Historic Brownstone Restoration With Breathable Natural Hydraulic Lime

This beautiful late 19th century brownstone was recently restored by deGruchy Masonry Restoration, the Technical Install/Training Team of LimeWorks.us. Using historically appropriate, breathable Natural Hydraulic Lime based materials for repointing the brickwork and repairing the brownstone, this iconic building is now put into an excellent state of conservation. It remains a testament to excellent stewardship of our built heritage thanks to the owner, and lifelong resident of Middletown, PA, Robin Pellegrini. Taking an architectural conservator’s approach, the team of masons repaired the broken and missing pieces of historic sandstone and lime mortar with environmentally friendly Ecologic™ Mortar and Lithomex Brick and Stone repair material. The team retained as much of the historic fabric as possible by repairing what could be salvaged with these specialty materials. These materials allow the building envelope to process water out naturally through the lime and sandstone because of their effective liquid/vapor transfer properties over any patch material based on Portland cement.

The building is located at 38 N Union Street in Middletown, PA. It is the home of The Alfred’s Victorian Restaurant. The brownstone building was originally built in all its opulence for the purpose of demonstrating the Victorian era extravagance and wealth of the owner at the time. Construction was completed in 1888 using Hummlestown brownstone from the famous nearby quarry. Unfortunately, before the year 1900 it was repossessed from the owner by the Middletown National Bank and subsequently sold to its second owner for $6,600.00.

While the interior went through many renovations, the exterior remained mostly untouched. Over the years, the brownstone weathered and many of the beaded mortar joints cracked and wore down flush with the stone. For this repair campaign, Ecologic™ Mortar in color code DGM BLACK was used to repoint the missing or damaged joints. Where historic black-colored lime mortar was intact in all of its beaded profile, but only the original lamp black pigmentation faded out, QuartzGuard Silicate Paint, which was made to match Ecologic™ DGM BLACK Mortar, was applied over the joints to blend the colors of the old and new together for a beautiful and striking contrast to the chocolate colored Hummelstown Brownstone. The custom shade of Lithomex was formulated so that the Hummlestown Brownstone elements which eroded away could be rebuilt. This included the ornate egg and dart details which were re-carved by the deGruchy Masonry Restoration team over the windows and at pillars and other locations.

Here are a few photos of the restoration process. If you live nearby, stop by Alfred\’s Victorian and say hi. The food is great so plan to try one of their delicious locally grown, organic meals.

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Favorite Books on America’s Building Heritage and Masonry, FAQ Friday

While it may not be directly in front of you, information about our building heritage in the United States and countries around the world is available for free or next to nothing. Understanding the materials used in masonry construction over time can be a complex thread of knowledge. In short, as people change over time, so do the methods and materials. Fortunately, there is a lot of documentation from the past 200 years that can bring to light some of the questions masons, contractors, architects, and inquisitive people have about what’s up with masonry mortars of today and the recent past. Some books are well rounded with practical information. Other books give information as a raw resource to discover where and how mortars were made and others are so technical, they can put you to sleep. However, the following books are some of the best I’ve found to help expand your personal knowledge on lime, cement and what really makes up most all mortars.

Ian Cramb’s first and second books, “The Art of The Stonemason” and “The Stonemason’s Gospel” are excellent reads. The balance of a personal story, masterfully illustrated technical drawings of stone wall construction and practical tips all come together to provide for a real education to anyone with an appreciation or interest in stone.

Another Great book is “Building With Lime: A Practical Introduction”. This was the first book I ever read about lime and its enormous roll in masonry. The book title says it all. For someone just starting to expand their masonry knowledge of lime mortars, it is an invaluable resource.

All three books are available on Amazon.

Other more in-depth books about manufacture and sources of raw ingredients can be found for free by searching Google books. Here is a list of some good ones.

Hydrated lime by Ellis Warren Lazell
History of the Portland cement industry in the United States by Robert Whitman Lesley

Natural Stone, Weathering Phenomena, Conservation Strategies and Case Studies: edited by Siegfried Siegesmund, Thomas Norbert Weiss, Axel Vollbrecht

Masonry Construction: By American School of Correspondence, Chicago, Alfred Edward Phillipps, Austin Thomas Byrne

Cements, Limes, and Plasters by Edwin Clarence Eckel

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Restoring the Historic French Quarter with Breathable Lime Mortar

Founded in 1718, the French Quarter or Vieux Carré is the oldest neighborhood of New Orleans. Much of the quarter’s historic buildings were constructed before New Orleans even became part of the United States. Built extensively with lime mortars before the invention of portland cement, the iconic french quarter is a standing testament to the success of breathable masonry construction. These historic structures are now protected from demolition and any restoration or renovation efforts must be approved and performed with appropriate historic methods and materials to match the original historic architecture. During a recent visit, the LimeWorks.us team presented to the Vieux Carré Commission responsible for approving all restoration efforts to share with them a better understanding of breathable natural hydraulic lime mortars for appropriate masonry restoration. During their visit, the team documented deteriorating buildings and further damage that has been caused due to poor repair materials including harmful portland cement.

The team also spent a day with some of the leading area stonemasons, plasterers, and interior designers at Masonry Products in a workshop, teaching them appropriate methods and techniques for mixing and applying breathable Ecologic™ Mortar for repointing and plaster applications along with Lithomex for breathable stone and brick repair work. The team demonstrated mixing procedures, application and curing methods as well as breathable silicate paints and stains.

To learn more about appropriate historic masonry restoration or to start working with breathable lime mortars in New Orleans, visit Masonry Products at 401 N Alexander Street, the newest distribution hub for LimeWorks.us Ecologic™ Mortar and Natural Hydraulic Lime.

Photos here

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How To Stay Cool While Working with Lime in Extreme Heat

With temperatures across the U.S. exceeding well beyond the 90° F during the day and relentless scorching sun I have been asked the same question a lot in the past few weeks. Can or should I use lime products above the suggested 85° mark?

Using Lime in extreme conditions can require extreme or excessive measure to ensure a job well done. There is saying that if the worker is happy then the work is happy. If you are in the shade and are well hydrated then this comfort is passed on to the work and potential problems can be reduced. The most common and critical issue would be that excessive drying out of the wall is occurring. Repointing, laying masonry units, and stucco work all require adequate suction control to achieve a good bond. Dampening porous masonry prior to application and occasionally dampening the work will help allow the lime mortar to cure at a slower rate preventing a “flash set” or no set from a occurring. A flash set occurs when water is pulled out of the mortar quickly and in the case of cement mixes the set happens too quickly which is prone to a compromising the intended results. When the water is pulled out of the mortar too quickly from a lime mortar usually the mortar turns to dust and is rendered useless. The work will have to be re-done in its entirety.

Even when a flash set does not occur controlling how the mortar cures is very important in hot weather. A good tip is to cover the recently completed wall sections with damp burlap. Damp burlap works well because it is relatively light, will provide shade, hold water to increase localized humidity and breathe. All these virtues help provide a good environment for mortar to cure the way it should, slow, steady, cool, and damp. Burlap is also used as an indicator tool. When it becomes dry then you know the wall is getting dry behind it or soon will be. Misting the burlap when dry keeps the wall from receiving a direct stream of water and over saturation.

Burlap can be found at agricultural supply centers and has a wide range of uses other than keeping masonry damp.

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