Notes from the Cube: Building a Stick Chimney

Before joining Centerbrook, our craftsman extraordinaire Patrick McCauley prototyped toys for Hasbro, ran his own architectural model-making business, and, for 15 years, was a stone mason. With that kind of hands-on experience, when you need a new chimney at home, you build it yourself.

At last Friday’s Sugar Cube, Patrick took us step-by-step through building a masonry “stick” chimney –the “stick” referencing its narrow profile housing one flue. In typical awe-shucks manner he described the first step, digging a 5-foot-deep hole in the ground. Before you go up, you have to go down.

He spoke with reverence about the tools of the trade: the trowel, the hammer, and his favorite, the plumb-bob, an ancient tool used to make perfect vertical alignments. A series of photos documented pouring the footing, setting the concrete block base, cutting the siding to accept the brick flush, laying brick in leveled courses, installing the flue liner, pinning the chimney to the structure, building the “1-out-2-up” corbel, and capping it all with concrete.

He peppered his talk with Patrick-isms that have broad application. “Make every move count, especially when you’re up in the air” was my favorite. And, never forget, when you’re bending copper flashing, to “roll the dutchman up under the return.”