Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bricking up the superfluous livingroom door

OK, last post for the day, then we go play *house*

The living room (which used to be the old kitchen) has two exterior doors. The intention was to be able to have external access to the second and third floors so that the house could be rented out as a two-unit. Since we are making this a single family home once again, we just don't need a fourth door on the first floor, nor two doors in a modest sized living room.

OK, now the funny *look what the previous owners did* moment:

The original kitchen, awful as it was, was in the rear (North) of the house. The kitchen sink and cabinets were seated on the East and North walls.

In the picture above, what you're looking at is the Northeast corner. The exterior East wall.

Guess what's on the other side of this wall.

I'm betting you didn't guess an exterior door and window, but there it is.

Yes, the old owners just drywalled straight over top of the door and window, stuffed the space with crappy insulation and left it that way.

With the broken window, you could reach in and pull out the insulation. That also is how the stray cat got in to claim this house as his own before we fixed that. (the hole, not the cat.)

It's also where some of the rain came in.

I rarely say things like this, but what a freaking %$#@*& moron.

Whew. OK, now that THAT is off of my chest, back to bricking up the door you see in the image above.

It was nailed shut. One nail. Freaking %$#@*&.... no... no, stay focused.

We had already purchased a new sill from Tate Building Supply in Erlanger, Ky. It was cut to spec and cost about $60. It took a day for them to cut it. Nice work, fellas. :-)

I knocked the door out, DH pried off the transom (anyone need one?) and removed all of the excess trim. We measured the height of the new window sill from the window closest to it, measuring down from the top of the frame to the edge of the existing sill and marked this height (from the top of the doorway frame) down. This is where we cut the door frame off.

Then to get a level line, we used a string and a line level to set the first course of bricks over the existing door steps. (We decided it would be easier just to keep them than remove them and open a whole new can of worms.) The top step was really worn, and in order to keep with the existing g level of bricks, the first course had to be half-height. So with our trusty brick hammer and brick chisel, we scored each brick all the way around lengthwise, then wonked on the brick to cut it in half. This worked about half the time, laying waste the remaining bricks in a pile of devastated rubble.

The cement mortar mixture was about a 2-1 ratio of cement to coarse sand with a bit of lime, and since we were using the old bricks from the fireplace, old bricks are VERY moisture absorbing. The first mixture I made was far too dry. It needed to be the consistency of melted milkshake, and I needed to move fast. Once set in place, the bricks wicked off all of the mixture within about 40 seconds. This means that you dry fit everything, measured for plumb and level, and moved quickly or you were scraping mortar off of a lot of bricks to start over. I did that a lot at first, but I really wanted the new bricks to match up to the existing bricks on the exterior.

Once the first course was down over the steps (the half-height course) then the remainder just needed to be level, and using approximately the same height of mortar as the existing wall.

It took a lot longer than I expected it would. After finishing the first side, we called it a day. I finished up the inside wall (who cares what THAT looked like anyway) the following day.

The inside run went a lot quicker, since it didn't need to be visually attractive as it would be covered with foam insulation, drywall, etc. We'd never see it. The one important key here is that we did need to have a small gap between the two walls for wicking air and moisture away from the the historic bricks (just like the other walls were built). Cementing them together would have just caused problems. I gave it about a 1/2" gap between the walls.

Once we had the inside run, we needed to connect the two walls with a course of bricks turned 90* to add strength. We matched this run with the existing run along the house.

Once the perpendicular course was in place, we were ready to insert the sill and give the whole thing a dry fit.

We planned for a 10-15 degree tilt towards the outside for rain runoff and gave ourselves a 1/4" of mortar to seal it in. We didn't want to set it on the uncured brick wall, so we decided we'd set it in place on the third day.

The next day, we returned to the site to set the sill in place. We thought this would be the easiest part.


We needed to make several little cuts to the brick in order to fit the sill in place correctly, as the sill is about 2" wider than the actual opening for the window. Four bricks (two on the exterior and two on the interior) needed to have just the corners cut out. Hubby went to work on the cuts with the grinder. Like butter, I tell ya.

At first I was trying to use the brick hammer and the chisel to cut the bricks but it just knocked out a few bricks I didn't want to knock out and caused havoc on the rest.

Anyway, the grinder worked like a charm, the cuts were nice and even, and the sill fit in beautifully. We layered in a big glop of milkshake mortar and slid the sill in place.

There were still small gaps underneath the limestone sill, which we just pushed the mortar underneath with our fingers until it was packed in. (Note from DH: latex gloves are cheap by the box and they really save the hands from caustic lime and abrasive sand, brick, and stone).

Then we set the rest of the cut bricks on top of the sill at the corners, then set the OSB plank in behind and secured it in place until the new windows arrive.

Not too bad, and should look just fine once it's painted, which is also coming along nicely... but that's another post and I've reached my daily limit.



Stop by later to see a better "after" shot. We'll add it to this post.

Also, DH thought we should try to pad the budget, (becasuse we NEED it!) so we're entering this post in a contest at, so here goes the gratuitous plug so everyone else can play, too: “This post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value.”

That was easy enough. Heck, the easiest project all week!


Stephanie said...

I can't believe that your previous owners did that! Boneheads! But the new brick looks GREAT! :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Yeah, 'bonehead' really does describe the thought process that must've been implemented in that massive blunder. It's just so incredibly dumb.

Anyway, we're currently recreating the 1" brick moulding that surrounds the other windows on the house for these lower windows (somehow they disappeared over the years) and will make a post (with pictures) as soon as we get a little closer to finishing up.