Chimney!

I finally got the chimney up a couple of days ago. After all these months of agonizing over the location and configuration of the chimney, suddenly everything fell into place. Mostly, I found the one right place to put the stove, and the rest followed from there.

Let me go back to my fancy ASCII-art to illustrate the chimney saga. Below, you’ll see the rough floor plan of my hut (imagine looking down from straight above). To the left of the vertical line is the extension (so the 2’s are in the extension), and to the right is the main section. In the main section, the line of l’s indicate where the loft is. As you can see, the loft doesn’t cover the entire main section, and there are gaps on both ends.

+----+----------------+        S
|2   |  l         l  1|        ^
|    |S l         l  L|    E --|-- W
|2   |  l         l \ |        |
+----+---------------\+        N

My original plan was to put the stove where the ‘1’ is. This was mostly a fine plan, the only issue being that the roof overhangs there by several inches, and I didn’t want to cut a hole in that. Also, once I took down the scaffolding there, it became very difficult to do any work high up on that side of the cabin, since much of the work would have to happen higher than my ladder would go. The next plan was to put the stove in the extension, marked by the two 2’s. Since the roof of the extension isn’t completely done yet, I was more willing to open up holes and such there. The problem with 2′ is that it’s close to an oak tree just outside, and to safely clear that, I would’ve needed a lot of chimney sections, which would’ve been expensive. Also, all that chimney above the roof would’ve needed some support pieces, which the store didn’t have in stock. That left 2, in the south-eastern corner as a viable option. The problem with that was that, the stove would take up a large portion of the extension, which seemed like a waste of space. Also, it didn’t seem like an effective place for the stove, since the heat would rise, hit the low extension roof, before making its way to the main section of the cabin.

At the end, I put the stove where the ‘S’ is, in a pretty central location. This turned out to be the optimal solution in all ways. First, it leaves the extension completely open for use (I’m planning on putting the bathroom, sink and kitchen in there). Secondly, it’s a more central location, and the heat would spread more evenly. Since the loft isn’t covering that spot, I could have a nice long stove pipe extending above the loft level, for better heat exchange. Lastly, unlike the other side (where ‘1’ is), the extension roof provided a decent platform from which to do the external work. The last decision was on which chimney support kit to use: a wall-support kit (which goes out the wall and up), or a cathedral kit (which goes straight up through the roof). At the end, I chose the wall-support, which was more expensive, but had all the parts I needed (the cathedral kit didn’t come with the flashing, which seemed like a rather important piece).

All in all, the work took about 3 afternoons, going at my usual leisurely pace. The first day, I got the stove pipe sections together — all 9ft of them. It took a while to figure out how to assemble them, but after the first two, the rest went pretty easily. The next day, I cut a hole in the gables, and attached the outside portion of the thimble. Cutting the hole was the scariest part, since I had to make sure everything lined up properly. While a chimney that goes straight up through the roof only needs to align in 2 dimensions (the height being adjustable later), I had to make sure the hole lined up with the end of the stovepipe elbow in 3 dimensions, the height being particularly important since the stovepipes have a set height, and it’s difficult to adjust (i.e. I’d have to either cut the stovepipe, or move the stove itself up or down). Fortunately, the alignment worked out perfectly (seen above) to my huge relief. The rest of the work happened on the 3rd afternoon, and as you can see in the video below, the last piece went up right around dusk…

As I climbed up onto the ridge of my roof to attach the final piece of my chimney, the rain cap, I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d reached the summit of a mountain, after a long arduous climb. Indeed, protruding 3ft above my ridge, the rain cap is the highest point of my cabin, which also makes it the highest man-made item on my property. But, beyond the mere physical sense of height, this was, in many ways, a crowning achievement, literally as the rain cap closely resembles a crown, but also because completing the chimney represented the final step in my conquest over the last remaining challenge.

Though I bought this property with no particular plan in mind, it wasn’t long before I found myself engulfed in the challenges of making this little patch of wilderness habitable. Food, water, shelter. The basics weren’t too hard, at first. Then came the necessities of a more civilized life: sewage, electricity, and communications. I found solutions for each. The last basic need, heating, had however eluded me. Until today. But now I have that too, and I am ready to declare my part of the woods habitable, through all weathers, and all seasons.

Of course, there’s plenty more work to do on Hut 2.1, and in general, but I feel like most of the more challenging problems are behind me. At the very least, as I head into Project 31, I know that my major needs will be met: food, water, warmth. I’ll come out alive. The rest is a matter of comfort, and that’s a trivial luxury compared to the other challenges.