The following account is of two projects undertaken by
Pyromasse In Auvergne during the summer of 2003. Both contracts
came from the pyromasse web site, one being in La Creuse the
other in the neighbouring department of Puy de Dôme.
Creuse. The location of the project was a small hamlet
in the extreme south east of the department. There are 7
dwellings in the hamlet, the heater being built in the house of
its former wealthiest resident, Msr Parrie. The granite residence
that dates from the 1840's, had stood derelict for the last 25
years, and was now undergoing complete renovation.
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The house at left with adjoining barn. The chimney is the one used by the heater.
The house well in a corner of the
The barns gable with cross made from wine
bottles, a Creuse tradition.
Plans of a house
Old Masonry Tools
The object of the project was to build a Finnish style
contra-flow heater into the large recess of the original "Walk in
" granite fireplace, avoiding the heaters protrusion in to the
main living area as much as possible. Consequently the heater was
placed in the centre of the existing fireplace 2 inches from its
rear wall, directly beneath the chimney.(The 2 inch space allows
thermo-siphoning of heat of the rear face of the heater.)
The original granite fire place with its oak mantle and
rifle racks. The cast iron plate at the back of the hearth
radiated into the room behind, in which there was a false
fireplace surround with the cast iron plate, and its high relief
crest, as its centrepiece.
Detailed image of plaque
The buildings basement was of vaulted stone and could
evidently withstand the weight of a masonry heater.The heater
rests directly upon the shoulder of the vault above
Large portions of the original chimney breast had to be
broken away to accommodate the height of the heater.
Drawings of the original fireplace.
a) living room
b) Small room behind living room.
c) Smoke hood and flue of walk in fire place
d) false fire place surround in the small room.
e) Cast iron plaque in rear wall of fire place.
f) Oak mantle.
g) Granite columns and arms supporting the upper structure.
h) A hole through the wall once allowed a wood stove located in
the rear room, to vent into the flue of the walk-in fire
View of the former location of the false fire place in the
rear room. Note the 200mm round refractory flue tile which would
be used to reach and connect to the steel flue pipe. a section of
brick chimney was laid up to the top of the stainless steel flue
pipe, which traverses the wall and runs to the top of the chimney
on the roof. A shut off damper was placed in this new brick
section of chimney at about 4 feet, between two of the refractory
flue tiles used to connect the heater to the steel flue pipe. It
was necessary to build this short section of chimney, to heat the
rear room, and to help keep the heater back against the rear wall
of the main fireplace. A chimney flue running up the side of the
heater, in the main room, would have destroyed all
The original chimney flue as it rises through the attic.
In respect of code a stainless steel liner was installed
throughout the flue's lift.
The refractory materials were shipped from
Fayol SA. in Tain l'Hermitage. The castings from Upo in Finland.
As a facing brick there was almost no choice. The bricks used are
sold as a semi -refractory brick. Dense, solid and of modular
format, they were ideal for facing a masonry heater. All other
materials were acquired locally, the shut off damper being custom
made in the next village.
The almost completed refractory core. Note the stainless
steel flue pipe above the core entering the chimney from the room
View into the upper chamber of the finished refractory
The core with the first twelve rows of facing
Though the house was built in the nineteenth
century the brick façade of the heater would follow art
deco lines. Local granite was used to make the vousars of the
jack arc opening, to integrate the new brick heater with the old
granite fireplace. The whole department is granite and so it was
appropriate to use it as much as possible in the design of the
The arches vousars were cut from pieces of granite found
in the field and then boucharded.
This textured and flattened the surface of the weathered stones.
Note the cardboard template for one of the vousars, on the ground
The completed granite jack arch, just before
Granite squares were cut and laid in to the side and face
of the heater. This enhanced the effect of the granite in the
arch. Note the signature PM03 CREUSE to distinguish the heater
from the only other heaters available in that area of France,
which are pre-fabricated kits.
Puy de Dôme
The second project was in an even smaller hamlet ( having only
three houses ) 1000 m above sea level in the vicinity of Besse,
Puey de Dome.
The clients were living in a pre-revolution farm house and were
in the process of restoring the adjoined barn. It was in the barn
that a Finnish style heater was built.
The farm house seen from the rear.
Originally the house had an oven built into one of its outside
walls. The long collapsed oven and protective housing were
outside the house, the loading opening and avaloir ( still intact
) opened into the kitchen through the exterior wall. The
residence is dated 1765 on the door lintel.
The materials were of identical quality and origin to those
used in Creuse. Local refractory products were available, though
I chose to use materials I knew from Fayol sa in Tain L'hermitage
and Upo of lappi. The Co-ordination and back up for the upo
castings was by Maine Wood Heat Co.
Due to a lack of choice the same facing brick used on the Creuse
Project, was employed here.
Due to the abundance of stone in the Central Macife there
was no problem to find specialised cutting equipment.
Heater with half of the facing laid up. Note the original
stone barn walls, not the ideal interior surface for a house
heated by radiant heat.
Custom made shut off damper seated in a double skinned burnt
clay flue tile with 200 mm. interior diameter.
The refractory core was built on an elevated concrete block
foundation. The chimney being located on the right hand side of
The object of the project was to build and face the core along
with 9 feet of chimney, in two weeks. To break up the stark
contrast of the bricks them selves the jack arch over the fire
box door was made from Volvic, a local, soft volcanic rock.
The vousoirs and key of the arch were cut from an old
animal drinking trough that had been left full of water during
winter and broken on freezing. Rather than boucharding the
surface the original surface was kept as testament to the mason
who worked it 100 years or more ago. Moss and spray paint were
removed with bleach and a wire brush. The rock is said to have
originally come from the quarry at Besse. The stone elements of
the arch consist of a key and two vousoir. Each vousoir has two
false joints cut in to it to give the impression that there are
three separate vousoir each side of the key.