Since the last time we talked, I got the lower section of the wall with the bricked-in basement window redone, including closing up the last remaining beam pocket from the original porch.
I had the good sense - finally - to stuff fresh mortar in the arch bricks before removing the mortar from the loose, garbage bricks above them, all of which had to come out and be reset. Had I not done that, the arch would have come apart entirely and those things take forever to rebuild. With the arch bricks firmly in place, removing the couple courses above them, both wythes, and resetting them was no problem. And since this area will be covered by the porch, I didn't get too hung up on the appearance of the arch. It is what it is.
With that section taken care of, I got the scaffolding back out and started working my way up the wall just left of the one that had the delamination issue.
I'm not going to repoint the entire wall because I'm fighting the calendar - weather, really - to get this porch built in 2021 and at this point, I'm really only focused on repointing the areas that are critical to the porch: the strip of unpainted brick near the top of the wall. That's where the ledger boards, pressure treated 2x8s for the floor and 2x6s for the roof, will get bolted to the house and I need those areas to be rock solid inside and out.
At the bottom of the wall, just right of the door, the brick was in decent shape but it had all been repointed - poorly - previously and somebody did a rock star job of caulking the joint between the brickmold and the brick. I guess if you're going to half ass the former, you might as well nail the latter. It took me HOURS to remove the caulk.
Up above the door, that's where things get exciting. Remember, the primary goal is to make the unpainted brick as solid as I can without rebuilding the whole damn wall. The secondary goal is to repoint enough brick on either side of that strip that if and when I come back to repoint the rest of the wall, I'm not running into the porch ceiling, posts, etc. And it should go without saying, another goal is to remove all the crap leftover from the previous porch's roof, or at least as much of it as I can.
The mortar in this section is horrible, which at first thought doesn't make a lot of sense given that it's been covered for the past 140+ years. Unfortunately, there must have been some spots along the joint between the porch roof and the house that allowed water to get into the wall, which sort of rotted the mortar from the inside out.
All that cracked paint along the mortar joints, that's evidence of moisture trying to escape the wall. That much wear and tear means a LOT of moisture was passing through, and that much moisture had to come from water getting into the wall. In those situations, over a long enough timeline, Mother Nature wins, always. That paint, all the layers - and there are quite a few - couldn't hold up.
As a side note to that, the brick should allow moisture to pass through the wall. That's why brick really shouldn't be painted, because then the moisture gets trapped in the brick and all sorts of bad things happen.
Anyhow, the mortar came out easily enough. I removed, by hand mostly, pretty much all of it that I could until the bricks started getting loose.
That's as far as I needed to go with the mortar removal; from there I started slingin' new mortar into the joints. With joints as empty as these were, the process essentially takes places in 6 steps:
Overall, as is usually the case, I got a lot done, but not as much as I wanted to get done.
Emptying out the joints as much as I am comes with positives and negatives; on the bright side, these repointed sections are crazy solid but man, does it take a lot of time to stuff mortar into the deepest recesses of the voids. Those head (vertical) joints, I have to use the side of my jointer to get mortar pushed to the back of the joint and with no room to see what I'm doing I have to work by feel and not much else. It's a time-consuming ordeal.
The good news, however, is that whenever I get back at it, I'll be able to tackle the unpainted section all at once. I just don't know when that'll be; Roscoe has another vet appointment for blood work after work tomorrow (his Cushing Syndrome meds haven't caused any side effects and they seem to have drastically reduced the panting, water consumption, and pot-belly look, but they haven't done anything to slow down his hair loss - he's basically rockin' a giant, hairless rat tail - or improve his complete lack of energy), I have to work late on Thursday, and then the temperatures Friday through Sunday may not allow for any mortar work, since it needs 14 hours above freezing to cure properly. So there's that. I'm close, but I need big chunks of hours to get this stuff done and the weather may just not cooperate.
At the end of the day, right as I was cleaning up the last few joints, I felt like something was moving just above me and to the right. I glanced up and in the spot where a brick is missing, this was goin' down:
I won't make your eyes bleed with the words running through my head at that moment, but that little thing was fearless.
Obviously, I still have a mice issue but then again, I've had some gaping holes in the house over the past couple months so it's not entirely surprising. At first I felt like I could just reach up with one of my jointers and flick the little thing to the ground 16' away, but his bravery impressed me so instead I went back in the house, got a random cardboard box that was laying around and carried it back up the scaffolding. If the mouse was still there, I was going to try to get it into the box so I could let it loose somewhere on the ground (800 miles away from the house, obviously).
But the mouse was gone and didn't return. I didn't think much of it and moved on to the rest of my work. I've had mice in the house before, it's a situation the gets dealt with. Not the end of the world, right?
Care to guess who did NOT forget about the mouse?
Later that night I was at the kitchen sink getting some dishes cleaned up and Freckles was laying down a few feet away. The back door is next to the kitchen and out of the blue Freckles jumped up, went to the back door, and immediately started sniffing and sort of tracking something too small for my old man eyes to see. I figured it was a bug or cricket or something like that; she loves chasing those things around and occasionally one gets in the house.
When you have 2 dogs, 1 that LOVES being out in the yard and another that HATES being out in the yard, won't go down the deck stairs without me watching him, and half the time can't get back up the stairs unless I help him, that back door gets opened and stays opened for a minute or two many times over the course of a day. Sometimes a little something or other sneaks in.
Not this time. It wasn't a little bug, it was a baby mouse. Freckles tracked and chased the thing for a few feet and then BAM!, it stopped moving. She must have bitten it and killed it but thankfully she didn't eat it. I picked it up, threw it away, the end. Well, the end after I gave Freckles a bunch of treats and told her 300 times how she did good.
Except it wasn't the end.
The following morning we were all in the living room eating breakfast, watching the first little bit of pregame NFL shows on TV, and getting ready to get back to work. All of a sudden Freckles jumped up, ran over to one of the fireplaces - spots where I know mice have accessed the main floor from the basement - and started sniffing around. She was tracking something again.
Another god damn mouse.
The mouse had the advantage of hiding behind some of the living room decor (rolling scaffold, tile saw, etc.) on the floor, but Freckles stuck with it. Before I could even get off the couch, she struck again, mouse kill #2. Again, she didn't eat it, just incapacitated it. I got rid of the mouse and got on with my morning, after rewarding Freckles handsomely of course.
Maybe her hunting DNA and insane desire to chase every squirrel, rabbit, bird, and deer that's ever lived will pay off after all. I hope so...because I saw a 3rd mouse later that day and it's still roaming the place freely.