Amateur homesteading

spontaneous

Just curious.  I've never lived in a home with a fireplace, so I don't know much about them other than they're awesome and I've always wanted one. 

How big does a fireplace have to actually be to be considered "walk in"?  If the fireplace isn't large enough for an average sized adult to stand in it, but is large enough for an upright piano to be in there (don't ask) is it considered a "walk in" or is the term a literal one?  Looking at a picture, a 3 year old of average height is standing in the fireplace playing the piano (again, don't ask) and still had well over a foot of clearance above his head.  So a conservative guess for the fireplace would be 4 1/2' tall, but this could be off since it is a guess based on a picture and no actual measurements were taken of the height of the fireplace in person

Second question, said fireplace has some sort of masonry ledge or shelf built into the back of it.  Was this for cooking?  It's hard to make out the detail of the ledge, since the above mentioned piano is blocking most of the fireplace (what?  doesn't everyone keep their spare pianos inside a fireplace?).  Am I correct in assuming this fireplace with a stone ledge/shelf would have been some sort of cooking hearth?  And does such a feature help to date the fireplace and/or structure?

Third, assuming the fireplace isn't falling apart on the inside (the flue is currently boarded up), what is usually required, on average, to take a non-working fireplace and make it working again?  Other than taking off the board, I'm assuming a new liner or some other safety type additions.

And finally, by making it working again, how much, on average, will this raise homeowners insurance rates?  I'm not looking for a Mr. Spock level accurate quote, but just a ballpark guesstimate.  Are we talking the neighborhood of a couple of hundred a year?  More than a grand a year?  I do know someone who had all their fireplaces closed up for insurance reasons, but they had SIX in the home since the home was very large and was built about 1750 so in their case having a lot of fireplaces made sense, and closing them all up saved them some serious money.


Tom

What are your goals? To have a nice scenic fire? To cook? To heat your home (partially)? Fireplaces are lousy for heating. Sometimes they were used as exhaust systems for freestanding stoves. Stoves provided the heat, not the fireplace.


spontaneous


Tom_Reingold said:

What are your goals? To have a nice scenic fire? To cook? To heat your home (partially)? Fireplaces are lousy for heating. Sometimes they were used as exhaust systems for freestanding stoves. Stoves provided the heat, not the fireplace.

Not, not heat, there is a smaller (or should i say normal?) sized fireplace in the center of the house that may end up with a pellet stove being installed. The big one would be ambiance only, though cooking as a novelty is an interesting idea  cool cheese 


Part of my goals are to learn more about them, but also to actually date the thing, big fireplace in a small house, probably older since it wouldn’t have been to impress the neighbors, but when would this have been done. 


For example in regards to my complete lack of fireplace knowledge, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a coal burning fireplace until very recently. I know very little about these things all around


Komarovsky

You wouldn't happen to have any pictures would you?  They'd be cool and also give a bit more detail beyond words.

Regarding insurance, it likely varies from company to company.  I work in insurance services and the amount of data on fire risk utilized by our clients varies by company.  One large insurer based in NYC for example wants to know number of fire places, distance from nearest hydrant, distance from nearest firehouse etc.. Another insurer based in Boston doesn't collect this info and uses internal analytics to differentiate risk.  


spontaneous

I'll post the pictures from the MLS listing, since those are public.  I have some pictures I took, but it isn't my home so I don't feel comfortable sharing those.  Hopefully the MLS pictures are enough

Picture #1 is the large fireplace in question.  I don't know what's up with the piano, but after my kids spent two hours banging on it I was about ready to throw a match at the thing myself, so who knows.  The stone ledge/shelf that I mentioned is behind the fireplace on the right side, and is completely blocked by the piano in this picture.  This is the fireplace that I'd like to use on occasion as a fireplace, and now since Tom put a bug in my ear I might even pull out one of my historic cookbooks and see what, if anything, I can accomplish with that. 

Picture #2 is the back of that big fireplace.  Looking at the back of the fireplace there is a line that seems to come down and then shifts to the side, there may have been some sort of oven built in, or maybe it was just built that way.  

Picture #3 is the second, smaller fireplace.  It looks like someone chipped away at the stone to fit in the wood burning stove.  The stove will be removed and replaced with a pellet stove.

Again, I know NOTHING about fireplaces, so any and all work done on these to make them functional again would be done by professionals, and if they tell me that they are not safe to use, then I will abide by that determination.


Morganna

What a cool house. Last picture shows a Jersey Winder staircase. Love old homes. My fireplace is also very big. I'll take some measurements. Mine is a later period, about 1915. It was on the Historic Homes Tour. Let me check my book on fireplaces to see if they define such a fireplace as walk in.

I would think you can make any fireplace safe and working. My chimney was leveled after a tree fell on it during Sandy. The whole thing was reconstructed.

It takes research to get a reputable chimney specialist. There are many that are not. I would bring someone with you before you bid. I had a real estate license for many years and I always stayed during home inspections and learned quite a bit.

Lots of possibilities there. Good luck if you throw in a bid.


Tom

There was clearly an oven in the chimney in the house we had in Maplewood. The house was built in 1888.

We have a pellet stove in our upstate NY house. I love it. It's so smart. But it is still more work than a gas or oil burner.


kthnry

The Durand Hedden house has such a fireplace. In fact, there's an event scheduled this Sunday. You can stop by and see the fireplace, and probably talk to someone who has cooked in it.

https://www.durandhedden.org/archives/images/susan-luczu-at-her-1702-fireplace

For reference about coal-burning fireplaces, my house was built in 1857 and has three beautiful marble coal-burning fireplaces. They can't be used to burn wood because they're too shallow, but they sure look nice. There's one wood-burning fireplace in the basement, in a room that might have been a summer kitchen. I'd be interesting in knowing the history of how my house was heated. I know there was a coal-fired boiler, but what came before that?


spontaneous

With this current storm I'm seriously worried that there won't even be a house left standing to buy  question  And now they're saying we'll have one or two more storms before the end of March? gulp 

We've already bid, the only true non-negotiable item for me was the oil tank, and the sweep came up clean AND they have paperwork showing it was removed, we're just waiting to receive a copy of that.  For the rest of the inspections I've made it clear that I understand this is a fixer upper, and am only worried about structural/safety/environmental issues. 

If the two fireplaces can't be used in any capacity I'd still buy the house, it is so cool overall.  I'd just really like to use it if at all possible.

The stairs from the first to second floor are nothing, the ones from the second to third floor are true jersey winders all the way up, each and every step is shaped like a pie wedge.

Oh, and the basement?  It's a freaking root cellar.  With a dirt floor.  We've found the house on a property map from 1851 but are pretty sure that it is actually a little older than that. 

There are actually a lot more cool details, but again, I'm only comfortable sharing pictures that are on the MLS (which for some reason lists the house as 1900).  If we're truly fortunate and the house is still standing and we manage to actually close, then I'll share more pictures.  Like the picture of me standing in one of the second floor bedrooms and touching the ceiling, and trust me, I'm not an exceptionally tall person by any stretch of the imagination


kthnry

Where is this fabulous house? In the M/SO-plex? Nearby? 


spontaneous


kthnry said:

Where is this fabulous house? In the M/SO-plex? Nearby? 

Alas, no.  We can no longer afford the area, which breaks our hearts. 

My husband was 3rd generation South Orange on one line of his family tree, and though we live in Maplewood, our kids would have been fourth generation at SOMSD.  I don't have that long of a history in Maplewood, my family didn't move here until 1982, but I am third generation Essex County, except for my one grandmother who was born in Union County and moved to Essex County in 1940.  We've been locals for awhile now.  Downsizing to be able to stay here isn't really an option.  We're already a family of five squeezed into a house that is less than 800 sq ft, has two bedrooms each of which is only 8x10, has only one bathroom, and NO driveway.  There isn't much further down we can go in M/SO in terms of size, and since it's already a tight squeeze we wouldn't want to go much smaller anyway.

We will sorely miss the community.  We're in Maplewood, but we're closer to South Orange Center than Maplewood Center.  We will miss the diversity (unlike many Americans, we actually DON'T live in a neighborhood where everyone looks like us).  We will miss walking into South Orange Center for Downtown After Sundown, though if they book Ricky Persaud again next summer I'm sure we'll drive out for that.  We will miss the easy walk to City Supermarkets which has an international section that could rival Wegman's.  We will miss Joe at South Orange Pharmacy (which reminds me, I have a script waiting to be picked up, oops).   My husband will miss his easy 8 minute commute to Newark.  But with the small house, and the taxes showing no sign of slowing down, all of these are luxuries that we can no longer afford.

This is the house that we put a bid on.  It costs less than our current house and the taxes are lower too.  Not only will we no longer be squeezed in, its so big that I told my husband we'll actually need some sort of intercom system, especially with the quirky way the additions were added on.  being in something that large will take some getting used to.  And the listing shows it as residential, but I looked up the zoning maps, it is actually in an Agricultural/Residential zone, which I have to double check with the town, but I'm pretty sure that means I don't have to get written permission from the neighbors if I want chickens  question   In fact, after looking through their municipal codes online, it seems the only animals that are restricted are pigs, they have a maximum of five piggery licenses available for the entire town. Dogs, cats, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and geese, are all well and good.  Besides, we'll be able to get years of use out of the piano in the fireplace story.  It has us all very confused.

https://www.weichert.com/73783752/

And while there is a LOT about South Orange Center that I will miss, we went into Frenchtown to look around, and damn, but that town is so cute its a crime.  The people were very friendly too.  

The listing still shows it as Active, I'm not sure how long it takes to update as I believe it should be "pending" now.

Of course, if the recent snowpocalypse did anything (there are two older trees that are too close to the house for my comfort) this all may be moot.  I'm nervous as hell and don't want to lose this gorgeous house  question 



spontaneous

Oh, and back to the fireplace questions, I know that pine is not a good wood for a fireplace, but what about for an outdoor fireplace where it is just burning for ambiance and creosote building won't be an issue?


shh

wait, I feel like I'm living in another millennium. The house is $175k? How far is that? I only glanced quickly.

Good luck, that's pretty amazing.


Tom

Speaking of coal, our upstate NY house was built in 1863. The previous owners bought it in 1969. There is no remnant of the old heating system, but we found three buckets of coal in one of the barns. It might have been used in the 1960s.


spontaneous


shh said:

wait, I feel like I'm living in another millennium. The house is $175k? How far is that? I only glanced quickly.

Good luck, that's pretty amazing.

Pretty far, but it is also fixer upper that "needs updating" (from the listing, not my personal opinion) which contributes to the price.  The taxes, however, are in line with neighboring homes which are all newer and have upgrades like central AC, etc, so there shouldn't be a huge surprise if we do any upgrades.  There will be some legitimate time sensitive work needed on the house.  For example, while the electrical panel is new enough that it does have circuit breakers instead of fuses, it is still old enough that my husband is concerned and said it should be upgraded (he's not an electrician, but he did apprentice as one for awhile before changing career paths and becoming a paramedic).  Since electrical issues can lead to fires, I'm not going to cheap out and argue my husband on that one.  We do have some funds set aside for any structural/safety/environmental repairs needed within reason, any other repairs or upgrades will end up on a list that we may or may not get to.

However, I'm not picky, so someone else's fixer upper can easily be my "eh, I'll get to it eventually" house, or even "eh, it's fine as is."  For example, when we bought our current home, a relative who saw it for the first time walked into the kitchen and said "Well, those cabinets aren't long for this world."  These are solid wood cabinets, solidly attached to the walls, original to the house. They're just not fancy, and in the 80's someone "updated" them by adding kitchy hardware that is supposed to mimic wrought iron.  Perfectly safe, perfectly usable, but because they were dated looking this relative was convinced that they had to be replaced.  Of course, this same relative never even noticed the freaking FUSES that were in the basement, something that DID need to be replaced immediately. 

We haven't yet had all of our inspections done on the house (Thank you, March weather  tongue wink  ) but the inspector spoke with me on the phone to find out my expectations before even scheduling anything, and I specified "Safe to inhabit, with children, NOW while taking on LONG term projects, it needs to be sound structurally, safety, and environmentally, or any immoderately needed repairs need to be able to fit into our current budget"  He was happy to hear this, as apparently he sees a lot of people who look at "fixer upper" homes thinking it means they just need to repaint, and run when they discover that the home needs some minor roofing repair or such.  

As far as the commute, we've put off moving for a long time because of this.  Almost all of my husband's co-workers either live an hour+ away, or right in Newark.  They've all marveled for years that we've managed to stay in Maplewood as long as we have.  It turns out that a great majority of his co-workers are actually living in Warren, Sussex, and Hunterdon counties, so he already knows people in the area  oh oh 

One of his co-workers lives in Jackson and was trying to convince us to move down there.  That is well over an hour, and I don't even want to begin to imagine what the commute would be on a Friday or Saturday night in the summer.  I'll take 78 west over turnpike south, thank you very much. 


spontaneous


Tom_Reingold said:

Speaking of coal, our upstate NY house was built in 1863. The previous owners bought it in 1969. There is no remnant of the old heating system, but we found three buckets of coal in one of the barns. It might have been used in the 1960s.

I know that my father, @formerlyjerseyjack, used to have to clean out the coal stoves and bring up fresh buckets as part of his daily chores until my grandmother upgraded to oil heat

In our current house the UST sweep guy said that our home appears to have gone directly from coal to natural gas, not very common for Maplewood, but probably done because the size of our lot (25x100) would have made fitting a tank in more difficult.  We really lucked out on that one, since when I purchased this home I knew NOTHING of buying a home and didn't have a sweep done, I naively thought that since the yard was too small for a tank I didn't need to be concerned.  We ended up okay, but having seen so many horror stories, I'm now researching everything needed to buy a home.  For example, every single home on my short list had next to it the notation from the FEMA flood zone maps, something else I didn't even think of when buying this home. 


krnl

oh, Spontaneous, it reminds me of the almost 200 year-old house I once had in Pennsylvania. I so loved that house. It two had once been a two family home.  


The room with the piano looks like the oldest part of the house....definitely constructed well before 1900. What a wonderful opportunity for you and your family.


spontaneous


krnl said:

oh, Spontaneous, it reminds me of the almost 200 year-old house I once had in Pennsylvania. I so loved that house. It two had once been a two family home.  




The room with the piano looks like the oldest part of the house....definitely constructed well before 1900. What a wonderful opportunity for you and your family.

Fortunately, whoever "converted" it into a mother-daughter didn't do a lot of work.  The second kitchen is obviously a converted laundry room, the hook ups for the washer and dryer are still there, the only change they made was to toss the washer and dryer and put in a stove, so we will simply remove the stove, and add in a washer and dryer, and voila!  Sure, not a HGTV worthy reno, but it'll be functional and will only cost me two new appliances  As far as the old vinyl flooring in the second kitchen?  Eh, I can live with that.

I agree about that being the oldest part of the home.  Again, there are details that I took pictures of on my phone that I don't feel comfortable posting at this time, but underneath the vinyl flooring, and the 70's era wood paneling upstairs, the underlying structure indeed appears to be much older.

I'm going out that way on Saturday for a class, so I'll stop by and see if the house is still standing


Sweetsnuggles

I’m sorry to hear that you are leaving SOMA.  I’ve enjoyed your posts on MOL over the years.  I think the house is adorable. There’s probably wide plank floors under the carpet in the main rooms. Best of luck to you! 


spontaneous

We are sorry to be going also.  No, So/M aren't perfect, but we are very happy here except for the size of our house and the financial difficulties of getting by in the two towns on a blue collar income.  It will be an adjustment for sure. 

On the other hand... chickens   wink   My husband wants me to buy Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens and keeps bugging me to find out why I haven't gotten it yet.  I said I will get it, but not until we close since until that date this move isn't a sure thing.  I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch.  (sorry, I couldn't resist)

ETA:  To clarify, I'm not mad at all the NYC professionals moving in.  As much as I complain about the Brookly West label and the occasional complaints about SoM restaurants, with only a few exceptions the ones we've met in person are very nice and not snobby at all and our kids get along well.  We just don't have that kind of income and because of circumstances and the stupid way in which schools and municipalities are funded in this state (property taxes vs income taxes) blue collar families have a harder time making due in suburban areas. 


Scully

And OF COURSE you can still post here!


And Sweetsnuggles - yes - wide plank floors!!!


spontaneous


Scully said:


And Sweetsnuggles - yes - wide plank floors!!!

Well, wide plank boards in one room, and I only saw the one corner, so I won't know their condition until we pull up the carpeting.  The rest of the house is either carpet or vinyl.  The master bedroom is carpet over plywood, but that addition is younger than I am, so I'm not surprised about the plywood there. 


finnegan

I don't know anything useful about old fireplaces, but it looks like you could be getting interesting things!  I just wanted to point you in the direction of this website I've recently been wasting a lot of time on: https://www.oldhousedreams.com/

The woman who runs it posts old houses for sale across the country, and then there is often a discussion about each house, which - like MOL - is carefully moderated, but usually filled with people with TONS of knowledge about older houses. Many posters have or are in the process of restoring older homes. It is such a knowledgeable group, I am sure folks would chime in about your questions about fireplaces.  You can sign up for emails from the site, and they arrive probably 3 - 5 a week, with new house listings. These folks are serious preservationists and just super knowledgeable. On Fridays, there is a link exchange, where lots of people post their favorite local old houses for sale, but where you could also ask questions about an old house you are interested in.  Good luck! 


FilmCarp

I made almost that exact commute for a few years in the 80's.  It is hard.  Good luck.


spontaneous


FilmCarp said:

I made almost that exact commute for a few years in the 80's.  It is hard.  Good luck.

His co-workers who live in the same area say it isn't too bad, mostly because they work 12 hour shifts, so they aren't on the road during rush hour. He'd be getting onto 31 heading towards 78 east at 5:45 am, and would be getting onto 78 west from Newark to come home at 7:30-ish

The one who lives down in Jackson, on the other hand, is nuts if you ask me.  On Friday and Saturday nights during the summer it doesn't matter that you're getting on the Tpk at 7:30 or 8, you're still screwed.  She was really trying to convince him to look down there, but I put my foot down, the commute is further and summer shore traffic just makes it 10x worse.

ETA:  When I worked in Hackensack, a mere 20 or so miles away, it would usually take me between 45-60 minutes each way.  I'd rather straight driving of a full hour than even 30 minutes of rush hour stop and go traffic.


galileo

spontaneous - According to google there's only a difference of 5 minutes between driving to Jackson or Kingswood. One goes west and one goes south. Personally I think 78 is an easier route. Your lifestyle will really change. Hope you research this. How near are you to a hospital,a supermarket,etc? How are the schools? Will you have time to maintain all that property? Lots of things to think about.


spontaneous

We’ve driven to Kingwood a few times now, never been more than 50 minutes, his co-worker who commutes from Jackson is always well over an hour, unless her EZ-Pass is unpaid, at which point it takes her over 90 minutes since she has to avoid tolls


Nearest hospital is in Flemington, husband (a paramedic) is happy with its quality. No, it isn’t a level 1 trauma center, but then again most hospitals aren’t.  Kingwood is unincorporated so the state police respond to calls. They are about 1/4  mile down the road. 


Schools are good, though I’m hearing that most schools in Hunterdon County are good. There were other towns out that way that had houses for lower asking prices and less taxes that never made it on the list due to the schools. I’m not saying that the schools are SOMSD caliber, but academics isn’t everything, especially when it comes to childhood 


Nearest supermarket is Flemington, but nearest market is Frenchtown. I’m fine with either one. As is I’m already known to go to the Acme in Kenilworth just as often as I go to the Stop & Shop in town. Also, up through my early 20’s we used to summer in Maine. Nearest supermarket was 45 minutes away, a horrifying thought at first, but it’s surprising how quickly we adjusted


Property maintenance, well, after our family sold the property in Maine we used to own a house on the Delaware river years ago. My husband and I used to go out there almost every weekend during warm weather so long as it wasn’t being used by other family members, and we’d spend the weekend doing yard work. We did this for years on end until it was flooded out 3x in 2 years due to overdevelopment. We didn’t do it because it needed to be done, but because it was oddly relaxing to just zone out while in an isolated area with no traffic noise or pedestrians and just doing yard work and letting our brains drift off.  Though for this property a lawn tractor will obviously be a must. Leaf season did suck on the river, though I’m not sure why my husband insisted on raking leaves (we didn’t own a leaf blower back then) since it’s the freaking country, leave them where they are  oh oh 


The property is not in a FEMA flood zone. Anything that was even marked not in a flood zone but was still visually close on the map was crossed off the list and never got so much as a second glance, including the GEORGOUS and completely affordable Victorian houses in Belvidere


We already own a generator. I was a JCP&L customer when I lived in Millburn. I am not pretending that they don’t suck


Overdevelopment is a big issue with me. Partly because I like natural space, but also because of my family losing our weekend retreat to floods caused directly by overdevelopment. Kingwood does not have city sewer or water, and are clear that they won’t be putting any in. As a result they have strict minimum requirements for lot sizes due to the space needed for septic and private wells to work properly, having a neighbor decide to covert their home into a 4 family rental unit isn’t very likely at all


For inspections we’re not going with the normal inspection and then hiring a structural engineer if the first one comes up with any question. This is an older home, and though the leans on some of the floors are likely nothing, we’d rather pay extra upfront and be able to walk away now instead of accidentally buying something that needs way more safety and structural repairs than we can handle. Same goes for electrical and plumbing


One big concern is the proposed PennEast pipeline, even though it doesn’t go near the house. All I can say on that is that hopefully the town is successful in fighting it


And finally, though the listing says the area is zoned residential, I checked with town hall and it is actually zoned agricultural/residential, and they even have municipal codes on the books stating that it is a farming community, so that anyone who buys a property may experience dust, noises, or smells associated with farming and that they cannot call in complaints regarding such, and they even go as far to specify that even if you aren’t near a farm when you buy, in the future a neighbor may choose to farm and they are still protected under the “right to farm” code.  Oh, except piggerys. The town limits the number of piggerys to 5, and has done so since the mid 1800’s


I understand that you mean well, but buying a house isn’t the sort of thing someone does on a whim without looking into it first, and getting so far as putting a bid on a home should really come after more in depth research has been done. Or at least I hope that would be the norm  question 


But yeah, I freely admit that I know nothing about


Sally


spontaneous said:

We just don't have that kind of income and because of circumstances and the stupid way in which schools and municipalities are funded in this state (property taxes vs income taxes) blue collar families have a harder time making due in suburban areas. 

This is what makes me sad about our state!  Both for middle-income working folks and for senior citizens who just can't afford to come or to stay here.  We lost dear friends for the same reason a number of years ago.  (We didn't lose them as friends ... just as neighbors.)  And I hate seeing so many empty-nesters move away!

I would like for our diversity to include more age and income level and blue/white collar, etc. But it seems to be moving in the opposite direction than that.  LOL


galileo

spontaneous, I wish you the best with your search. Over the years I have always enjoyed reading your comments and concern for the best for your children and husband.    That is a beautiful area.


spontaneous


sac said:



spontaneous said:

We just don't have that kind of income and because of circumstances and the stupid way in which schools and municipalities are funded in this state (property taxes vs income taxes) blue collar families have a harder time making due in suburban areas. 

This is what makes me sad about our state!  Both for middle-income working folks and for senior citizens who just can't afford to come or to stay here.  We lost dear friends for the same reason a number of years ago.  (We didn't lose them as friends ... just as neighbors.)  And I hate seeing so many empty-nesters move away!

I would like for our diversity to include more age and income level and blue/white collar, etc. But it seems to be moving in the opposite direction than that.  LOL

Senior citizens below a certain income level can apply to have a portion of their property tax frozen. However, if you're under that age, then you don't get the same protections regardless of the income level.  It does suck


Oh, and Kingwood isn't perfect.  Leonard Lance the congressional representative.   zipper 



In order to add a comment – you must Join this community – Click here to do so.