Age-Old Techniques, New-Age Design: The Building Of A Giant Stone Fireplace
It was one of those projects where we all just stood back at the completion of it, and the only word that came to mind was ‘wow’. It’s over 14 feet tall, 12 feet wide, and 4 feet in depth. You begin reminding yourself of all the energy and resources that went into building it. All of the materials, from steel reinforcement to concrete blocks, and both locally quarried as well as imported stone; all of the trades involved, from the Arborist to the Electrician, and the Gas Company; all of the learning curves you encounter and the challenges which present themselves when dealing with 14 tons of stone; and all of the engineering details that come along with it.
The fireplace is estimated to weigh over 14 tons and took nearly 2 months to complete. It is the largest exterior fireplace I have built to date. I’ve built some interior stone fireplaces in the Vancouver area which rival the height of this one, but I’ve never designed and built one that surpassed this width or depth. The fireplace itself is gas burning, and is encased in concrete blocks which were backfilled with concrete prior to being faced with stonework. In order to support the upper weight of the structure above the fireplace, a 1/2” thick steel plate and a 4” thick slab of concrete were put into place. The fireplace features large stone slabs, some of which weigh upwards of 1 ton. The slabs were quarried in Port Renfrew, BC. Due to the lack of accessibility to the building site, custom dollies were built to move the slabs to the backyard. The first of many challenges was determining how we were going to transport these slabs to the site of the fireplace. The lightest slab weighed a hefty 830 pounds, and due to all of the outcrop on the property, utilizing heavy machinery was not an option. So we improvised with custom made dollies. The other challenge was placing the slabs safely and properly, once again, without the use of machinery. It came down to brute strength and the additional support of 4x4’s to prop the stones up.
The brownstones which border the fireplace were imported from Utah, USA and were shaped and placed to mimic a flame. The stones which were placed in between the brownstones and the stone slabs were also locally quarried in Port Renfrew, BC. It’s quite an honour to practice this craft and to have clients provide me with opportunities to express my creative faculties. I enter into these projects and end them with a deep sense of gratitude. They are truly invigorating experiences, and tend to enrich the lives of those involved in the creation of them.
I could not have seen this design materialize without the helpful aid of Mike Koch from Blue Bear Landscape (now based in Vancouver, BC), and Brandon Gill, who carried out the majority of the labour intensive aspects of the project.
Lennox Masonry is a small residential Masonry Company based in Victoria, BC which specializes in everything from Chimney and Stonewall Repairs to Custom Designing & Building of aesthetic stonework. To contact Sean in regards to your next Masonry Project or to view his Portfolio, visit www.lennoxmasonry.com or www.seanlennoxstone.com.