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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is There a Construction Site Career in My Future?

For once I finally have a viable excuse for neglecting my blog so shamefully. I've got a new job--of sorts.

The day of my last post a month ago, my neighbor Christopher suggested perhaps we would both make better progress on our houses if we worked together, a barter system of work hours. He's been pointing the exterior of his house for months now and I can't begin to imagine how tedious it's been working alone. I would have quite given up in despair long ago.

For those of you unfamiliar with pointing (as I was), it consists of drilling out most of the existing mortar between the stones and replacing it with new. In this case, a rendering or top coat of stucco completely conceals the stone and must be chipped off before the pointing can begin.

This photo is of the far end of Christopher's house. The upper right portion of the photo is the original condition of the house. Below it the rendering has been removed and it's awaiting new mortar between the stones. On the left, running down the length of the house where the stone is less apparent is the finished product--new mortar has been applied, scraped off when partially dry and then, when completely hard, the stones have been burnished with a wire brush to remove any stray bits of mortar and whiten up the limestone block.

Christopher's and my houses were once all part of the same farm, his being the main farmhouse. In fact, the elderly farmer who was born in that house and grew up there still comes by occasionally to see the progress Christopher's making on 'his' house. He's an extremely nice man, this farmer, and was one of the first villagers to attempt to engage me in conversation. He was passing by while I was doing an archaeological dig of sorts in the garden--I knew there were plants buried in there somewhere! At the time I didn't know he once owned my house as well as most of the other buildings on my street. The entire street was apparently part of the farm once upon a time. (My house, I'm told, was built some time before 1850.)

But I digress. Christopher's tentative suggestion that I help him out was received with far more enthusiasm than he'd expected. I want to expose some of the stone wall in my living room interior so this would no doubt be an excellent introduction to what would be involved.

The work has proved far more exhausting than I'd anticipated but I find I enjoy it nonetheless. I man the cement mixer (not so unlike the commercial Hobart in my sister's former bakery), making up the mortar or chaux blanche of wet sand, lime chalk and water. I then wheel barrows of it to the scaffolding where I either hoist buckets up a ladder alongside the scaffolding to where Christopher is working or, if he's near the roof line, tie the buckets to rope and he hauls them up.

I did manage to overdo it while trying my hand at the jackhammer drill (it chips the rendering off to reveal the stones beneath) and strained my wrist but I think my biceps are starting to rival Michelle Obama's!

Here you can see the stones awaiting re-mortaring on the bottom; on the top is the finished product.

Mornings are now spent pointing while afternoons we switch to building a garden wall with all the extra stone lying about the farm. We fill the core of the wall with all the rubble from the rendering, a great way to clean up and recycle!

It's my hope that once Christopher sets a price on the two rooms he owns that abut my house that I can afford to buy them. Then we'll really have a renovation job on our hands as they're nothing more than stone shells. I envision them as a future kitchen and dining room.

In the meantime, perhaps we can collaborate on a new book: Pointers on Pointing!


Barnwek2 said...

Very nice and enjoyable read.

Ken Barnwell

Siobhan M Gallagher said...

Thanks, Ken! I appreciate the kind words. I apologize for the lateness of this. I'll be checking out your blog in a few moments.
best, Siobhan