Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Renovating our little beach cottage at Port Fairy has been a truly fulfilling process. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing an original 1850s bluestone cottage being restored to its former glory, with a few modern conveniences thrown in for good measure*.

Like this fireplace. This is the first feature you notice as you walk into the main entrance of the cottage, and is now the centre of the kitchen. It is combined limestone and bluestone, and made all the more beautiful by my husband who includes stonemasonry as just another thing he can do.

In order to appreciate where it is now (photos above), it's good to see what it looked like when we first saw it, and how we pulled it back together, step by step (photos below). Ready?

*Except that oven. As soon as we can, it will be replaced with something blacker, sexier (if you can call an oven sexy), and wider.

When we first bought this cottage, this fireplace was in a small dark room, covered by black ripple iron, and finished with a modern black square tile as a hearth. The original bluestone hearth had sunk below the level of the floor, which is most likely why they had tiled over it.

After much planning, we decided that this space would make a fabulous kitchen, making it part of the living area. The problem was, we didn't know what was behind the ripple iron. We hoped it was stone, and that it would work, because it was the only place where the stove/oven could fit.

In March, we moved in - and as soon as we were settled - the fireplace was the first job we started. Because everything else centres around it. The floor couldn't be re-blocked until the fireplace hearth was straight, and so on. Usually re-blocking is the first step, then the work makes its way up from there.

If you're interested in details, and that sort of thing, here is how it was done:
  1. The black ripple iron, plaster, black tile hearth and cornice were removed.
  2. The slow combustion wood heater was taken out (did someone say heavy?)
  3. The stones around and above the lintel were taken out and the lintel was raised (oh, so slowly) to fit an oven. This was done with leverages and wedges, chock by chock. (There were some scary moments, and this took days!)
  4. The stones were re-laid and pointed (all the stones were put back, plus more).
  5. The original bluestone hearth was raised and re-set using a hydraulic jack.
  6. Once the hearth was straightened, the floor was re-blocked (as well as the room next door) and some floor boards were replaced. The melamine shelving on each side of the fireplace was removed.
  7. The stones and hearth were washed and scrubbed, then sealed using four coats of FeastWatson Pebble & Stone Sealer.
  8. New shelves were built (by that able husband of mine), and painted (by me, using a 3 in 1 undercoat, then British Paints H20 Enamel in Dulux Antique White USA).
  9. The remaining gaps around the shelves and cornice were filled with mortar, cleaned and sealed. The  hearth was trimmed and varnished.
  10. After the kitchen was installed, the baltic floors were sanded and sealed, the cornice replaced, and an exhaust fan and light were installed in the chimney.

We had originally allowed for the fireplace and surrounds to take around a week, but the fireplace, and relevant jobs took more than three weeks. It was a big job, but it had to be right, right?

This is the first post of the finished renovations. We have waited a while before sharing, because we are self-declared perfectionists, and I wanted to be sure no details were missed. Seeking advice from the Master Builder was also absolutely necessary. This is mostly his handiwork, and I didn't want to get any of it wrong. I hope you've enjoyed the first part in this series. The next part of the home will be revealed next week!

Are you a renovator? Tell me, what is your favourite part?

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Thank you for your thoughtful and positive words and taking the time to comment. Love Kymmie. xx