Friday, May 29, 2009

The "Brick" Boat soon will be making another run...

May 26

OK that title was a stretch, but the latest news is that we need more bricks. About 60 or so when the weather breaks I'm off to my favorite brick pile. I do feel a little like "Gopher" I guess as I go for more bricks. Did you know Gopher's given name was "Burl Smith"? Me either...who cares?

After a pretty relaxing Memorial Day weekend (which included a trip to the budget-threatened Brandywine Battlefield in the true spirit of the holiday), it's back to work on the house today.

Before we get into the chimney project, there's another side project going on at the Amstel & Dutch Houses currently - painting the outbuildings. You'll remember that both buildings just received new roofs, so now its time to paint them. The Dutch House outbuilding (a recreated smokehouse) is getting painted on the outside only, while the Amstel House garden house is getting painted both outside and inside (excluding the ceiling inside which has a nice peeling whitewash look to it that was so in vogue in the 1990s - "shabby chic" or something like that). We received a grant from the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Delaware (who henceforth shall be known as "the Dames" - its OK, "Dames" is politically correct speech for the organization - I worked for them in Maryland for several years) for the paint project. It's great because the Dames originally paid for the construction Dutch House smokehouse way back in 1939.

So last week I pulled down our garden exhibit in the Amstel garden house, cleaned out the cabinet and vacuumed up all the spiderwebs. The painters actually started on Friday and are finishing up today and Wednesday. We decided to paint the Amstel garden house white again on the inside walls and exterior woodwork. We considered painting the exterior woodwork the same historic color as the Amstel House exterior (discovered through paint analysis) but since the garden house is a 1930s colonial revival reconstruction, we decided to leave it white. That will help to visually differentiate it from the main house, and keep that lovely white trim that they were so fond of during the colonial revival. The Dutch House outbuilding is being painted the same color as the Dutch House (red) which is the same color that it already is.

Back to the chimney...

It's raining. So work is limited to inside the attic and cleaning bricks. All the bricks that have been cleaned manually now have to be washing with a weak muriatic acid solution. The solution is mixed in a five gallon bucket with about 1" of acid added to the water - I'm not sure of the water amount. (Always remember your chemistry class and "do as you oughta...add acid to woughta!")

To clean them, the masons dip a nylon brush (on a handle) into the acid solution and scrub the bricks which are arranged in a row on the ground. BTW - Don't do this near any plants that you want to keep alive. Once they are scrubbed, they may require a little more scraping. If so, a final acid wash happens again, then they all get hosed off. Repeat for all sides. Let them dry and they are ready to use.

One issue with this cleaning process that most people don't realize...once the historic bricks are clean, they look like they did in the 18th century - i.e. brand new. They don't look like the brick on the house that has 200 years of grime, mildew, etc. on it. After the chimney is completed, the cleanup process requires some more acid washing, so the mortar joints will look pretty clean too. They will both take some time to weather to a matching patina (Don't you either love or hate that word - patina - thanks alot Antiques Roadshow!). Luckily, the house is at a stop sign on a busy street, so there will be plenty of exhaust to help darken up our new brick, and the chimney is shaded by a tree which will promote mildew (did I say "luckily"?). One thing we decided against is that we don't want to artifically age the brick or the mortar to match right away.

More tomorrow...

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