This is how two engineers fixed a leaning chimney

Published: January 12, 2021

Photo courtesy of Richard Foucault

Some may say that engineers Richard Foucault and Tom Gage are retired. But whenever they get together, these fellow Lang Lake, Ont. cottagers can’t stop working. There’s always a new project on the go, from fixing an old, leaning chimney, to creating an innovative water valve for a pumping system, and even building a 140-foot-long inclinator system.

Their enterprising ways started in 2014, a few years after Tom and his wife, Barb, purchased land on the lake. It came with the ruins of an old lodge, but the only parts of it they could salvage were the two stone chimneys. Barb fell in love with them, even though one was so deteriorated it was about to fall over. She begged Tom to fix it, but he thought it was impossible.

Photo courtesy of Richard Foucault

“One night, after too many beers,” says Richard, “I looked over to Tom and I said, ‘We can bring that chimney up.’” Somehow he was able to convince Tom the work would be worth it. “Tom got so many brownie points with Barb, he said he’ll be thanking me forever.”

The first step: secure the leaning chimney. After that, Richard and Tom worked under the foundation, fixed any cracked stones, and brought in hydraulic jacks to straighten out the structure. Then they poured in cement to hold it upright. It took an entire summer, but Richard says it was worth the work. “People would stop by with their lawn chairs and chat with us and watch us. Now it’s such a beautiful spot, people go there to get their photos taken.”

Photo courtesy of Richard Foucault

With that big job under their belts, a year later, Richard and his wife, Gail, looked into having an inclinator installed at their place to save them from traversing the 140 feet of rocky grounds between their home and their cottage, located on the same property. “We were taking a trail through the woods to get to the cottage, and I wanted to make it easier because I have bad knees,” he explains.

After getting a quote for $100,000, Richard spoke with Tom and they estimated they could build one for $25,000. Tom was in charge of the electrical work, and Richard learned to weld. “It took a year to chip out the rock that was in the way, but after that, every week we’d build a 20-foot section,” says Richard. They finished the project in 2019, and it turns out the timing couldn’t have been better—Richard just got a knee replaced but the tram means he can make his steep commute to the cottage worry-free.

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