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Fixing drafty fireplace a top priority for widow

Future-Proof: Navigate Threats, Seize Opportunities at ICNY 2018 | Jan 22-26 at the Marriott Marquis, Times Square, New York

Q: I am a widow trying to maintain a 1929 San Francisco home in the wet, foggy Outer Richmond neighborhood. In the backyard, there is an old, crumbly, rusty metal door about 12 inches square that is the ash cleanout for a fireplace above in the first-floor living room. This panel door fastens with a pivoting arm into its frame but is torn with rusty holes. It must be replaced. Is that standard fireplace equipment and replaceable? Also, the fireplace has lost its ash-pit cover in the floor of the firebox. It must have fallen down into the ash pit. Finally, there is no damper. Needless to say, this fireplace hasn't been used for some time. All this causes a draft in the living room, making it uncomfortable during cold days even when the central heat is on. How can I get this old fireplace working again? A: It sounds as if it's been many years since your fireplace has been inspected or had maintenance work done. Assuming the fireplace is structurally sound, we're happy to say that the pro...