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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Up Up and Awaayyyy - Taking Down Our Chimney

Sunday, we had things coming down from the sky. It was white little things with six sided shapes in a very frosty cold natural composition. Yep. It was snowing in Wisconsin. It was actually really pretty and it started Sunday night. Watching the snowflakes reflected in the new backyard light on the flagpole was almost magical. It was like little glittery crystals coming down into the beams of light.

By Monday morning, we woke up to snow on the ground. It wasn't much, and we knew it was going to melt quickly. But it sure looked nice. It clung to all of the roofs, the tree branches, and the grass.

I was out on the road early because I had to get going up to Peshtigo to the vet's office with my little buddy Finnegan. Everything was frosted over, and it looked like a winter wonderland.

I snapped a few pictures while I pulled over on the side of the road. I don't do this while I'm driving of course!

I figured I would get a few shots before the sun came out and melted it all away. I was a few minutes early for this little guy's appointment, so I was able to pull over to take these pictures.

And if this little guy had his way, he would prefer that I didn't go at all and brought him right back home. Just look at that face! He knew we were going back to the doggy doctor and he was not happy about it.  It's amazing how they know things, and figured it out.

If dogs spoke in swear words 

I'm sure he would have said:


I tearfully dropped him off.  Any time a dog has to go under anesthetic, there is a risk.  I said to be a Good Boy, and let them take him inside. 

I had to get my butt in gear and get back home. Steve was waiting for the next contractor to come. Like I said in my previous blogs, we've had to hire a couple contractors to do some of the heavy duty stuff that we aren't able to do ourselves any more. Like blowing in the new insulation or getting rid of the bats in the attic. This is the third contractor now--- this is the guy that's going to take down our broken chimney to a lower level and cap it off!

He pulled on up in front of the house with his big equipment and we were ready to roll!

His name is Gary Vandenhouten. We met him back when we lived in Chilton.  He was taking down a chimney and cutting some trees for a neighbor down the street. We had him come over and take care of the chimney on our house in Chilton as well. We found him to be a very likeable guy, hardworking, a small business owner, and willing to do a good job for a good day's pay. Hard to find those kind of guys anymore!

Here is the front and back of 
his business card:

Gary has a cottage up this way, another 30 or 40 miles beyond Oconto. He promised us that sometime this fall he would be able to come up and take care of our chimney on this house. He had planned to take his equipment up here to do a couple other jobs plus some things at his own cottage. If we could arrange a couple of our neighbors to have some work done, it would make it more advantageous for him to come and spend a couple days up here.  He arrived with his big powered high lift device, ready to go to work.

Here's what we needed to have done: We have this huge clay brick chimney on our home. We are not using it anymore for either the fireplace in the living room or for a furnace or hot water heater vent. Everything now is vented out the side of the house for the furnace, and the water heater is electric. We are not using the fireplace in the living room, and it had been long ago blocked off by the previous owners. Someday we may put a vent-free natural gas fireplace in it's place, or maybe an electric one, but we will never again be using the dual chimney flues. 

As you can see, we are missing quite a few bricks. We are worried about the chimney falling apart or crashing into the attic. It's best to take care of these things before they ever get any worse. So now was the perfect time to do it!

Our proposed plan with Gary is to take down the chimney about this far to where the good bricks start. Then he will cap it off permanently and seal it to make sure we don't get any water or bats intruding into the old flues. We are not in any position to completely remove the chimney from the entire roof and attic or patch up the roof. So the next best bet is to get it down to where it's structurally sound - and then permanently cap it off.

Gary got all of his equipment together and drove around to our backyard. We took down the four mesh panels of the doggy potty yard fence so he could gain access from the back of the house. It was an easier position for him to work from, compared to the front of the house. This is quite a piece of wonderful equipment and he can move it up, around, and down at will--- with the little controllers located up in the basket with him.  He is a One Man Show.  

There was still a little bit of snow on the roof as he was starting to work. But that's okay, he is safe inside of his fenced-in basket to do the project. Here he is starting on the very first rows of bricks. It was mortared together stronger than we originally thought. We have been thinking that the bricks would just fall apart in his hand. (they did on our house in Chilton!)  But no, he was using an air powered chisel tool to hammer them apart brick-by-brick and stack them on the platform next to him.

Each time he would bring a load down, we transfered them onto our trailer. He was making good progress and Steve was keeping up quite well on the bottom with loading things up.

You can see here the charred area and smell the acrid old smoke from where there had been a chimney fire at one time long ago! There was also a sticky residue that may have been from the fireman's flame retardant foam all down the inside of the flue. Look at the holes that were burned right through the chimney flue liner blocks!

If we had ever tried to light a fire in this fireplace, it would have been extremely damaging and dangerous. I'm glad we never attempted it. Of course we would never do that without a thorough chimney inspection anyhow. Any person buying a home should have the chimney inspected, because you never know what happened in the past. So, the unanimous conclusion is that it's best that we take this down and get rid of the dangerous condition.

The sun came out and melted away all of the snow. Working conditions were really pretty good as he maneuvered this high lift up and down with each load. 

Once the snow was off the roofs,
he got off the lift to pick up any stray pieces that fell down.

Steve and I went over to the city refuse department to unload the bricks each time. This is a free service from our city where we can unload them into specially designated areas. What a great way to dispose of this mess, without having to go out to a landfill somewhere or find somebody who is looking for rubble and fill on a building site to dump it.

I think it turned out to be a pretty nice day for him to work up there. The sun was shining to warm things up and there wasn't much wind. By noon he completed with ripping down all of the bricks.  

He cleaned up the entire roof area, including any surrounding little pieces that may have fallen onto the roof shingles. Gary was very thorough and attentive to his work to make sure he was not leaving any mess behind at all.

Gary had sheet metal along as well as a press break device to create the corners and the edges and custom build us a chimney cap. Some people want chimney caps with screens to be able to still use their fireplace but keep out birds and bats. Other people, like us, want a complete chimney cap to seal the entire top. Using special mortar adhesive in caulk tubes, he sealed the cap down on all sides to make sure nothing could ever intrude in that space again. It sure looks good to us. Job well done!

This is quite the fun 
"Big Boy Sandbox Toy", 
isn't it? 

Now we had a little project for him to help us out with, and then it was time for him to move on to all of our neighbors. We made contact with a couple of other people around the neighborhood for him to do jobs for them as well.

Steve had one angled tree limb on a crazy Box Elder tree that needed to come down. It was growing overhead and blocking the growth of a beautiful black walnut tree and a crabapple tree underneath it. But if Steve had cut it off with just our chainsaw and dropped it, it would have ruined the good trees below. So Gary was able to cut this one branch off into smaller pieces and load them onto his high lift.

From there, he moved on to the other jobs with the neighbors. He was working on their chimneys and trees and had enough lined up for the next day....  he left his equipment here parked safely overnight to come back again today to finish up for our neighbors. We are glad we were able to make it worth his while. We gave him a nice tip as well as his pay for a good job well done. 

After Gary drove away over to our neighbor's house, Steve and I put the four mesh panels and the gate back up on the doggy potty yard. Everything was back together again and we were happy with his job that he did for us.

In the meantime, while all this was going on, a little girl doggie was terrified of all the scary noises going on outside and up on the roof. She was just lost without her support buddy, Finnegan. They are so bonded together and rely on each other.  She was hiding out wherever she could and I was trying to keep her as calm as possible in between our loads to the city refuse dump. You can see her here hiding back in the corner watching as I went in and out of the door.

She was forlorn and heartbroken, 
her buddy was gone 
and she didn't know what was happening.

By 3:30, we got the magical phone call that said we could come and pick up our little Finnegan. His dental surgery went quite well. Not only did they remove the one offending infected tooth, but they had to remove two more as well! His teeth are in very rough shape because of really bad genetics and bad breeding from the hoarding situation he came from. They said there was actually calcium growth between the teeth locking them together that needed to be broken apart. We also opted to pay a little extra for laser healing which would be a lot easier on him with less bleeding and discomfort. During this covid-19 situation, everything at the veterinarian is curbside service.  After we handled all the paperwork and a credit card payment over the phone, they brought out this Groggy Doggy to us! 

He looked quite bewildered and battered and seemed to be very relieved that he was going home again. We got one slight tail wag and that was about it. He crashed on the back seat of the car and was out like a light. Little Binney was so happy to have her buddy back. She sniffed him all over and licked the tip of his nose to let him know that it was all going to be okay now.

When we got home, he wobbled around a little bit like a drunken sailor. He was able to do a little bathroom break in the yard. Then he managed to come back in and plopped down on a sheepskin to lay at our feet. Zonk! 

Binney was his little nurse and sat by, carefully tending over him and seriously wondering what the heck happened to her buddy.

Later on in the evening, he surprised us by barking a little bit at the deer in the backyard. Then he ate a full slice of ham, cut into little pieces, and we hand fed him one tiny square at a time. He drank some water so we knew things were back on track. Then he spent the rest of the evening curled up on a quilt on my lap, totally enjoying the warmth and comfort of being back home again.  I was gently rubbing his cheeks and chin. We watched TV all evening long, and I didn't want to move until it was time to go to bed.

Normally both of our dogs sleep on little doggie beds on the floor, near the base of our bed. But last night, we decided to treat them by letting them both lay up on the bed with us. Of course this is difficult, even in a king-size bed, because they lay on top of the blankets and trap our feet. I think they both got better sleep last night than Steve and I did!

Our little guy seems pretty chipper this morning. 
We are hand feeding him some ham again. 
Hope this doesn't become a "thing"!


Oh, as a PS.in my last blog, the photos left the impression that I removed the entire piece of glass from the fireplace screen and that it was an open space. No it's not. There's actually a clear sheet of a polymer type product still in that space. It's just that it's so clear you cannot see it in the photos.

I have this handy-dandy can of etching spray that I had used on the lacey door window of the front porch down in Chilton. I figured this would be really good to cover that shinier piece and make it more clouded like the rest of the screen.

It worked! 
Now I will touch up the silicone edge 
with a bit of black paint. 

The weatherman is predicting some warmer weather in the 50's later this week, and maybe into next week.  We might get in ONE more camping trip.  We will see. 


  1. Glad to hear Finnegan came through the dental surgery well. He has three very good nurses...especially the ones hand feeding him ham. :)

    It's always nice when you can find good contractors. They're worth their weight in gold. Take care and stay well!

    1. Yes, we are very careful in hiring anyone. Had to be good word of mouth references from people we know. Plus being insured is a "must".

      Finnegan sure is spoiled. Tonight he ate more ham (hand fed) and then some spaghetti noodles!!!!

  2. Glad to hear Finnegan is on the mend! I lost Maggie last year and don’t think I am ready for another dog. It is so heartbreaking to have to make that “quality of life” decision.

    1. Oooh I am so sorry. She was such a good dog, and we enjoyed meeting her.

  3. A wise decision to have the Chimney taken down by a contractor with a Snorkel Lift.
    Glad Finney is perking up.
    I knew there was still a single layer but I could see reflection. The Frosted Glass did a great job.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. Yah, I had 4 or 5 people writing to me to tell me to not leave the open hole... so I had to mention it again now that it is fixed.

  4. So glad little Finnegan is on the mend! It is hard to have our pets go through anything like that. On that note, just an FYI. Our vet has warned us not to give our dogs ham ever - too high in sodium. Might be worth asking your vet about that.
    Your handyman is certainly worth his weight in gold! Chimneys are nothing to mess with, especially damaged ones.

  5. You are so right, we never give him ham otherwise. He lost weight the last few weeks, and just getting any soft food into him right now is a good thing. He is being very picky. Tonight he ate a few spaghetti noodles, and some crackers. Hoping the ham will make him drink more water too.


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