Masonry Work Is Done For The Year
On the one hand, I'm a little bit lost right now with the rehab given how all my rehab time and attention went towards getting the porch built this year. Now that I've postponed the porch build for a few months, I'm not sure what project I want to - or should - tackle in the meantime. And, I'm having porch-related withdrawal; I'll have to settle for watching this little animation until next spring in lieu of actually getting to build any of it.
On the other hand, I got a lot of masonry work done over the past few months. It's maybe not a lot relative to what one could accomplish if one were to work at it full-time (or really knew what they were doing), but with only having non-rain weekends and a couple hours here and there after work to sling mortar, it feels like I covered about as much ground as could be covered.
The side-by-sides really don't indicate all the obstacles that made this far more than a simple repointing project. For example, the limestone foundation, the mortar near the ground was hot trash and there were a number of places mice were undoubtedly entering the house. Additionally, whoever bricked in that basement window must have tried resetting some of the limestone 'cause the stones near the sill were all very much out of place; I did my best to clean that up as well.
Don't let the dirty limestone fool ya, the section under the bricked-in window got redone but that whole side of the house suffers from a situation where rain falls at just the right angle to splash all kindsa mud onto the house. I don't specifically remember why I started my repointing work there - as opposed to the brick wall just to the right and out of the pic - but I'm sure it was because of those (mouse) holes. Nothing is as demoralizing as walking to the front of the house to turn off the lights and TV for the night only to see a little rodent scamper from under the couch, across the room, into the wall by the fireplace, and out of sight. I've experienced that too many times in this house so anything that looks like a mouse access point, it gets addressed ASAP.
From there I went around the corner to the right and started working on the brick above the limestone. I included that wall in the porch-related repointing because a post will go up that corner and once it's in place, it'll be impossible to fix anything behind it and halfway challenging to fix anything near it. I figured I might as well deal with it while it was exposed and since the big window meant not THAT much brick, I figured I'd go ahead and get everything below, to the left, and above the window. I did NOT think it would require as much rebuilding as it did.
The section of brick just above the basement window quickly turned into a bit of a fiasco.
I cleaned out the mortar there and then moved back to the porch section and cleaned out the mortar in the brick under the porch door. I find that it's a lot easier, or the work just goes faster, to work horizontally than it is to work vertically so anywhere I can give myself long horizontal runs I go for it, even if that means turning corners. Plus, there was a beam pocket, aka another mouse access point, to fill in.
It also quickly turned into more work than I wanted it to be.
But, it all went back together decently enough.
From there I worked my way up the walls I'd already started, tackled the delaminated section above the window, and then got to work on the last section of lower wall I needed to deal with: the section between the bricked-in basement window and the original porch doorway.
At that point, the end was in sight; all that was left, primarily, was the upper sections of wall where the porch roof will attach to the house. And, of course, another beam pocket to fill in.
That's about the last work I did to the house, and definitely the last exterior masonry work I'll be doing for a while. The walls are ready for a porch...I just don't know what I'm going to do until it's warm enough to get out there and actually build it.
Short version: the porch isn't gonna happen this year.
There are no words to accurately convey my disappointment with that realization, but it is what it is. There's a sports-related quote - "I've never lost a game, I just ran out of time" - that's been attributed to a variety of people and teams, and that's how this feels. I gave it my best shot, worked every conceivable moment for the past 3+ months, but just ran out of enough good weather days to get the job completed. There's no sense in only getting half of it done right now, so the porch build will have to wait for early 2022.
I'll get the brick repointing completed, and I'll finish prep'ing the site for the porch. I'll get some of the old concrete sidewalk removed, I'll dig up the old bricks that were used as a sidewalk before concrete became a common thing, and I may even dig the footing holes and pour concrete in them, but that's as far as I'm going. With the next week off, I might as well at least get that much done.
What's even more disappointing than not getting the porch done this year is thinking that maybe, just maybe, it's for the best.
As I mentioned previously, I have legit worked damn near every available hour over the past 3+ months to get to the point that I could build the porch. I tore the old porch down, I repointed brick, I relaid brick, I fixed entire delaminated sections or brick, I disassembled and reassembled the scaffolding, I've mixed up a thousand batches of mortar and cleaned off the tools a thousand times. I got a lot done and I think the results turned out really well, but in spending so much time on masonry work I neglected to adequately prepare for the next steps.
I started ordering porch material earlier this week. That's almost as daunting of a task as fixing all the brick was. I have to get lumber from different places, I have to get hardware from different places, I have to get saw blades and potentially entire tools from different places, I have to get roofing material, and before I can order any of it, I have to go through the plans and figure out quantities for all of it. Then there's different lead times, meaning some stuff can be gotten today and some of it wouldn't show up until 3 weeks from now, all out of the order in which I need it, of course. Oh, and finding paint grade 6x6 posts - the literal pillars of the porch - that's borderline impossible for some inexplicable reason. Last night, after reaching max frustration (or so I thought) with the fruitless search for 6x6s, I pulled the plug.
Making that decision, as hard as it was to make, was kind of a relief. I'm BURNT, OUT.
I haven't slept good for the past month, mostly due to work-related stuff. I'm on my 4th supervisor in the past 15 months, through no fault of or action on my part, and the most recent guy was brought in from outside the company. I'm having a very, very tough time figuring out how to get lined up with what he wants out of us because he's a sit-in-front-of-the-computer-and-document-history guy, and I'm a go-out-in-the-field-and-make-things-happen guy. He's super formal, whereas I tend to land more on the informal end of that spectrum. I try to converse with my colleagues a little bit throughout the day, and even that seems to be frowned upon. I'm very much in the guy's doghouse, which I wouldn't care about at all...if the guys who hired me hadn't retired or been fired. 3.5 years ago I was a member of a 10-person team; today, only 2 of us are left and the other guy is going to be a vaccine mandate casualty.
At home, my oldest dog, Roscoe, is dying. That's an immeasurably horrible thing to have to deal with and in true, stubborn Roscoe fashion, he's not being real cooperative when it comes to allowing me to feed him meds and do the things that might sorta right the ship a little bit. He's been to the vet more times in the past few months than he has the first 12 years of his life. He's had his blood examined at the university level, and still, nobody knows exactly what's causing what or even what dosage of medication he should be taking. We've started meds, stopped meds, restarted meds...none of it seems to be changing the path he seems to be on.
Conversely, the younger dog, Freckles, doesn't have an "off" switch and while I love that about her it 1, makes taking care of Roscoe a little challenging at times and 2, it erodes my sanity little bit. She's tough to keep up with, and trying to do anything at this point with both dogs is borderline impossible.
Today, it allllllll added up and I kicked a hole in a wall. Granted, it was a pretty calculated move - the wall is gonna be demo'd, and all my boots are steel-toed - but between the house stuff, the work stuff, the dog stuff...I needed a half second of irrationality. Maybe I've been trying to cram too many things into not enough time, and/or not had enough fun to balance out all the work. Maybe backing off the porch stuff right now will be better in the long run.
The specific event that set it off? Freckles ate Roscoe's food, which would be sorta comical if Roscoe's food didn't have his meds in it. I don't get it, but she does it every chance she gets. They get the exact same food in the exact same quantities at every meal: about 3/4 cup of dog food topped with anything from beef stew to grilled chicken to scrambled eggs and bacon. They both eat the "people food" first, every time (which tells you all you really need to know about how much garbage there is in dog food, even the good stuff like my dogs get), but Freckles devours the dog food too whereas Roscoe lets that portion of his meal sit for a while. Hours, sometimes.
So I'll refill Freckles' bowl in case she's still hungry - we have a no empty dog food bowl in my house - then get on with life and if I forget to put Roscoe's bowl out of her reach, she'll eat the food in Roscoe's bowl while leaving her refilled bowl of food untouched. It's goofy puppy shit and sometimes it's kinda funny, but not with Roscoe's meds, and not today.
As long as I've had Roscoe, taking him to the park or on a hike has always been pretty therapeutic. He gets to do his thing, I get to see him have some fun, and I don't think about work or any life bullshit during that time. With Freckles now in the picture and with Roscoe's condition being what it is, the outings aren't quite so therapeutic. Trying to teach Freckles how to handle herself when we're out and about, hopefully reaching the point Roscoe did many years ago where a leash is an unnecessary thing, is f'n WORK. She's a medium-sized breed but she is STRONG, loves to run, and has a mind of her own. Again, all things I love about her, but sometimes it'd be cool if she'd chill just a tiny bit.
If we're all out together, on top of trying to keep Freckles from running off too far in front of us, I have to constantly coax Roscoe to keep up. It's hard watching the former front-runner that loved his role as the lead dog struggle to simply walk - I have to lift him in and out of my truck, and half the time assist him going up or down stairs - but it's kind of offset by seeing Freckles gradually assume the role and figure out what comes with it. It's kinda neat seeing her grow into that.
Anyhow...tonight I was gonna take the dogs to the park. I needed to get out of the house, Roscoe needed some exercise, and Freckles comes absolutely unhinged if she hears the words "truck" or "park" so I know she loves going. Rightly or wrongly, I ended up leaving Freckles at home. I opened the front door when we were leaving and she bolted right out and down the stairs; she knows she's supposed to wait on the porch for Roscoe and I (she usually does). She's gotta learn one way or another, so I told her to go back in the house. Roscoe and I went to the park by ourselves, just like old times.
Back in his younger days, the go-to park was Lafayette Park and Roscoe and I would walk 2 meandering laps around the place leash-free. We've been there hundreds and hundreds of times and for many years, I'd say "I'll follow you" and we'd pinball from tree to tree and plant to plant. I knew exactly when and where he was gonna plop down to roll in the grass, I knew exactly what trees he'd stop to sniff and which ones didn't interest him, and I could tell whether or not he was gonna chase the ducks.
Now, he's only good for 1 lap. He walks behind me, slowly. We don't zigzag nearly as much as we used to, and while Roscoe still loves rolling in certain patches of grass, he's sniffed everything there 100 times over and he doesn't stop to do that stuff much anymore. He could't care less about the ducks and geese. It's not the same as it used to be, and I feel a little guilty that it doesn't bother me as much as I feel like it should but the truth is, his legs are all walked out from the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of adventures he's been on. He's had a pretty good run and we're gonna keep going, no matter how slow he gets and no matter how spazzy Freckles wants to be.
Know what's still the same? After that slow trudge around Lafayette Park tonight, in the dark, I'm all better. Stress-free. The porch can wait. There are solutions to the work stuff. Freckles will learn, she's still just barely 2 years old.
And Roscoe, as old and as slow and as worn out as he is, he's still what helps me keep my head on straight when everything else is getting a little outta control.
Masonry And Then More Masonry
The wall I was workin' on, it's ALMOST done. I still have another course or two to finish pointing but it can wait; the temperatures are dropping and miscellaneous odds and ends have taken a back seat to getting work chunked out in bulk. This is where I left off with the work on this wall a week or so ago:
As a side note, how awful is the upper cornice brick? No way that's original work, it had to have been redone, in a homeless man's version of half-assing things, some time in the past. Some day I'll make it right. That day won't be in 2021.
Anyhow, on to the last of the proverbial Mohicans, the wall just left (or south) of the wall in the previous pic. This wall contains the original doorway to the porch from the house as well as the majority of a beam pocket that the center roof rafter sat in. It looked like the arch brick and the surrounding area had delaminated a little bit, but not so much that it required a full rebuild.
Needless to say, it was in rough shape. There were quite a few broken bricks, not sure what that's all about. Maybe the bricks broke as a result of having the roof ledger nailed directly into the brick? If you've ever seen the old school square-cut nails that were used back then, you know how massive those suckers are. Regardless, this wall was more of the same -- rake out mortar, get new mortar back in the joints, rebuild what needs to be rebuilt as I go.
Friday I spent the afternoon removing mortar, but the wall started falling apart pretty quickly. I changed plans and focused on the really bad section -- in this case the center portion of the wall, from the arch on up to the lower cornice. I removed mortar and bricks, and wound up here:
Good times. I pulled out even more bricks after taking these pics.
As I always try to do, after cleaning things out as best I could, I stuffed as much mortar in that inner wythe as the available real estate would allow. Then it was on to resetting the removed brick.
Those efforts resulted in what you see below. The arch brick joint isn't the cleanest but the really bad spot, it's the original brick and original cut, and it's going to be covered up by the porch roof framing so whatever, it is what it is (it's really not that bad).
The important thing is that I was able to apply a lesson I learned the hard way: get the really bad section solidified before moving on to the next really bad section. It's easy to get carried away with the mortar removal because a lot of it comes out so easily, but even in bad shape, that's the only thing holding bricks in the wall.
Remove too much, the entire wall falls apart. Remove a lot in a concentrated area and leave the rest alone for the time being, things (mostly) stay where they're supposed to and a month doesn't have to be devoted to wall reconstruction.
That was Saturday. But it wasn't all masonry, there were some dog shenanigans mixed in:
She just turned 2 about a month ago, but I have a feeling she's going to be an energetic little girl for many years to come. Normally, I have to play "fetch" with her periodically while I'm outside working so she'll eventually get tired and let me get some stuff done, but she occasionally gets a little extra burst of energy and just runs laps around the yard with as many toys and sticks as she can carry. I wish the older dog would come outside with us, but he's been on so many excursions and adventures with me over the past almost 13 years that he's earned the right to lay around inside if he wants to.
Sunday was more of the same. Lots of brick removal, lots of cleaning out old garbage mortar, lots of putting bricks back in their rightful place.
When it was all said and done I wound up here, with the center section all (mostly) put back together. This is a really critical section of wall because the porch roof framing will attach to the house here, so having the wall come apart during mortar removal kinda worked to my advantage in that it allowed me to really address both the inner wythe and outer wythe.
I'll keep working to the right, although I don't think any more bricks will get removed. I do have the old beam pocket to origami some bricks into, but that'll be a project for the coming weekend along with, hopefully, getting the entire wall repointed.
After that, there will be some jackhammering in my future, as well as some hold-digging, and then...maybe, if the weather cooperates, some actual construction.