How to make smoke with fire

As previously mentioned (once or erm, twice) I need cowls for the chimneys to stop the birds nesting in there again in the spring.  I’ve only two fireplaces but there are three chimney pots (the bedroom fireplace has been blocked up).  Even picking the most affordable chimney cowls, getting three cowls was going to be over £42 and, well I’m far too tight for that.  So I needed to work out which pot corresponded with which fireplace – so I could get away with buying two.  There’s one big (tall) pot which I’m fairly sure is the range, as the chimney sweep commented that it had really good draw and I’m pretty sure that his pole was poking out of that pot as I walked up the path (I nipped out while he was here).  The other two pots are much smaller, so small in fact you can’t see them from the garden – you have to go to the carpark on the other side of the river.  The chimney sweep said that there was a bit of a down draft in the living room fireplace so he didn’t light it.

So what I needed to do was light a smoky fire in a fireplace with downdraft and then get to a place where I could see which chimney was smoking.  Easier said than done.

I first attempted it yesterday while waiting for the guy from Forestry.  I put a bit of paper in the grate and lit it, went outside – couldn’t see a thing.

So today I was clearing the leaves in the garden and I filled a bucket with some nice dry ones and some slightly less dry ones.  Then loaded up the fire

fire leaves

The photo is of my first tentative attempt – nothing like lighting a fire in your house for the first time and then almost immediately bombing it out of the front door, down the path, out the gate, over the road, across the footbridge, across the road, around cars, trying to find a spot between the trees on the river bank where you can see the chimney pots.  There was definitely smoke, it was a pretty similar colour to the overcast sky and it was getting whipped around in the wind a lot.  Could have been coming from either of the two smaller pots – then it stopped as the leaves had burnt out.

Take 2 – repeat process, only this time I didn’t wait for it to catch properly before running out the door.  School boy error, it didn’t catch and there was no smoke.  There was, however, an old lady and her dog who stood to one side as I was running over the foot bridge (in my boiler suit and red wellies with camera in hand), of course I felt the need to explain what I was doing as I ran past and shouted something along the lines of “need to see which chimney is smoking”. To which she just smiled politely, so either a) she didn’t hear what I said b) she immediately understood what I was doing and ascertained likely reasons for it c) smiling politely is the only cause of action when confronted with someone behaving in such a fashion d) she’s currently pondering the meaning of the cryptic message the girl in the red wellies tried to communicate to her.

Take 3 – well, I’d say that was fairly conclusive.

Chimney smoke

Where’s our nest?

The chimney sweep recommended I get some chimney cowls to prevent the birds nesting the chimney again.  I went by the house this morning to get a photo of the chimney in the daylight so I could try to work out what size cowls I need.

I felt quite bad when I saw them looking forlornly down the chimney for their nest!

No Nest

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…

I’ve posted the original floor plans already, this about what I plan to do…. maybe.

proposed downstairs

  • I’ve reconfigured the hall to put in a downstairs WC – there is a decent amount of space below the floor and a manhole right outside the front door so I think this location should be ok.
  • Sadly I’ve lost the vestibule so I’ll have to get a door with a high energy rating and have parcels delivered to Dad’s or work.
  • I’ve moved the door into the extension between the (current) vestibule and the kitchen – unfortunately that wall is load bearing (it holds up the purlin in the roof) so that might be tricky.
  • I’ve made the extension fully openplan – so will need one massive steel.  I tried just about every configuration to keep part of the wall but none of them really worked.
  • The back of the house is south facing so I wanted to keep the kitchen on north wall.
  • As there is no downstairs shower room I’ve gone for a combi boiler and put it pretty much where the mains pipe come in, between the kitchen and as close as possible to the upstairs bathroom and new WC.
  • I can’t have bi-fold doors all the way along the back as that would be a beam on top of a beam but I’m hopefully going to have the extension as light as possible – probably with some skylights in the lean-to roof.
  • Of course I’ve put in a ridiculously large dining table and sofas but as only the kitchen is fixed there lots of scope to move stuff around.


proposed upstairs

  • No more wall between the toilet and the bathroom.
  • The hot water cylinder will be removed as I’m having a combi (and a new one wouldn’t have fit in that cupboard anyway).  In the space where the cylinder was (and a bit more borrowed from the little bedroom) I’ve put a shower but as that wall is load bearing (it holds up the purlin) it will need a lintel (yes, that’s the same load bearing wall I’ve put a lintel in downstairs as well –  eek!).


proposed footprint

  •  A driveway between the tree and the oil tank (that involves putting an opening in the stone wall in a conservation area, getting approval from highways and protecting the tree roots for forestry).
  • A new shed 🙂
  • Oh, that bullet hole at the top is a firepit – I’d forgotten I’d put that there.

Anyway, this is where I got to on my own but as much as I love plans I realise I need to get a pro on the case.