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Pleasant Surprises on Culvert Street

Posted on: March 15th, 2018 No Comments

By Darren Tracy.

We bring you the third and fourth installments of Darren Tracy’s blog from the fall as he and his team worked to stabilize the Dr. Ferguson Office in Glens Falls.  We look forward to more progress and updates from Darren and his team when we can see the ground again! ~AARCH

Blog #3 | 11.16.17

We are continuing with stabilizing the structure and have started to rebuild the exterior brick masonry walls that had caved in.  We are salvaging and reusing existing brick as much as possible.

The existing brick are a non-standard length.  They are on average 7 ¾” long.  Older brick are often a full 8” long and called common brick.  Most new brick are 7 5/8” long and called modular brick.  Newer modular brick are popular because with a 3/8” mortar joint, the length of one brick and one mortar joint is 8”, which is handy dimension with which to build.

There used to be many brick manufacturers in New York State, but now I think there are none.  One of the last manufacturers was Powell and Minnock in Coeymans.  You can recognize their bricks because they is a large P&M formed on one face of the brick.  I was fortunate enough to visit that plant to pick up bricks for a project and see the operation before it closed in 2001,

In the photo below you may notice that the mortar is white instead of a common gray color.  This is because we are trying to match the color of the existing mortar and requires the use of white Portland Cement instead of standard Portland Cement which is typically gray.  As a side note, cement is manufactured a short distance away from 5 Culvert Street at the Lehigh Northeast Cement Company operation, the oldest continuously operated cement manufacturer in NYS, operating since 1898.

Our recipe is 1 part Portland, 1 part Lime and 6 parts washed sand, which is classified as a Type N mix.  Type N is a medium compressive strength mix (750 psi) as compared to Type S (1800 psi) which is commonly used in new construction.  There are generally 4 accepted types of mortar ranging in strength from high to low – M, S, N, O.  Why use a lower compressive strength mortar?  The short answer is that it flexes better than higher compressive strength mortar, tending not to damage the older adjacent brick.  There are other factors too including the self-healing effect of high lime concentration mixes. There is much interesting information regarding the history of mortars, but that discussion would be too lengthy for this blog and I need to get back to work and actually use the product.

The existing bricks are painted and some of the salvaged bricks are not.  Once the mortar is cleaned, I think the match will be satisfactory, although not perfect.  It is not a perfect world.  We all can only do the best we can.  That has to be enough.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving.  We have much to be thankful for, especially compared to most people in the world.

Blog #4 | 12.13.17

Work continues on the Dr. Ferguson’s Tiny House on Culvert Street, although it is slowing down for the season. Darkness arrives too early on these late fall days, which makes it challenging to complete exterior work. The lack of daylight didn’t bother me as much when I was younger. As a lad, nightfall in the winter marked the time my Dad got home from his job at the factory, to which I looked forward enthusiastically. Our small community of a few hundred people in northern NY had an outdoor ice rink with lights, so nighttime meant hockey under the lights and winter was fun. Not so much now, as the temperature is in the teens and dropping and the wind whipping as I write this blog.

Temporary vertical roof supports were installed on top of the newly repaired masonry walls. The rafters were in worse shape than anticipated and it is likely that a complete roof collapse and subsequent wall damage would have occurred had this building been left unattended for one more winter.

After weeks of work removing debris, I was pleasantly surprised to find a concrete basement floor and tall massive stone foundation walls in incredibly good shape. I was expecting a dirt floor with a crawl space, or if a lucky, a short basement which would require a hunched posture to navigate. We hit the jackpot with these 8’ walls. With the help of a subcontractor, the first floor was framed as you can see in the photo below.

To catch up on installments 1 & 2 click HERE.

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