Monday, April 27, 2009

Masonry Maintenance (After the Cleaning)

The cleaning went well, and now we can see what repairs need to be done. The next step is to take a mortar sample to our expert (Chub Garrett) for a good match, so we can replace the missing mortar. Missing mortar on walls should be repaired, but it is not as big of a deal as missing mortar on paving. Missing mortar on paving will let water go in the voids and undermine the dirt under the paving, this will cause the bricks to sink and make low spots. The low spots will collect water making the deterioration rapid. The sunken brick will make trip hazards, and should be repaired. Before we start re-pointing we will have to pull up all of the sunken brick and re-lay them.

Take a look at the before and after pictures, and see the big difference!

Years of Car and Bus Exhaust

Side Wall Before Cleaning

Floor Tile Before Cleaning

Side Wall Before Cleaning

Steps and Walk Before Cleaning

Cleaning In Progress

Walk Before Cleaning

Cleaning In Progress

Big Difference

Steps After Cleaning

Steps and Walk After Cleaning

Side Wall After Cleaning

Now we can see what repairs we need to do

Side Wall After Cleaning

Steps and Wall After Cleaning
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Masonry Maintenance (Holly's House)

Masonry Maintenance

Normal masonry maintenance consists of cleaning, re-pointing, and sealing. In the case of Holly’s House the masonry has weathered for over eighty years and will need to be thoroughly cleaned and dried before the mortar can be matched for re-pointing. I have found that if you re-point (replace missing mortar) before the masonry is cleaned, you run the risk of a bad mortar color match. With masonry of this age the mortar was mixed with sand from a near by riverbank. The river sand contained a lot of small shell and gravel pieces giving the mortar a rough texture. To keep our re-pointing from looking like a “patch job” the color and the texture need to match the old work as close as possible. Matching old mortar and the general restoration of old masonry is defiantly an art. We are very fortunate to have Norman (Chub) Garrett on our team. Chub has over fifty-six years in the masonry field and was one of only three Masons to receive the “Master Masonry Craftsmanship Award” in Virginia. Chub takes pride in being a living virtuoso of masonry history and restoration. Chub has restored or been the go-to-guy for many historic landmarks in Virginia.
We are going to start cleaning the masonry on the front porch area of the house. As you can see from the pictures below, the masonry has been weathered and stained by mold, car exhaust, and dirt. New masonry requires strong chemicals such as Muriatic Acid to clean mortar off of the masonry surfaces, but in our case there is no mortar on the masonry surface, only dirt, mold, and car exhaust. To remove this dirt, mold, and car exhaust we are going to use a biodegradable soap and a low P.S.I pressure washer.
This will get the job done and keep the plants and flowers safe.

Let's start the cleaning!
See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chinese Drywall (By Request)

By request: This article was written by request from several readers. Please sent request to and put the words “blog request” in the subject box.

Handymen and Home Inspectors are discovering strange odors in some homes built in the past six years. The odor is often described as a rotten egg smell or that of discharged fireworks. The odor is being produced from defective Chinese drywall that has unusually high levels of hydrogen sulphide and ammonia.

Defective Chinese Drywall/Sheetrock is beginning to be Part of a National Investigation, due to reported health issues and rapid corrosive damage to any metal in the home including electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC units. There has been a flood of law suits filed or pending and many more to follow.

Chinese drywall:
During the big housing boom in late 2003, a mass quantity of drywall was shipped to the US from China. Chinese drywall has been reported to have unusually high levels of hydrogen sulphide and ammonia that can cause health issues and rapid corrosive damage to any metal in the home including electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC units.

Any house built or remolded between 2003 to present.

According to Americas Watchdog, "we will find the imported toxic Chinese drywall in every US State, with the heaviest concentrations in the US Southeast, the Gulf States, the US Southwest, Texas, the Mountain West, the DC Metro areas & throughout the Western Provinces of Canada. We think there are at least 300,000 new US homes that contain the imported Chinese drywall, & probably 10,000 to 15,000 homes throughout the Western Provinces of Canada."

• Possible health issues for the Occupants of the home
• Rapid corrosion of the HVAC unit components

All copper tubing in unit has turned black as a result of being exposed to the high levels of hydrogen sulphide found in the drywall
• Rapid corrosive damage to electrical system

• Exposed ground wire corroded

• Rapid corrosive damage to copper plumbing systems

• Rotten egg or spent firecracker smell in the home

Words on the back of the drywall; “CHINA” in red ink or “KNAUF” in black ink, Stamp on the back of the edge tape; C36, if available.


Inspection Protocol:
Indicators we look for to determine if the house may have Chinese drywall:
• The house was built or remodeled between 2003 to present
• Rotten egg or sulfur-type smell in the home
• Corrosion on air conditioning coils, or HVAC units
• Corroded or black electrical wiring
• Corroded or black copper pipes
• Corroded or tarnished plumbing fixtures

If any of these symptoms are noticeable during the course of your visual inspection, if possible, look at the back of drywall possibly in the attic or garage. Look for the words; “CHINA” in red ink or “KNAUF” in black ink, also look for the Stamp on the back of the edge tape C36.
For more information go to;

More on Holly’s House tomorrow

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holly's House (Part 12)

For the most part Handymen and Home Inspectors are in a lot of brick homes that are framed with non-supporting brick cladding. The brick you see on the exterior of a brick/framed house offer no structural support, they only give you the feel of a brick house. During the era Holly’s House was built, it was common for brick houses to be constructed of solid masonry (no wood framing). In a solid masonry house the brick act as the main structural support. The bonds (brick pattern) you see was to inter lock the brick walls together to create a strong solid masonry wall. In this era of masonry, common brick (plain smooth red brick) where used on the exterior of the house on walls not visible from the street. On the exterior walls facing the street or streets, a face brick (decorative brick) was used, and usually in a more decorative pattern. On Holly’s House a common brick was used on the back and one side of the house in an American bond (common pattern). A real nice wood mold face brick laid in an Old English bond was used for the front and one side of the house. Other nice features on the face brick sides include brick arches and a round window.

Here are some pictures of the exterior brickwork:

Street Side

Bull's Eye Window


Side and Rear View

Back View

Common Brick With an Amercian Bond (on the left) Face Brick With an Old English Bond (on the right)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Holly's House (Part 11)

The ample sized patio in the backyard consist of large rectangular slate laid in a sand/dirt base. The large un-grouted joints have allowed water to seep under the slate and erode the sand and dirt fill, leaving the slate uneven. Slate laid in a sand/dirt base will shift and settle over time and since the joints are opened and not grouted there is nothing to stop the erosion under the slate.
On this project we will re-lay the slate in a dry-pack cement mix and damp-grout the joints. This will make the patio come to form. Maybe when we re-lay the slate the Boss will let us lay it in an Old English herring bone pattern or something.

The first project for the slate patio was to power wash the slate to see it’s true color. There are cleaning solutions for slate, and we will do that after it has been re-laid and grouted. But for now we will just power wash it without a solution and see what we have. When we power wash the slate we will use a nozzle setting of 1,500 to1,600 PSI. Higher PSI can cause slate to shale off some of its top layers.
Take a look at the color difference after the power wash.

View From Second Floor

Can You See Where the Pressure Washer Stops?

Big Difference!

Almost Finished

There will be more pictures of the landscape after April 15, that's when the plants and flowers are scheduled to arrive.
If you have any request for articles you would like me to post, please notify me via the comment section.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Holly" House (Part 10)

The Home Inspector's job is to identify and report major defects, safety concerns, and maintenance issues of the home he of she is inspecting. The Handyman's job is to make repairs, correct safety issues and perform the maintenance needed. When buying a home it is very important to have a good Home Inspector, Oh! But lets not forget a good Realtor to help you find that perfect house. After all is said and done and you move in to your new house a good Handyman can be your best friend.

To keep you up on Holly's house here is a list of work completed by our handyman:

Replaced broken gate hinge (Repairs)
Bleed all radiators (maintenance)
Repair Shut-off valve on radiator in the back bedroom (Repairs)
Cleaned and serviced boiler (maintenance)
Repaired two double tapped breakers in main electrical panel (safety)
Repaired earth ground in main electrical panel (safety)
Replaced bottom heating element in water-heater (Repairs)
Took apart the diverter valve in (Jack & Jill) bathroom and cleaned it to restore water flow in shower (maintenance)
Replaced shower head in (Jack & Jill) bathroom (Repairs)
Trace down the galvanized hot water supplies that need to be replaced (evaluation)
Clean out stopped up drain in the bathtub in the (Jack & Jill) bathroom (maintenance)
Repair water-pump in the fish pond (maintenance)

See you tomorrow with some outside work in progress.