Saturday, August 18, 2007

Still in the stone ages...

The stone mason just keeps on going! I estimate that he has laid about 70,000 pounds of stone on our house so far. I had a huge pile of stone before he started and that disappeared quickly. Now we have been digging it out of the ground again in an effort to keep up with him. I shove the dirt/shale/clay off the top of the layers of stone and pull the layers up with a backhoe. At that point we have lots of methods for "squaring it up." By far, the quickest method is using the hydraulic rock biter that we built. But some of the rocks are too thick for the rock biter, or too big to lift on to the table. For those stones, we either 1. hit them repeatedly along an imaginary line with a carbide tipped maul that the stone mason has loaned us, 2. hit them in a line with a chisel and hammer, or 3. score them with the gas powered chop saw and then split them with chisels driven into the cuts. Disadvantages of using the chopsaw are dust, noise, gasoline, and wear-and-tear on the $200+ diamond blade (although we've yet to come close to using up the blade). Plus, we have to "pitch face" the stones to remove the saw marks. The advantage of using the chop saw method is that it breaks exactly where you want it, which is important for some of the stones that have to be of an exact dimension.

In short, where there's a stone, there's a method for making it square! The last step in preparing the stones is to pressure wash the shale and clay off of them. I'm using a solar powered water pump to get water from our pond to the (gas powered) pressure washer. When a cloud passes over, the pressure drops... other than that, it's a pretty nice setup. I was worried that the iron deposits on the stones might run down the face of our walls when it rained, but that doesn't seem to be happening. I have found only two tiny places where rust streaks have appeared on our walls in the last few months... and those streaks are coming from gray metallic inclusions in the stones, not from the orange iron on the stone. Mr. G says he thinks it is a form of soft pyrite that will weather out.

For the back door to our kitchen, I tried pitch facing thick bluish colored stones (same color as the window sills) and asked the stone mason to work them in around the door opening. I really like how it turned out. It is subtle, but the stones around the door opening are more deliberately worked and laid than the other stones in the wall. I am going to try this effect on the main tower on the front of the house.

At my request, the stone mason also built a step for us directly into the 8" thick wall, just below the kitchen door. The step is made of 12" deep blue stone and juts out 4" from the wall. By the way, the kitchen door is the first piece of fake wood in our house. The budget is getting tight, and we rationalized that it might be wise to use an insulated fiberglass-faced door on the west side of the house. When the brutal evening sun is beating down on it, the outside of the door feels hot enough to cook an egg, while the inside of the door feels relatively cool. Sorry, I am rationalizing... in reality I hate fake wood, but there you have it!

I'll be outside today preparing more stone for the mason. He needs some 135 degree corners to go around the main tower at the front of the house. I also have a lot of blue stone to cut and face, since we are capping most of these walls at 5'6" with blue stone and going on up from there with some TBD shade stucco. All of this stone work (and a broken digital camera) is bogging my blogging!


Anonymous Jim K in PA said...

Hey Thomas,

Summer is almost gone, and I am finally getting back into the groove with my house project. Your stone work looks fantastic.

BTW, I am months behind in updates to my web site, so make no apologies for taking time off from your blog.

I wish I could have made it to the SRCA conference. I hope one happens in '08, but if not, then I'll make the one in '09. June and July saw broken bones for my son and my wife, and too many other distractions.

Keep the faith.

Jim Korczak

August 28, 2007 at 1:05 PM  

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