Limelight on Historic Brownstone Restoration – Alfred’s Victorian

Alfred’s Victorian Restoration Story –  with Andy deGruchy

Alfred's Victorian Staff
Alfred’s Victorian Staff

 

This beautiful late 19th century Hummelstown 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.

Please take a look at our other videos for the full extent of this remarkable restoration:

True Sustainable Development in Historic Restoration  – Alfred’s Victorian –  Randy Ruth

Restoring Historic Alfred’s Victorian Brownstone  –  Randy Ruth

Natural Hydraulic Lime Mortars for Historic Preservation and Their Impact on the Environment –  Randy Ruth

 

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How do Natural Hydraulic Lime Mortars Compare to Common Type-O Mortars Containing Portland Cement? by Randy Ruth

by Randy Ruth

For well over 30 years it has been common practice to prescribe the use of a Type-O masonry mortar for use on the conservation of masonry buildings. The most common formula of a Type-O mortar is 1:2:9, a blend of 1 part white Portland cement, 2 parts Type-S hydrated lime (most often dolomitic lime) and 9 parts sand by volume. In recent years there has been an increasing amount of research on similar mix designs and how they compare to Natural Hydraulic Lime (NHL) based mortars used in Europe to repoint historic masonry buildings. Just recently, a professor and two graduates of Columbia University published a research study on the same topic here in the United States. The results of this study can be found in the Association for Preservation Trades International bulletin Vol. XLIII. Their innovative approach to allow a real comparison between different mortar types used in conservation reveals some interesting results.
Petrographic thin section images courtesy of William Revie of The Construction Materials Consulting Group; Striling, Scotland

Petrographic thin section images courtesy of William Revie of The Construction Materials Consulting Group; Striling, Scotland

The innovative approach the research team had developed with their curing protocol of various binder types, established a relatively level field of comparison for various mortars in regards to the way each mortar uniquely cures. With this testing detail established, the 11 commonly used repointing mortars were tested at various stages on their splitting tensile strength, compressive strength, water absorption and water-vapor transmission.

The tests reveal that for a splitting tensile strength the NHL/sand mortars are most comparable to traditional pure lime/sand mortars made of High calcium lime and dolomitic lime, while Type-O mortars were more than twice the splitting strength of NHL mortars. Although anecdotal, the cases where historic pure lime mortar has been used to repoint soft brickwork and has eroded causing a need for repointing, Type-O mortars could be consequently be too rigid for use a repointing mortar.

Compressive strength data shows that although NHL mortars have higher values than that of high-calcium lime mortars (with the exception of NHL 2 being less in strength than dolomitic lime) when compared to Type-O mortars their values are nearly half.

When mortars were measured for their water absorption, initially all NHL mortars significantly out-performed other mix designs. The most comparable mix was that of the Type-O mortars that ended up with similar characteristics to NHL mortars and still outperformed both pure lime mortars.

Water-vapor transmission results indicate that all NHL mortars process water vapor at much higher rates than dolomitic and both Type-O mortars, with values comparable to High-calcium lime mortars.

Although the results from the laboratory study are not entirely representative of values that are obtained in field work, they do represent what specifiers and conservation masons are attempting to achieve in real world situations. By eliminating variables, that can give anecdotal results and margins of error, the data suggests that NHL\’s are indeed appropriate when specifying a historic repointing mortar or a new construction mortar used for masonry mortar, plaster or stucco applications.

In conjunction with this study and the new ASTM C1713Standard Specification for Mortars for the Repair of Historic Masonry, Natural Hydraulic Lime clearly proves its self as an alternative to mortar mix designs that have been used widely in the United States for many decades and have shown, for one reason or another premature failure.

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Yes, We Can Save The Frank Furness 19th Street Baptist Church

by Sean Maxwell 2012

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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…

HiddenCityPhila.org

Plan Philly

Gallery photos  ©SeanKmaxweLL.com

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“Soft Reds and Hard Tans” Exploring Historic Masonry Architecture in the French Quarter

by Randy Ruth

New Orleans. It’s quite the town especially during the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, known as Carnival. Technically beginning on January 6th and concluding on the day before Ash Wednesday (aka Fat Tuesday), the long celebration is concentrated on the final few weeks, giving rise to more frequent parades and events.  Granted I had never been there before but what I expected was much different from my experience. As a Philadelphia native, I had assumed that it’s nothing but one insane party similar to events that might occur during the Mummers parade on New Year’s Day in Philly, and be only on Fat Tuesday. What I had experienced was by far richer in both culture and architectural significance. I don’t mean this to down play the heritage of historically significant Philadelphia. It’s just that New Orleans has a charm that I believe to be facilitated by it organic architectural style, originating in function over form.

Spending most of my time in the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans also known as the French Quarter or as some may traditionally refer to it as Vieux Carré, I felt a certain type of warmth from the people and its buildings. The symbiotic relationship felt I found to be rooted in the architecture bound mostly by French, Spanish and African influence. This dynamic create a true Creole culture. Perhaps this is why nobody can exactly pinpoint the exact year that Carnival festivities began, a very real unique place and people whose origins can be traced to their roots but only studied in regard to its complex organic creation. The trend can be translated to local architecture in the French quarter however it is a bit easier to study.

A New Orleans local showed me around the French Quarter explaining all the influences of Spanish, French, African and local climate on many of the buildings architecture. Probably the most iconic would be the balconies and galleries extending over the sidewalks. Just to be clear balconies are cantilevered into the building with no supporting posts extending halfway over the sidewalk, while galleries typically extend to the edge of the street. Unbeknownst to me I found that the reason for this is threefold.

First, has to deal with the influence of the Spanish and French architects designing buildings since New Orleans beginnings. However, more often than not these buildings needed to be protected from the weather. Wind driven rain during hot summers created the need to have large open windows to permit air flow but something needs to prevent the buildings from getting wet on the inside, hence the need for balconies to act as an eve to prevent rain from entering the interior. The same principle also protects the inferior masonry walls. New Orleans suffers from poor clay local clay for making bricks. The result being bricks called “soft reds & hard tans” that in most cases must be protected with a stucco or render of lime.

New-Orleans-1

 

 

What is currently known as the Napoleon house was first occupied by the mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815. Although Napoleon never came he was offered this residence during his exile in 1822.

 

 

 

 

New-Orleans-2

 

 

Detailing of deteriorated “Soft red” brick rendered with lime stucco as a Trompe L’oei to imitate limestone blocks on the Napoleon House.

 

 

 

Another defining characteristic of architecture in the French Quarter is the entresol, also known as mezzanine. Entresol’s were needed for storage in commercial buildings due to the high local water table.  Looking at the exterior of a building one can clearly notice the well defined tall window front that help hide the storage floor between the 1st and 2nd floors.

 

New-Orleans-3

 

This store front exemplifies the use of an entresol commonly found in the French Quarter.

 

 

 

Due to New Orleans high water table, rising damp is a big issue for many of the building. Because the majority of the historic Buildings located in the Vieux Carré district were built before the advent of Portland cement, lime was used and accommodated moisture very well.  However, today pure lime technology is used to restore the local historic properties, which results in fewer lost or damaged cultural resources.

The time I spent in New Orleans was certainly too limited. There was far too much to see in the few days I was there. Its impact left me forever moved by its places and people. For anyone who has not been there. GO! The treasure hidden in the city is everywhere, waiting for people to experience it and take a piece of it home. Perhaps the next time I visit I will see you there.

 

 

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The Mysterious Newport Tower, Restored Using Natural Hydraulic Lime

newporttower18th
The Newport Tower is a peculiarly placed piece of stonework.  It currently resides in Touro Park surrounded by one of the ritziest resorts on the eastern seaboard.  Often called the “Old Mill”, it’s generally accepted to have once been a windmill built in the mid 17th Century. But some believe it was built much earlier either by visiting Vikings, Native Americans, traveling Chinese sailors, or even medieval Scottish Templars led by earl Henry Sinclair during a voyage to New England about a hundred years before Columbus.  Either way, this structure was built to last, being a minimum of 360 some years old. A mortar comparison showed the Newport Tower to be made of lime, sand and gravel.

A team from Contracting Specialists Incorporated recently performed some structural restoration by removing Portland Cement repairs and shoring up the stone with Natural Hydraulic Lime as well as placing a new cap on the top with NHL. These repairs ensure the structure will retain its historically appropriate ingredients while also keeping it structurally sound for generations to come.

Additional Resources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newport_Tower_(Rhode_Island)
http://www.unmuseum.org/newporttower.htm
http://www.thenewporttower.com
http://www.neara.org/images/what/Newport__loose_threads.pdf
http://www.newporttower.org

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Green Construction in Today’s Built Environment – FAQ by Randy Ruth

by Randy Ruth

When people talk about “green” construction, I often wonder what the environmental benefit of the construction is. Is it new construction? If so what is the environmental impact? I would hope that a perfectly good existing building wasn’t torn down to make way for supposed progress.

It is my belief that the greenest building is the one that is already standing and most likely played a role in a community’s development. It could be an old department store, manufacturing warehouse or barn. Sometimes plans call for only the façade of a building to be saved which helps keep the architectural integrity of a community intact. This can be a positive compromise because the more useful modernized building can be built and yet some historic fabric is retained to tell the story and retain the flavor of what the building was in its local context.

In the end, as long as something is retained for adaptive reuse, whether it is for aesthetics or the entire structure, there is a measure of success in reducing a “green” construction project’s carbon footprint.

In most instances, a building that has been saved from the wrecking ball is old. What does old really mean? Well that’s pretty subjective but I would like to think of old in the context of US building history as being pre 1930, or roughly 80 years and older. When an old building is going to be adaptively reused one way or another then appropriate materials should be used to fix what is broken with compatible repair materials. Using in-kind repairs will further promote the legacy and overall usefulness of a building for years to come while lowering its impact on the environment.

Old buildings are usually very strong and often made of brick and stone that has proven to stand the test of time. However it’s the mortar that binds those materials together and meant to be sacrificial. Mortar should fail first not irreplaceable historic masonry units. The embodied energy to replace a masonry unit is much greater than the mortar. Therefore, it is imperative that a suitable replacement mortar be used to mend what is failing and the mortar be weaker and slightly more permeable than the surrounding masonry units.

In the case of masonry mortar, lime is typically the binder in these old buildings and should be regarded as key to the dynamic that has allowed the building to be in service so long. Often the original mortar is still in place, proving its superiority and therefore should be replaced in-kind. The use of modern day Portland cement based mortars, which are stronger and denser when placed over the top of lime based mortars, are less sympathetic to the historic masonry and can trap moisture causing further damage to the historic fabric. The historic masonry units and adjacent historic elements can best be kept in conservation with the use of the right lime mortar. The correct Natural Hydraulic Lime (NHL) mortars when used where they are appropriate can become a compatible repair materials that is sympathetic  to the working dynamics of an historic masonry building. Secondly, NHL mortars remain reversible without damage to the building unlike the alternative which is the too over-used hard, brittle and dense Portland cement based mortars which are known to cause irreversible damage in conjunction with historic masonry fabric.

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A Message from Ian Cramb, a younger man…

We got an email back in 2011 with some amazing photos of Ian Cramb. These photos are from 1958 in Iona, Scotland. Ian was working on the cloisters of Iona Abbey at the time. Iona is a small island off  the west coast of Scotland near Oban. These photos came from another Ian, Ian Taylor who spent a month living in Iona as a student in 1958 where he captured these photos during his stay on the island.

Also, in the recording below Ian talks about the apron he is wearing in the photo. He only wore that apron during his time in Iona and every morning it was blessed before he began the day’s work at the Abbey.

ian-cramb001 ian-cramb-iona

Get Ian Cramb’s book here: The Stonemason’s Gospel

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Lime Mortars vs. Cement FAQ with Randy Ruth

Shall I use Lime or Cement?

Q: Could I perhaps use cement and sand? What is the advantage of using lime on old stone structures

A: You should not use only cement and sand for a variety of reasons, the first being that in today’s mortars, lime adds workability and plasticity to the Portland cement mortars. Without lime in the mix or proprietary additives, the cement and sand mortar will have extremely poor workability. Secondly, modern-day cement is much different than early cement or lime, it is very hard, dense, vapor impermeable, and brittle. Cement can trap moisture inside the wall and erode the mortar behind the repair mortar, this can cause further unseen deterioration and masonry unit (stone, brick, terracotta) deterioration, thus resulting in a delayed and much larger/costly masonry repair.

The advantage of using an appropriate lime mortar on old stone structures deals with compatibility. There is a rule of thumb when approaching a restoration project and that is to repair in kind with like materials. By following this approach an individual can avoid unforeseen problems associated with trying something “new and improved” when there is such a well over 2,000 years of lime building history. There have been a number of studies done around the world on historic structures that conclude that even a small amount of Portland cement added to a lime mortar mix, can cause detrimental damage to the adjacent masonry and historic bedding mortar.

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