivhaus. The last thing I want to do is create another draught. There are quite enough of those already thank you very much. So maybe we should find an air inlet with a flap which could be closed. That would solve the problem, yes?


Because building regulators have already spotted the loophole.. or rather the potential for the closing up of the hole before the fireplace fitter’s van has even left the drive. And thus, to be compliant, the air intake must be permanently open. Even when the fireplace is not in use. Even in the depths of winter. Even if, as in our case, the inlet would need to be installed on an east facing outer wall: open and available for the very coldest of the winter winds to rattle right through it.

I retreat, battle worn and weary, back to google.

The latest range of woodburners connect to outside air directly, via a pipe through the wall, with no need for additional ventilation into the room. Needless to say, our woodburner is not one of those.

A smaller woodburner, one with an output less than 5kW, generally needs no air intake at all. Our woodburner is not one of those.

So short of donning eskimo gear just to sit on the sofa the only way to make the desired changes to the fireplace was to buy a new woodburner. We went for the smaller option. Feels a safer bet anyway, given the combustible nature of the roof. Only another £1500 over budget. Sigh.



Mike removed the old red quarry tiles from the hearth and the builder set about what was left with a kango..



And look what he revealed. Cobbles. Quite possibly a remnant of the ancient floor. Even older than the bricks.

The question now is what to do about it. It would be a shame to cover the cobbles up again. But as well as being uneven they’re at a lower level than the rest of the floor. An odd set up for a hearth. Maybe lift and re-seat some of the stones?