Click here to learn more about our Graveyard Kit. Any questions, please call us at 215-536-6706.
A limited number of 10 kits will also be available for sale at IPTW workshops at $100.00 each as an IPTW Vermont program special. You can take both workshops if you like when you register for IPTW. Please do not bring your Graveyard Kit with you. We will be demonstrating using the products in our kit, so save your material for your own work.
Andy deGruchy leads a workshop working with an historical stone marker of an actual gravesite. He will discuss the considerations one must make when attempting to conserve such sacred objects. He will talk about the least invasive (level 2) intervention methodology. There will be hands on work and a demonstration of our own custom archival software which organizes the setting up of a conservation campaign.
Dan Montgomery will lead a workshop working with an historical stone marker of an actual gravesite. He will discuss the ramifications of restoration when more invasive actions are taken to refurbish a broken marker. The intervention is a lot like surgery. He will be using products from our graveyard kit to make those repairs.
Recently some of the employees of LimeWorks.us had the opportunity to learn more about our product Lithomex from Douglas Johnston, of Mason’s Mortar, Scotland. Lithomex is a natural hydraulic lime based stone and brick patching material that comes in a variety of colors and can be textured to replicate any existing stone. The training course included lectures and hands on work with Lithomex, providing us with different application techniques and a better understanding of what the capabilities of the product are. The course was approached from two angles, that of someone who has never used the material and that of a traditional stone mason, in order to illustrate that Lithomex can be used by anyone.
What makes Lithomex such a desirable material for patch repair comes from the nature of the material itself. Since it is lime based it has all of the characteristic that you would want by using natural hydraulic lime, it is breathable allowing water vapor to move through keeping it from becoming trapped, which can lead to major problems if other patch materials were used.
Lithomex can be worked while still in its plastic state, once it is set, or any time in between, making it user friendly for artist, sculptors, plasterers, and stone masons alike. The training course mainly focused on applying the material to a wall, squaring up and leveling the Lithomex surface and then tooling it while it was thumb print hard and after its initial set. We were taught different tooling techniques that are commonly used on ashlar stone work, using the same tools which stone masons would employ when they dress stone block, however with the added challenge of dressing the Lithomex “stone” while it is already on the surface of the wall. A section of the wall panel was also tooled to replicate that of a rubble stone wall. Other techniques that were learned were how to better utilize Lithomex in replicating more complex stone, such as granite (which has many different inclusions) and veining such as that found in marble.
The skills and information that were learned during this training course are going to be used to create a Lithomex Workshop by LimeWorks.us for anyone that wants to learn more about Lithomex. Two workshops for Lithomex will be offered: one is for a DIY person or novice mason and the second is for professionals who need official certification. Professionals can take our advanced courses in how to apply the material in order to replicate stone, brick, or or terra cotta for any project where Lithomex is specified by Historical Restoration Architects and Historic Building Conservators.
The Chemical Heritage Foundation released an episode of their award winning podcast Distillations. In this episode, Randy Ruth, formerly of LimeWorks.us, discusses the chemistry behind lime mortar, historic masonry buildings and the ongoing efforts to preserve one of the finest works of notable Philadelphia architect, Frank Furness. The 19th Street Baptist Church located in South Philadelphia has been in a state of disrepair for decades. This episode sheds light on the chemistry behind its construction and the ongoing preparation to save it.
Randy Ruth, at the time, was the lab tech at LimeWorks.us. He bridged the gap between architects, conservators and masonry practitioners on what types of building materials to use in reconstruction and restoration of masonry projects throughout the country.
“Randy and his colleagues at LimeWorks.us based in Quakertown, Pennsylvania were brought in to try and save the 19th Street Baptist Church
We took a look at at the types of mortars that were there and by knowing that the building was built in 1874 we could gauge what those original binders were without even necessarily doing an analysis. Architects, engineers and of course masons would use the local available materials which were at the 19th Street Baptist Church primarily lime based binders.
Lime is a very general term for inorganic materials that contain calcium and it’s been use in concrete and building materials since the Roman Empire. It’s derived from limestone and other rocks that are primarily made of calcium carbonate.
Basically lime is that calcium carbonate stone and it’s put into a kiln with fuel. These kilns would then be fired up to 900 degrees Celsius or slightly above and then the resulting product is a limestone that loses about a third of its weight because it’s driving off carbon dioxide so that calcium carbonate is now becoming calcium oxide.
This is all part of what’s called the Lime Cycle. Calcium carbonate is heated to produce calcium oxide and then it’s combined with water to form calcium hydroxide. Different amounts of water is added to form different consistencies.
That process is called slaking, if just a small amount of water is added it’s going to turn into a powder. If a little bit more water is added it’s still calcium hydroxide but it’s in the form of a putty.
Once the lime is in this putty form it’s spread over bricks and stones and hardens into a solid bond.
That limestone then stays malleable and flexible in a wall system in comparison to more modern materials.
Modern materials like cement. Portland cement is the most common type of cement used around the world. It’s made of primarily alite or tricalcium silicate, a more rigid and less permeable material than lime.
You’re walking down the sidewalk and wondering why are they sectioned off in four food squares or six foot squares and that’s because Portland cement is very brittle and we have to tell it where to crack and where to go versus the lime buildings like the 19th Street Baptist Church. There are no control joints and things were able to move freely and accommodate small bits of movement because lime unlike Portland Cement has the ability to heal itself, something called autogenous healing.
This autogenous healing is part of why the 19th Street Baptist Church is still standing today but the original lime mortar is all but dissolved now and that’s why the building is crumbling.
Lime mortars as they age and as they wear, they’re meant to be replaced so there’s always a maintenance issue associated with them. I hope that there is a lot of architectural salvage that can occur to pay homage to the traditional materials that were originally by Frank Furness and his architectural team.
In essence they should be able to replenish the lime mortar in the structure, but after so many years of neglect it’s getting late in the game.”
This beautiful church was designed by Frank Furness and is located at the corner of 19th and Titan in South Philadelphia. It almost went the way of many Furness structures; due to neglect and time the church leadership is under pressure to begin repairs or plan for it to be demolished due to unsafe conditions sited by the License and Inspections Department of the city. Under the leadership of Reverend Vincent J. Smith and in partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Preservation Alliance and some volunteers, stabilization efforts have finally begun.
As the morning sun crept over the skyline on the last Saturday of April, Randy Ruth, mason and the laboratory technician from LimeWorks.us volunteered to lead a workshop with a team of a few other volunteers to complete some small but crucial repairs on the north facing wall of the 19th Street Baptist Church.
The church has been in need of serious repairs for a number of years as observed and documented in a 2000 University of Pennsylvania report, Thesis by Molly Anne Sheehan, which show that the conditions of the church and the exterior Serpentine Stonework have continued to deteriorate steadily.
Under Randy’s supervision the team of volunteers used a lime mortar donated by LimeWorks.us for doing some in-kind repairs to stabilize the failing back-up walls behind the Serpentine stone. This lime and sand mortar reflects what would have been used originally when the church was constructed in the late 1800s. Ecologic® Mortar contains NO harmful Portland Cement and allows the building to breathe and process water as it did originally. At some point in time, a hard and brittle Portland Cement stucco was placed over a significant part of the building, trapping moisture and leading to further deterioration of the soft, sedimentary serpentine stone and contributing to mold issues that the church basement still has to deal with today.
This was the first step in saving the most colorful building ever designed by Furness… A true master plan is needed for the next step in partnership with strong fundraising efforts to truly bring this sacred place back to its original glory.
Other stories about the 19th Street Baptist Church…
Damaged stone and brick is a common problem for many historic structures around the world. Lithomex is a breathable in-kind repair material for most types of damaged stone and brick. The following is an example of a Lithomex repair on a historic 19th century stone house…
Lithomex Repair in Merion Station, PA:
This house, located in Merion Station Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, was constructed in the 1920s during the Arts and Crafts style movement. This movement was a direct descendant of the British Arts and Crafts movement which was initiated by William Morris during the mid 1800s as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and its lack of concern for human lives in the work place. This movement was meant to bring back pride to the true craftsmen once again with an emphasis on hand-made vs. mass production.
Before applying Lithomex
This house was handcrafted using a variety of stone including Mica Schist, Serpentine, Red Sandstone, Brownstone, PA Bluestone, and some Limestone. It was originally pointed with a high Portland cement content mortar, either 5:1:2 or 1:3 formula of Cement, Lime and sand. Unfortunately this was a recipe for disaster.
During the following 80 years, the softer sandstones received the greatest damage due to the freeze/ thaw cycles of the cold Pennsylvania winters. This combined with later modifications including new windows which were installed improperly allowed water to be trapped behind and within the stone walls. Leaks developed within the house and the homeowners decided it was time to fix things the right way.
Lithomex being applied
A team from Galli Masonry Restorations took on the challenge to bring this historic home back to its original glory. First they removed all the old pointing and filled in the voids with LimeWorks.us Natural Hydraulic Lime mortar. Then blended with Lithomex colors and textures to replicate the original look of the stone. The damaged serpentine, brownstone and bluestone was repaired and blended in to be virtually unnoticeable. The color and composition of the final pointing work was chosen by the homeowner which was a mix of Ecologic® MortarDGM non-pigmented, DGM Grey andblack Slag-fleck.
Q: I have an old brownstone house and some of the stone have been falling off, what can I do to prevent further damage and fix the damage that has already occurred?
A: When you have brownstone deterioration or any form of stone deterioration and want it to stop, you have to first identify the root cause. Sometimes it’s as simple as replacing downspouts or replacing roof flashing, to prevent further damage to the stone. Other times it can be a long complicated series of tests and empirical analysis. Depending on the cause of the deterioration of the brownstone, a number of solutions can be applied.
If the stone is only sugaring or sanding with light deterioration, then perhaps doing nothing for a maybe a year and watching the stone for further deterioration is sufficient. However, if the stone is in much worse shape with possibly a ¼ inch or more of stone loss, then some could be some very serious problems with the integrity of the stone.
Brownstone as with many different types of sandstone has bedding planes. These bedding planes in the stone tend to detach from one and other depending on how the stone was laid in the wall. Imagine a layered cake as the stone, with each layer on top of one and other. If the stone cake is put on its side there is a greater chance that moisture can get between the layers and cause delimitation and or exfoliation. This being a common problem associated with sandstone, a more detailed resource for classifying the type of stone loss you may have can be found here.
It is always recommended that when fixing damage to stone that a qualified professional be brought out to see what the damage is and come up with an appropriate course of action. There are many different ways to approach fixing a stone like whether consolidation is appropriate is an appropriate first step or not. In my eyes, it is always best to honor the original detail of the stone and artisan who created it by only fixing what is broken. When patching stonework an important approach is to make sure that appropriate sympathetic patching materials are used. (Lithomex) The use of impermeable materials can cause further deterioration of the stone by trapping moisture. This will result in a faulty patch that can accelerate deterioration to the adjacent stone.