This was at my own home, a bit of a ‘doer-upper’. Built in 1864 it is a solid Victorian house with some nice features remaining.  We wanted to install a woodburning stove in an existing non-original fireplace and it needed thorough repair and enlargement to do so. Most Victorian fireplaces have what is known as a ‘builders opening’ and a smaller fireplace built into this. Over the years as styles, fuels and knowledge changed, these smaller fireplaces and hearths were often altered to improve burning.

Ours was no different but we wanted to open it back to the builders opening to fit an efficient Charnwood Cove 1 woodburning stove in the reveal. First step, remove the old fireplace, and strip back to the bare bones. The brick arch was in pretty poor shape, with quite a wobble on it. Unfortunately behind the modern fireplace the inside corners of the brick opening were pretty ‘chewed’ up from a previous alteration.

Consulting an experienced and considerate bricklayer, we got in the expert help we needed. This is more of a job for a craftsman than an architect, and his careful approach was vital to the success. He took the time to consider where the loads were coming down, and how the brick bond carried the stresses and how it looked overall. With a visit to the local reclamation yard to hand pick over a pallet of bricks, a number of replacements were well matched by eye.

The bricklayer then braced the whole chimney, and tightened up the bricks insitu with wooden wedges, which allowed him to begin removing the damaged bricks piece by piece. He carefully selected the reclaimed bricks, cut, chipped and rubbed down them to suit their new positions. It was slow work, taking 5 days to complete, but once we had blended some sand & lime to find a suitable colour mortar it looks fantastic, and hard to tell the difference between new and old work.

Taking out the insert fireplace back to the builders opening

Stripping off plaster

Stripping off plaster

Matching up bricks

New picture rail installed, brickwork ready for replair

Work in progress, support struts, wooden wedges and new bricks going in from the bottom

‘New’ bricks in lower half (see careful bonding and mix of colour), upper half raked out ready for repointing

The finished article. The lower half has dried out a bit more, and lightened in colour since to a near-perfect match.