Tuesday, 5 July 2011

First Kitchen Lum Reek in 50 Years!

Having removed the wood burner from the scullery, in order to dismantle the dangerous flue above this, there was nowhere to keep guests warm, for the ensuing castle party. And keeping warm at Balintore Castle is a matter of life and death, rather than mere comfort! :-)

I thought this might be the right time to create an open fireplace in the kitchen. The long-standing plan has been to install an open fire, reminiscent of a mediaeval great hall fireplace, in the location of the old range.. Indeed, the kitchen has been designed to look like a mediaeval great hall, so it would be entirely fitting.

Accordingly, Andy, Andrew and I photograpically documented the sad in-situ remnants of the Victorian range cooker, carefully removed them, and placed them in the basement for future generations. We lifted a recently purchased large dog grate into the aperture that was left. Andy said that the way to test if the chimney is working is simply to light a large fire underneath and see where the smoke goes. This we did. As you can see from the photograph, the room filled with smoke. Our eyes stung, and we flung open the windows. Any passers-by would have been alarmed by the dense plumes of smoke pouring out of the castle windows. :-)

So total failure! Or so one might think. From outside the building we could see smoke streaming out of one of the chimney tops - probably for the first time in 50 years. So the chimney was not in fact blocked. Andy rodded the chimney from the top and from the bottom - this is around 30 metres high - and did some unblocking from the top of others in the same stack improving the situation perhaps slightly. But the bottom line was that the draw inside the kitchen fireplace was not correct for an open fire - so this idea had to be put on hold.

It would be possible to move the fire dog back a foot or so by removing the crumbly brick packing that was at the back of the range, and less smoke would certainly get into the room. However, the draw still needs to be majorly improved and in my positive way I think it must be possible. The large opening above the fireplace has to be throttled, in my view, to a thin strip at the back. The velocity of the rising hot air will thus be greater (Bernoulli's principle) and this will pull the smoke through. Open fires are always throated with a surprisingly small opening at the back.

As a temporary solution we stuck the old wood-burner inside the opening. The metal flue pipe vents into the chimney and as it is not sealed in, the draw is not great. However, the stove still works fairly OK in this location and only a relatively small amount of smoke escapes into the room.

The best outcome of the failed dog grate experiment, was that despite the smoke, on walking into the kitchen one was just hit by a wall of heat. And I have never, ever known the kitchen to be warm before. :-) The promise of warmth and comfort at Balintore continues to tantalise.

remnants of old Victorian kitchen range

failed experiment with new dog grate (smoke everywhere!)

temporary compromise wood burner heating solution


  1. Wow, that's smokey!
    Also, what are the plans with the kitchen floor? That also seems like an issue.

  2. Very smokey - the kitchen smelled of smoke for days afterward. The plan is to reinstate the stone slab floor - all but a few slabs have been removed for architectural salvage in the past. Sourcing will be a challenge!

    The kitchen floor at present is very uneven due to the lack of slabs, and I have often fallen down the exposed drainage channels. Heaven would be a flat kitchen floor. I have learned to look backwards while walking backwards, something that one takes for granted one can do without looking with a usual flat floor.

  3. In the house I live in at the moment every time I lit a fire I had to fumble my way out for air there was so much smoke then one day I elevated the fire basket on a heavy sheet of iron up 20 cms and it stopped smoking.