Masonry

How To Install Foundation Vents

Water is one of the most destructive things to your home. While most homes are built and protected to deal with water on the outside of the home, water and moisture inside the home can become trapped. Most older homes have air holes and cracks that allow some of the moisture to evaporate. But, many newer homes are so well insulated that they’re pretty much air tight and there’s no air circulating to dry up moisture or water.

One way to help keep moisture out of your home is by installing vents in the foundation. Your home needs to be able to breather to stay healthy! Around seven to ten gallons of moisture is generated each day inside your home. While moisture can cause rotting and mildew, trapped moisture becomes laden with vapors that can be harmful to your health.

A lot of emphasis is being placed on insulating homes to reduce energy costs. It is true that adding vents to your homes foundation will slightly increase your heating bills. But, it can help prevent costly repairs for moisture damaged wood and also keep your family healthy by reducing mold and mildew.

Moisture gathers inside the home from numerous sources including taking showers, washing clothes and cooking. It can create odors, condensation that forms on windows during cold weather and stale unhealthy air in general.

If your home has a block foundation, you might think that it’s too late to install vents. But, you can easily install vents even into an existing foundation. The general rule for installing vents is to add a one foot square vent for each 150 square feet of your homes floor space. But, if the crawl space has a dirt floor, or if you live in an area that is shaded by lot’s of trees, you might want to add a few extra for more aeration.

Once you’ve purchased your vents, measure and mark each place on the foundation that you want to add a vent. With a drill and a masonry bit, drill holes close together all along the outline. Be sure to wear safety goggles, the drill will throw bits of masonry into the air.

Take a cold chisel and a hammer and go along the drilled holes to break up and remove the masonry. You want the hole to be as smooth as possible, so once all of the block is removed, use the chisel to chip off any rough edges that remain sticking up. It may take awhile to get it smooth enough for the vent to easily slide into the opening.

You can test the edges by sliding the vent into place to make sure it has a good fit. After you’ve got the hole ready for the vent, use a small trowel and place cement all the way around the inside of the opening. Place the vent into the cement bed and finish up the seal with a coating of cement on the outside surface around the edges.

When you apply cement around the outside of the vent, be careful to not fill the fins on the vent and clog them up. The best type of vents to use are the ones that have adjustable fins. With adjustable fins you can have the option of opening the vents more or less depending on the weather. Open them more if you’re experiencing a rainy spring and then adjust them if you’re having a dry summer.

How To Apply Stone To Your Fireplace

You don’t have to have a lot of experience have a beautiful stone fireplace. You can purchase handcrafted stones at most home centers, or you can have some fun a collect your own natural stones. If you have areas close to your home to look for stones, choose the flattest ones that you can find.

Stone can easily be applied to any bare fireplace surface without any preparation. However, if the surface of your fireplace has been painted, you’ll need to install metal lath. Metal lath is basically a wire grid that will give the mortar something to cling to and give it more support.

Use a drill to make pilot holes about one inch deep approximately one foot apart over the entire surface. The metal lath can just be nailed into place with masonry nails. The nails should be at least 1 1/4″ long. And, you’ll have to use washers on each nail, make sure the washers are large enough to cover one of the square grids in the lath so it won’t just fall off!

If the surface of your fireplace is metal or has any metal on it, use some self tapping screws to hold the lath in place. If you’re covering the chimney on the outside of your home with stone, apply some #30 building felt or either unperforated house wrapping over any exposed wood areas. Then attach the metal lath to the surface.

To prepare a drywall or plywood surface for stone, just secure the metal lath into the wall studs with drywall screws and washers. Although it might not look like it, metal lath does have a right side. You can distinguish the correct side by tiny cups that point up, always apply the lath right side up.

Using pre-packaged mortar isn’t a good idea, you should always mix your own for a project like this. You can use either type “S” or type “N” mortar, mix two parts of the mortar with one part of sand. Add just enough water to the mixture to get a consistency that you can work with.

Apply the mortar to the wall with a large trowel and spread it until it’s approximately 1/2″ to 3/4″ of an inch thick. If your stones are slightly thick, you might want to go with the thicker layer of mortar to help hold them in place better.

It’s best if you can lay the stones out on the floor and arrange them before you start attaching them to the fireplace. By doing this you can get an idea of how it’s going to look. But, you can also see if you need to tap some of the edges off the stones or even how you want the different colored stones laid out.

The corner stones should be installed first. The rest of the stones can be installed by either starting from the bottom and working your way up or from the top and working your way down. You need to get the stones as uniform and close together as you can.

As you add each stone, use the trowel to apply about a 1/2″ thick layer to the back of the stone. As you press the stone into place, gently wiggle it around to get the proper bond. The mortar that you applied to the back of the stone should squeeze out and surround all sides of the stone.

After you’ve gotten all of your stones in place, you can use a metal or wood striking tool to remove any excess mortar from around the stones. You will need to make sure that all of the joints are sealed with mortar, you can use a small putty knife to push the excess mortar over into the joints.

The next step is to clean the mortar off all of your stones. You can use a wire brush to remove any of the loose mortar that has gotten on the surface of the stones. Just make sure you do this step before the mortar dries, once it’s dried you’re not going to be able to get it off of the stones and it will ruin the look of your fireplace.

After you’ve gotten all of the mortar off of the stones, brush the joints with a small whisk broom or other brush. This is to remove even more of the excess mortar, but you can also use the brush to sweep the mortar in the joints to smooth it out. Applying a masonry sealer to the stones is optional. But, it will make the surface much easier to clean.

If you’d like to apply stone to your exterior chimney, just follow the same steps as you would for a fireplace. These same steps can be used to apply stone around the bottom of a porch to give it a special look!

How To Build Brick Planters In Your Yard

Unlike regular planters, brick planters can literally last for years. They will also compliment your landscaping and will add to the decor of the exterior of your home, especially if it’s brick!

You don’t have to be an expert mason to build your own planters from brick. In fact some slight imperfections can even add to the character of your brick planters!

Bricks need a solid foundation for support. Rain, melting snow and other elements will loosen the soil and cause the bricks to sink down into the dirt. Aside from looking bad, this can cause them to crack and even fall.

Anything built with brick will turn out better and last longer if it’s built on top of a concrete slab. The concrete will give the brick support and keep them from sinking into the dirt.

Decide how big you want the planter to be and where you want it to be. Then dig a hole in the shape and size that the planter is going to be. If you want the bottom of the planter flush with the ground, dig down about 4 inches.

Using 2X4′s make a frame that will fit inside the hole and fit up against the walls of the dirt. Fill the hole with ready mix cement and allow it to dry approximately 48 hours. You should cover the hole with a piece of plastic to keep rain and other debris from falling into the cement.

After the cement has dried thoroughly, you can now begin to build your walls. You’ll need to mix the mortar by following the manufacturers directions on the specific type of mortar that you purchased.

Place about an inch of mortar underneath the first row of bricks. As you lay each brick onto the foundation, use the end of your trowel handle to tap the brick down into the mortar.

You’ll need to leave enough space between each brick to apply about a half of an inch of mortar to hole them into place. Once you’ve gotten your first row done, keep laying rows of bricks until you get the planter to the height that you want it to be.

Another way to protect your brick planter from rain and other elements is to add weep holes. Weep holes are just areas between the bricks that will allow water to drain and they’re very important with planters.

The planter will be secured to the cement foundation, then they will be secured to each other with the mortar. The planter will be fairly tightly sealed and there won’t be anyway for excess water to drain.

A really good thunderstorm could fill the planter with water and wash your flowers and dirt out! Installing weep holes will prevent this from happening and your soil and flowers will stay where they’re suppose to be!

It’s really easy to add weep holes to the planter walls. You can either use nylon rope or purchase some small plastic tubes. You will want to add them on top of the first layer of bricks that you lay.

Just cut the pieces of rope or plastic pipe and lay them across the bricks before laying the second row. You can use your best judgment on how many to use depending on the size of your planter.

After you’ve gotten your brick planter finished, let it dry for at least 48 hours. Then fill it full of soil, plant your flowers and stand back and enjoy you handy work!

How to Build A Backyard Barbecue Grill Out of Brick

A brick barbecue grill will give you years of enjoyment and delicious meals! It will be a favorite place for friends and family to gather for a casual event or a special occasion. You can build your own barbecue and save money on hiring a mason.

Draw out a rough draft of how you want the barbecue grill to look and decide on a size. A sales person at the brick yard or home improvement store will be able to help you with how many bricks you’ll need. You can also make sure that you could return any that you don’t need.

A project like this made from brick is going to be very heavy, it will need a good solid foundation to keep it from sinking into the dirt. Dig a hole the same size that you want your grill to be that is about 4 inches deep.

If the ground isn’t completely level and it’s most likely that it’s not, you’ll need to dig the hole deeper on one side to level it. Just dig out a little at a time and check it until you get a level area.

Use some 2X6 boards to build a frame that will fit around the inside edge of the hole. Rebar is pieces of metal rods that is used to give the concrete extra support, it’s better if you use this in your foundation.

Once you’ve gotten the wooden frame around the hole, use a level to make sure that the boards are even. Mix your concrete according to the directions on the bag. Using pre-mixed concrete will make the job a lot easier, you won’t need sand or gravel, you’ll just need water!

Pour the concrete into the hole until it’s about half full. Then place the pieces of rebar on top of the cement and cover them the rest of the way up to the top of the wooden frame.

You will need a trowel to smooth the concrete out so that you have a nice flat, level finish. Once you’ve gotten the cement in the hole, let it dry for 48 hours before you start building the grill.

You will need to buy all of the accessories for your grill before you start building. Purchase your fire pan and the grills ahead of time so that you’ll have them to use for measurements.

The best height for the grills is around 30 inches from the ground, of course this will depend on how tall you are. The ideal place for the firebox is approximately 5 inches below the cooking grills.

After your foundation is completely set up, place one or two rows of  bricks around it to see how you’ll need to lay the brick out. Move them around until you get the right design and then mark them with a pencil so you’ll have a guide to go by.

Hot, dry bricks will actually draw the water out of the cement and make it dry before it’s had time to properly set. You should spray them with a water hose to make sure that they’re all wet. You can do this the day before you plan to start, or you can do this an hour or so before you start building.

Mix the mortar according to the directions on the specific brand that you purchased. The first row of bricks should sit on a layer of mortar approximately an inch thick. You can use a trowel to spread the mortar out onto the concrete following the guide that you drew, keep the mortar inside the line.

You will also need to apply 1/2 inch of mortar in between the bricks. Check the bricks often to make sure that they’re level and continue all the way around the guide until you have the first layer completed.

Continue building the walls, applying 1/2 inches of mortar between each layer. Each time you place a brick onto the mortar, tap it with the end of your trowel to set it into the mortar.

After you’ve completed a couple of rows, you will need to smooth the mortar at the joints. You can use a small piece of metal pipe to run over the joints to remove any excess mortar.

Make sure to also check the height of your wall ever so often. You don’t want to get several rows of brick laid and find out that you’ve went past the height where you need to insert your fire box and grills.

When you get the grill built up to the height that you want your fire box and cooking grills, place three rebars from the front to the back of the grill. Place them close together, just covering the width that you need to insert them.

Try to choose a design that won’t need a lot of cuts in the bricks. But, no matter what design you choose there will be some bricks that need to be cut. You can use a broad bladed chisel and a hammer to cut the bricks.

Measure where you need the brick cut and score all the way around it, the give it a sharp hit with the hammer and it should snap apart. You can rent a brick splitter and you can even purchase a saw blade for cutting bricks if you’d prefer.

Keep adding the layers of bricks until you get it to the correct height that you desire. Then let the mortar completely dry and set before firing it up and making a delicious grilled meal!

A Guide to Buying Brick and Stone

Both brick and stone are high quality and low maintenance materials that can be used to build pathways and walls. It does not matter if you are doing the project, using brick and stone, yourself or hiring a professional to do the job, you have to make sure that you are buying the right materials for that specific job. (more…)

The Application of Brick and Concrete Sealer

To give your masonry a great look at protect it from the elements you should use masonry sealer. There are several different types of sealer that you can use and once you choose the correct one you have to apply it correctly in order to get the best results. For a guide to finding the right sealer you can read Using Sealer to Prolong Your Brick and Concrete. The most important thing is to follow the directions that are on the sealer. (more…)

Using Sealer to Prolong Your Brick and Concrete

You may not think that water cannot damage brick, stone, or concrete, but if these things are constantly exposed to water they can break down these surfaces. It is even the case, especially when water freezes and then thaws, that these surfaces can become damaged quite quickly. The best thing to do is to seal the surface of the masonry to protect it from water damage. There are quite a few types of sealers that are made just for this purpose. These sealers are easy to apply, the application does not take a lot of time, and you do not need any special equipment. (more…)

Before you Waterproof your Basement repair Holes and Cracks in the Walls

It is very important the before you waterproof your basement that you should repair holes and cracks. By repairing holes and cracks in your basement you can ensure that when you waterproof your basement that it will keep out all the water. (more…)