Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I admit it. I'm a sucker for masonry and exposed brickwork of any kind. When we started demolishing the 1950's finishing of our attic and found the brick chimney to be in relatively decent shape (on one side anyway) we got excited about the possibility of including that in the final design space. Then we saw uncovered more and saw how bad it had become, especially when it started swaying during the dormer construction.
Since we needed to get the chimney extensively repaired anyway, we decided to replace the mortar all the way up and down instead of just in the damaged areas. It was about twice as much space so it wasn't too much of a problem. Instead of taking the DIY route on this one though, we decided to bring in the contractors that did the dormer expansion as they had some masonry expertise. They came over one Saturday afternoon and re-tuckpointed three sides of the chimney, and boy what a difference that made!
There was only one thing left to do. See if the old brickwork would clean up to an acceptable level of presentation after water had trickled years worth of filth down the sides for god only knows how long. I wanted to try some eco-friendly cleaner on the brick, but Menards didn't have any and really wanted to do it that day, so I went with the old standby: muriatic acid. Which, basically, is hydrochloric acid.
Taking great care to cover all skin (and wear goggles), I mixed 1 part acid to 4 parts water, grabbed a steel brush and a nylon brush and scraped and cleaned off one wall of the brick chimney. We wanted to at least have this one wall exposed as it will be the back wall of a niche right at the top of the stairs off the hallway. I planned to install a recessed light to highlight the brickwork and an eventual piece of artwork, so I was really hoping this would pull through.
It began questionably at first, but I soon discovered that a first pass with the steel brush/acid mixture removed a lot of the excess mortar and heavier deposits. A second pass with the nylon brush cleaned up any residue, and after a day of drying, I couldn't believe I was looking at the same wall. It looked amazing! I went about framing a soffit and installing a recessed can and when I flipped the switch, the results were impressive. And that's without drywall on the top and sides of the niche!
Now it's on to the other two sides of the brick chimney that will be exposed in the bathroom (the fourth side will be covered by a space reserved for ductwork). If only there was more brick to expose!
Thursday, November 02, 2006
We like Halloween. Did you know that? We do. A LOT. When Jason went to the block coffee meetup this past summer, neighbors identified him to each other as the owner of the Halloween House (here's a scary postscript: most thought our house was vacant). But yes, it's becoming a tradition - deck out the house, get friends to come over, and spend the evening terrifying kids (AND their parents). In a good way.
This year, Mark and Amy, or rather, Malcolm the Zombie Boy and Countess Amelia Who Vants to Suck Your Blood, joined Jason's Grim Reaper and my own stupid (yet scary) invention, Evil Zombie Chef-Servant, in giving the kiddies nightmares. We made some children run so far from their parents that the foulest language was shouted in the street, and one kid even chucked his candy bag into our "cemetary" in his hurry to get away - and then wouldn't come back for it. The best, though, is a tie between the shattered flower pot and the litter of costume parts left on our lawn.
TOP 10 THINGS HEARD AT HUMPHREY HOUSE THIS HALLOWEEN
1. "Now, Malcolm, don't get excited ... that's it, take him back to the cage!"
2. "Please don't scare my baby!"
3. "Oh HELL no!"
4. "That thing is your PET?"
5. "Oh SNAP!"
7. "No, my god, you people ain't right."
8. "I ain't afraid of you. You don't scare me. You're not -AAAAAAAAAGH!"
9. "It's okay honey, really, see, you can take the candy, c'mon honey, it's okay ..."
AND THE SWEETEST COMMENT HEARD THIS YEAR ...
10. "I ain't never coming to you scary people's house ever again!"
Thanks guys, we really couldn't have done it without you.