Need Advice - turning arched fireplace opening to rectangular


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Old 02-16-13, 09:06 AM
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Need Advice - turning arched fireplace opening to rectangular

Hi all. I have an arched fireplace opening that needs to be converted to rectangle dimensions to accept a gas insert. I've had two local masons out to evaluate the bid and neither has called me back - maybe they have bigger projects going on. I am happy to tackle it myself if someone can help me with some masonry basics.

The arch should remove fairly easily but what is best method for squaring the opening as the bricks are, of course, a staggered pattern? Is straight line cutting through brick even an option? or do I remove the full bricks (every other on the sides of the opening) and then reinstall half sized bricks in order to square it? I will also be raising the bottom of the opening by three brick courses, or about 8+ inches. The top will still be the same position (at top of the arched course of bricks).

The hearth extension is also coming out and the brick wall will be faced with cement board, but I have those skills in hand.

I appreciate any advice you can send my way. I do plenty other DIY around the house and autos, so am no stranger to tools and work, but am newbie when it comes to masonry. Thanks all!!
 
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Old 02-16-13, 09:09 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

It looks to me like the arch is what supports the brick above it. If it does, you'd need to figure out how to insert a lintel. How high up does the brick go?
 
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Old 02-16-13, 10:11 AM
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There appears to be a lintel in place now. I attached a photo. It is set in above the arch and I have no clue how those are typically put in place. I measured from the bottom of the brick at the top of the archway to the lintel is 5", so it is set in about 1.75" above the top of the archway topmost brick, so at about the midpoint of first horizontal span of bricks above the arch. I hope that helps.
 
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Old 02-16-13, 10:27 AM
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You should be able to remove the brick under the lintel provided there is support under both ends of the lintel. Basically you just use a hammer and chisel to remove the brick. It can be a messy job so be sure to cover up everything in front of the fireplace ...... if you make the cook mad ........
 
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Old 02-16-13, 10:40 AM
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So I should probably brace the lintel during the operation, just to be on the safe side, yes? What about the brick on the vertical sides of the opening. Do I just drill/chisel out the whole bricks on every other course and backfill with a half brick to get my sides plumb, or is there an easy way to cut brick while it is in place?
 
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Old 02-16-13, 10:43 AM
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I'm not a mason but I'd support the lintel take out the full brick, cut it in half and reinstall it.
 
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Old 02-16-13, 11:04 AM
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Yup, think I'll give it a whirl and do it my self since I can't interest a local mason in a small job. Still too many McMansions with great stone fireplaces being built I guess. Thanks for weighing in Marksr. Much appreciated! Any others (including masons [who hope i haven't insulted, was not meant that way]) are welcome to weigh in. We all need to be bolstered when tackling a new DIY project!
 
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Old 02-16-13, 09:36 PM
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I don't see a lintel in the photos, but maybe it's just the "old man eyesight" problem. FWIW, a true arch does not need a lintel, but rather is self-supporting, with the entire structure's members (bricks) acting in compression against each other. Take a look at some pix of the old Roman aqueducts--not a single lintel to be seen, anywhere.

Why you'd want to destroy that lovely arch and replace it with a boring, rectangular opening is a mystery to me. And I suspect the reason you haven't heard back from any masons you've had out to take look at it, is simply that it's quite a complicated project. They didn't want to scare you off, by telling you complete removal and replacement is the quickest way to go, to the tune of 4 or 5 grand. If you decide to go ahead with the retrofit, a means of temporarily supporting the brickwork above needs to to be implemented before removing the arch bricks. Not doing so means everything above will collapse.
 
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Old 02-16-13, 10:13 PM
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I attached another photo. All I see when I look up the chimney is a chunk of metal that contains the damper and I am guessing the lintel is part of that?

The arch looks more decorative in nature, but I am sure would or could bear more weight that a rectangular opening. We need it squared so we can put a gas insert in, and the brick face will be covered in concrete board. The brick is going away, that's our choice after 20 years of enjoying it - it's time for another view!

So if I understand you, to guard against any fascia collapse, support the upper tiers somehow - maybe a 2x8 or 2x10 tapcon screwed into the bricks across the facia just above the arch and supported maybe with a pair of 2x4's on each side. Sound about right?

If I remember, the first mason mused about the possibility of trouble with the facia but when I asked if he would want me to pull the mantle so he could properly brace the brick he said no, it shouldn't be an issue. Maybe he already knew he wouldn't be back and that's why it wasn't an issue?

Hmm. So what do you think? You certainly gave me pause, which isn't a bad thing..
 
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Old 02-16-13, 10:30 PM
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The steel smoke chamber/damper assembly is not supporting any of the brickwork in front of it.

But I have to ask--If the brick is truly "going away", why not simply remove all of it, and start over? Why keep any of it if you're going to bury it with cement board? Cement board is really ugly stuff, BTW, regardless of what color you paint it.
 
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Old 02-16-13, 10:43 PM
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So where is this lintel? Above the damper assembly? If so, wouldn't the arch be more decorative in nature?
 
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Old 02-17-13, 04:45 AM
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Support the brickwork above with a strongboy and short prop. It's quite an easy job. Lintels usually only support the triangle of brickwork above them.
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Old 02-17-13, 09:11 AM
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How many courses of brick above the arch would you recommend placing the supports at (see fireplace picture below)? Looks like Strongboys are a UK device. I could probably devise similar using a couple lengths of 1/4" angle iron long enough to get under the brick and support those with steel pipe or 4x4. How many support points across that 6' brick wall?
 
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Old 02-17-13, 10:17 AM
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Number of courses depends on where the lintel is going. It needs to leave enough room to get the lintel in under it.
If you are taking out about 4ft width of brickwork one prop in the middle is usually enough.
When propping walls it can depend on the make up of the wall when deciding on the spacing. ie an old stone or brick wall built with lime mortar will be more unstable than a newer one built with cement mortar.
 
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Old 02-17-13, 11:06 AM
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I am not following your line of thought. I am not installing an additional lintel (do I need to?). There should be one in the existing brickwork (somewhere above the existing opening). If I prop it in the middle my bracing would have to be angled? as I am working below it on the archway. Angled bracing sounds problematic for the potential load. Could I brace on each side of the opening, and how far above that arch, how many courses up?

The only thing I need to do is remove the fireplace opening arch and convert it to rectangular opening 24"h x 35.5"w in order to accept a gas fireplace insert. The house is 1979 split level. Fireplace facade is floor to ceiling, 8'6"h x 6'3"w and appears to be decorative, i.e., not load bearing, but I am not an engineer and there is a roof line sitting on top of that wall the fireplace is on. The chimney sweep who was out rated this fireplace a 9.5 out of 10, i.e., in very good condition. I just want to perform the work safely. I appreciate your help!
 
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Old 02-17-13, 11:07 AM
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Do you have a very good reason not to remove all of the brickwork? Since you plan to bury it all with cement board anyway? Doing so would take less than half the time of mickey-mousing with trying to convert the arch to a rectangular opening and installing a new lintel for that opening (from the back side, too, being no easy task in itself). Going with all cement board directly against the block masonry also means that a new lintel wouldn't be required.

You definitely need a new lintel if you plan on constructing a rectangular opening, using the existing bricks. Gravity will not support that opening (or rather, the bricks above it) like the existing, self-supporting arch is. Your repeated suggestion that you think there's an existing lintel above the arch is wrong. Read my earlier post--arches are self-supporting, meaning they don't require a lintel, and the compressive forces of gravity acting between individual members is what holds them in place.
 
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Old 02-17-13, 11:42 AM
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Ach, I see said the blind man. I am getting a better picture of the lintel requirement. Thank you for the explanation. Reason for leaving the existing brick is the gas insert, in order to meet code, needs to be installed into an existing (code compliant) masonry fireplace. If I removed the brick facia it would not be a code compliant fireplace.
So is the lintel just a piece of angle iron across a line of bricks spanning the opening and sides of the opening or is there additional support measures involved?
 
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Old 02-17-13, 12:08 PM
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You can use either an angle iron or a concrete lintel.
 
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Old 02-17-13, 12:21 PM
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Brick veneer does NOT make a fire place code-compliant. It's the entire internal construction that does, including the flue, damper, smoke chamber, and an interior lining of fire brick (bottom, back and sides), all usually encased in a mortared concrete block framework.

And yes, lintels usually consist of a length of steel angle (not "angle iron," as it's generally no longer available, as it hasn't been rolled in more than 80 years), spanning an opening (doors, windows, fire places, etc.) in brick and stone work and providing support for all of the courses above it.
 
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Old 02-17-13, 12:51 PM
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Thanks. The fireplace company that sells and installs the gas inserts will not install them in a fireplace where the brick has been removed, so that's that. I appreciate the helpful pointers on the lintel. I will move forward from that. Thank you all!
 
 

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