Monday, November 05, 2007

Bricks and Mortar made to Order

When you have no life, turn what you do have into a story.

It's been a grueling few weeks, and if the weather holds, there are still a few weeks left to go. The goal is to tuckpoint the upper section of my east wall, tuckpoint the entire front wall, and create a new window opening. When friends/family ask what I've been up to, the first thing out of my mouth is pretty much house news. The way I talk, you'd probably think that I have no life otherwise, which isn't exactly true. Nonetheless, pictures speak a thousand words, so I'll let them tell the story. First, I have to say a huge thanks to all the people that have lent their brawn, wisdom, and/or cooking skills to help: Melody!, Ben, Mikey, Nathan, Tom T, Kristy, Davies and handfuls of others who are just sick enough in the head to spend hours, even full days of their lives helping me.

There are two sets of pictures: Tuckpointing pictures and Window pictures

Alright, so tuckpointing is the process of removing all the mortar (stuff between the bricks) and putting in fresh mortar. Mortar soften over time and starts to fall out on its own. Tuckpointing weatherizes a home and helps keep bricks walls from falling apart.

Below Nathan on the scaffolding between my house and my neighbors house, only 3 feet between the houses:

We ground out the mortar for deafening hours filled with thick white dust, and then slowly painstakingly stuff fresh mortar back in. The dark joints are ground out and the light joints have been filled back in, but not cleaned up. Mikey in his little prison:

Up close and personal with Nathan:

Some of the mortar had deteriorated so much that bricks just came out. Here I already re-laid a few course of brick below the hole you see, with a few more to go:

I have to say that I am really proud of this project. When I bought the house three years ago, I never thought I would do something like this. Even one year ago. Even two weeks ago.

I plan to divide one of my rooms in two. The problem is that there is only one window in the room, which would leave me with a windowless room. To make the room divide work, I needed to punch a hole in the same brick wall from the tuckpointing pictures, only lower on the wall, to create a second window. This is the room before the project. The new window will go on the right side of the chimney where the ladder is leaning.

Closer view of the section of wall:

First step, Ben created a hole slightly larger than the size of the finished opening:

Another view:

Next, Ben and I placed and leveled a salvaged limestone sill (salvaged from a building that was demo'ed just up the block). Melody and I mortared around the sill to set it in place.

The new old sill and opening from the outside:

Another view of the beautiful sill that no one will see b/c it faces a brick wall:

Next, I build a box exactly the size and shape that I wanted the finished window to be, set and leveled the box on the sill, and started relaying the brick from the bottom up with Ben. An important piece of dealing with holes in brick walls is that you have to transfer the weight of the brick above the hole out to the brick on either side of your hole. On the inside, you use a steel beam that rests on the brick on either side of the hole. You can barely see it in this picture, but I placed a steel beam just above the box that was long enough to extend over the box and rest on the brick on either side. I then relayed the brick on top of the steel angle iron, essentially burying it in the wall. You can see the back side of it in a picture further down.

The next pic is not dramatically different. I removed a bunch of plaster and tuckpointed the entire inside wall to really stabilize the area. Probably not totally necessary...

Above, I mentioned all that stuff about weight and steel beams. Here, you can see the back side of the steel beam, behind the wooden arch guide. On the outside of the house, instead of using a steel beam to distribute the weight, it is common to build a brick arch. The arch is structural. Just like old school Inca architecture. You first build a wooden arch as a guide:

Many many hours later, the final product, arch and finished sides:

A close-up of the arch:

Monday, February 19, 2007

House Parts for Sale!

The following are pieces and parts from my house and friends' houses that we know we're not going to use. We would like to find good homes for this stuff. Everything is in good shape. If you have questions about the items, you can email me @ This stuff is located in Old North St. Louis, near downtown. First come first serve!

- Historic door headers (stripped)
- 2 panel doors (stripped)
- French doors
- toilet
- porcelain wall-mount sink
- 2 well, stainless sink

Historic door headers, 45.5" wide, $10 per header

2-panel doors (stripped, excellent shape!), sizes below, $35/door, OBO
25.5" x 79.5"

23.75" x 80" (stained, single panel)

3 doors @ 30" x 80"

31.75" x 79.25"
French doors, 19.75" x 79.5", $40 for the pair

Toilet, $30 OBO

Porcelain Wall-Mount Sink, $30 OBO
Stainless 2-Well Sink, 6"+ deep, $40 OBO

Friday, May 19, 2006

Here We Go!

Family and friends, this blog is for you!

Almost a year and a half has passed since Ben, Chris, and Phil bought an OLD brick house in Old North St. Louis, February 2005. The house was built sometime around 1864 and has only been in the hands of 3 owners prior to us. Since we bought the place, we've been working throughout the house, relaying brick walls and chimneys, rebuilding part of our roof, re-opening doorways that had been closed off, plastering, rehabbing windows, and more. We've made a lot of headway, but we still have a ways to go.

We're aiming to get near some semblance of completion (or at least a stopping point) by October 1, 2006. We've got our work cut out for us! The next four months will be consumed with many long days and late nights of work as we bear full-tilt towards our goal.

Since this project has and will no doubt continue to consume a lot of our free-time, we want to use this blog to share with you our progress and our thoughts. In the next week or so, I'll post some pictures of projects past and where we are at currently. As we progress, we will try to update the site every other week or so to document our progress. We hope you'll come along for the ride!