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What has happened this week at The Grange?

August 18th, 2010

Chimney Repairs

The first task that has been undertaken are the repairs to the chimneys. At least two chimneys will have to be taken down to roof level and be rebuilt. As much as possible, we are keeping the original brick. When we have to use new brick, we have matched it to the old and will integrate the new with the original so that it will blend in. The chimney flues are clay and appear to be in good condition. Most of them will be sealed as they are not in use and, being open, effect the humidity and temperature in The Grange. The hearth and bake oven chimney will remain open for use. We are using lime mortar (hydraulic lime mixed with sand) for the joints. A test sample was done to determine colour match and mortaring technique.

Our Heritage Contractor—Heritage Restoration Inc.

I asked co-owner Alfred Huntley how he got into heritage restoration work. Here is his reply:

“When I was twelve years old, my Father took my brother Bruce and myself to Centre Island to work with him tearing down a 250 foot smoke stack, we were hooked after that. We spent two weeks on the island while my dad and his crew tore the stack down and we had the run of the island. Every summer past that, he would take us to the cool jobs and that is when we started to learn about brick laying, tuckpointing and painting, he taught us about rigging, swing stages and how to set up scaffolding.

“In my Fathers era, his job was called a steeplejack, a term that has since been lost to restoration technician. My brother Bruce and I have since taken the business over making us the third generation running the company and Bruce’s son Chris is now in the field as a project co-ordinator making him the fourth generation.
Both Bruce and I have had several opportunities to work at other jobs but we stay in this field because we have a passion that runs deep in both of us to carry on in the trade which is our family business.

“Heritage Restoration was my father’s company that he started in 1968 and we at the time thought the name sounded odd but he told us that it was his heritage as his father had run his company as Huntley Steeplejack and Chimney Service, it’s in our blood and the knowledge of the two previous generations that has been passed onto us is priceless.”

Along with specializing in all branches of heritage restoration, stone, masonry, wood, glass, slate and copper work, Heritage Restoration has a history of restoring and maintaining water towers.

A Heritage Construction Moment

It’s important to understand that masonry in historic buildings is very different than modern buildings in several key ways:

  • Historic brick is softer than modern brick because modern brick is fired at a much higher temperature than was possible in the past.
  • Portland cement is used in most modern buildings–but it wasn’t even available until 1871 long after The Grange was built.
  • Historic masonry buildings were designed to absorb water and then release it, as opposed to modern building technology, which emphasizes waterproofing.

Quite often, and this is true of some of the mortar in The Grange, portland cement mortar has been used instead of historic lime mortar. Portland cement is quick-setting, inexpensive, and strong. However, it can do a lot of damage to a historic building that was originally pointed with lime mortar. Portland cement is generally more rigid and less permeable than the historic brick, and will cause damage to the brick during the natural cycle of expansion and contraction. Lime mortar, on the other hand, is more accommodating, and its lower compressive strength allows the brick to expand and contract without being damaged. This also means that the mortar will deteriorate but the brick will not—a much easier repair. Lime mortar also allows water to pass in and out of the joints, which means that water does not get trapped in the brick or the stone. Portland cement mortars are unable to wick water out of the walls, so water gets trapped and instead escapes through the historic stone or brick. This damages the bricks as the water pressure builds up in the masonry until the face of the brick or the stone pops off (spalling), exposing the inside of the brick and making it more vulnerable to continued deterioration.

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