Monday, June 15, 2009

Time For A Bath

June 8 & 9

I'm running out of 1970s TV show tie-ins already...

I just came back from fishing on Lake Champlain with the guys. The weather was great (unlike here recently) and the fish were biting so it was a great trip. Since it rained here again over the weekend, the masons decided to allow one more day for the mortar to dry before giving the chimney its acid bath on Tuesday. Let's check out a few photos of our newly bathed chimney...

This photo shows the newly washed chimney with a good view of the temporary flashing that was installed to keep water out until the new roof is installed. Because it was just washed, it looks (and is) much cleaner than the bricks in the rest of house. Over time, the chimney bricks will darken and be a closer match for the bricks in the rest of the house:

And another view of the washed down chimney.

In the next photo, if you look closely at the mortar joints, you can see small bright white specks throughout the mortar. These are not oyster shells, but rather they are pieces of lime. Oyster shells were historically used to make quick lime (more on this in an upcoming post). The masons added these pieces to the mortar mix after consultation with members of the New Castle Historic Area Commission. It helps the new mortar better match the existing mortar better. Even though a casual passer-by will never see the mortar in a chimney close enough to see the bits and pieces (the "aggregate") in the mix, we want to establish a consistent mortar mix that we can use on all projects going forward including street level pointing.

Following is a good closeup of the salvaged brick at the top of the chimney. You can see how much character they have relative to brick used in new construction, and how much each brick differs from another - unlike modern "restoration" brick. Color, size, and texture were the three main visual characteristics we looked for as we selected salvaged brick for this project. In both this photo and the one above, you can get a good sense of how the glazed header bricks really sparkle in the sunlight. Besides their color, this attribute makes glazed headers ideal for creating patterns in the brickwork, like so many 18th century houses in Salem County, NJ:

This photo shows the installed cap on the flue for the bedrooms corner fireplace (foreground) and the damper on the kitchen flue. Both the cap and damper are held in place with silicone caulk (see it glistening around the perimeter of each?). For the cap, the masons used ceramic tile instead of flagstone. They said that flagstone has a tendency to crack during expansion and contraction cycles and they think the ceramic tile will hold up better throughout those cycles. Also, notice that the top of the chimney is covered in mortar, and that the mortar slopes away from the center of the chimney toward the edge to help water run off the masonry and help preserve the chimney:

Here's a close up showing the very low profile of the damper. It's essentially invisible from street level so has no impact on the chimney's visual character:

The masons will return tomorrow to work on the fireplace hearth. I'll also describe the interior workings of the damper so you'll know how to open and close it.

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