Architect swaps ‘unsafe’ chimney for wooden one

31 May 2012

Don Jamieson values the safety of his family above the quaint look of his 1918 villa.

Concerned about how his brick chimney would fare in an earthquake, the Hataitai resident and architect decided to replace it with a timber-frame one he designed himself.

“The brickwork was made with a lime mortar, and that mortar, which is almost 100 years old, wasn’t doing anything in terms of holding the bricks together,” he said.

“So it was ready to fall over in any sort of reasonable earthquake.”

Mr Jamieson said he could have replaced his wood burner while keeping his existing chimney. But he felt that was not a safe option for him, his partner and their 18-year-old daughter

Don Jamieson values the safety of his family above the quaint look of his 1918 villa.

Concerned about how his brick chimney would fare in an earthquake, the Hataitai resident and architect decided to replace it with a timber-frame one he designed himself.

“The brickwork was made with a lime mortar, and that mortar, which is almost 100 years old, wasn’t doing anything in terms of holding the bricks together,” he said.

“So it was ready to fall over in any sort of reasonable earthquake.”

Mr Jamieson said he could have replaced his wood burner while keeping his existing chimney. But he felt that was not a safe option for him, his partner and their 18-year-old daughter.

“With the fireplace sitting right between the living and dining rooms, it presents a big risk … certainly, the Christchurch quakes have encouraged our desire to see the chimney changed or removed.”

The timber-framed option, which has a metal flue inside, was becoming a popular option in Christchurch, he said, after many of that city’s chimneys succumbed to the quakes of September 2010 and February last year.

Old brick chimneys on villas were a serious safety concern, he said. “Internally, they’re all sand and lime, which is basically a sandcastle pressed together by the weight of the bricks.

“As someone who pulls down a lot of chimneys, I can tell you most of them are rotten, most of them are dangerous and, when we’re talking about an earthquake, dangerous can be lethal.