Resources for Historic Homeowners

John Leeke's Historic HomeWorks™ Question & Answer Column

#14 More on Bricks and Mortar

I read with great interest your recent article on lime mortar. I am currently beginning brick restoration on a 1794 Georgian house using soft brick in a Flemish bond pattern. The whole house needs to be repointed. One chimney will be removed and repaired with new hand-made brick. Are there any hand-made brick suppliers? I am also having difficulty locating the soft Type "O" mortar mix. -- Steve Hudock, Prospect Hill Bed & Breakfast, Gerrardstown, West Virginia

One of the following companies may be able to make brick to meet your needs:

Old Carolina Brick Company
475 Majolica Rd., Dept. HHW
Salisbury, NC 28147
704 636-8850

Bend Industries, Inc.
11412 W. Brown Deer Rd., Dept. HHW
Milwaukee, WI 53224
800 462-9192

Glen-Gery Brick
Box 7001
1166 Spring St., Dept. HHW
Wyomissing, PA 19610
610 374-4011

You will have to mix your own Type "O" mortar from the basic ingredients: cement, hydrated lime and sand which are readily available at most masonry suppliers.

As you prepare your brick walls for repointing be sure to rake the old mortar out of the joints to a depth that is 2 to 3 times the width of the mortar joint. Wash the joints out with water to clean them and to dampen the masonry so water is not drawn out of the new mortar before it has a chance to cure properly. For more details on repointing read Mark London's book, "Masonry", published by The Preservation Press in 1988.

Old-House Inspectors

I will be looking at a rural Virginia property that is for sale and would like some advice for what to look for as far as structural integrity. The property consists of a hundred acres and a 200+ year old two story two over two frame house. The house is some distance from the road and from what I can tell, appears to be pretty stable (no sagging roof line or separating chimneys). What questions should I ask a potential home inspector to make sure they are properly qualified to analyze the condition of such an old house? --Kristin Worsham, Lynchburg, VA

Consider at least three inspectors. First, interview the inspectors. Ask them how many old houses they personally have worked on as a tradesperson or contractor. This experience is an absolute necessity. Ask what is the difference between a 200 year-old house and a 40 year old house. If an inspector says "not much" don't use that inspector. Ask what publications they read. You should hear "Old House Journal", it has helped set the standards for over 20 years. Ask if they have attended an old-house training session put on by one of the national inspection associations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). I have taught such training sessions for ASHI. Ask what is the last technical article or book they have read on an historic building topic. If the inspector cannot remember one I would wonder if he was keeping up with new developments. Then ask each one for a list of 20 200+ year-old houses they have inspected at least two years ago, along with each owner's name and phone number. Call every one of the owners and ask how long they have been in the house. If they have been there at least two years ask how many defects the inspector missed. Do this for all three inspectors and keep score.

Source for Old-house Products

I am seeking a source for items such as embossed tin ceilings, reproductions of door hardware, decorative metal, mantel and door frame carvings etc. Is there any catalog that would contain such items?

You need the Old-House Journal's Restoration Directory. It lists over 1,500 suppliers of products and services for homes built from 1750 to 1940 and for new homes built in the traditional manner. (202 339-0744, ext. 101, $14.95)

 

John Leeke is a preservation consultant who helps homeowners, contractors and architects understand and maintain their historic buildings. You can contact him at 26 Higgins St., Portland, Maine, 04103; or by E-mail: johnleeke@HistoricHomeWorks.com; or log onto his website at: www.HistoricHomeWorks.com

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