Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Your Old House: Masonry Repairs

I am a little delinquent in writing up my impressions of the April 27 “Your Old House” workshop, featuring Marty Naber of Naberhood Restorations. My tardiness is in no way a reflection of my enjoyment of the workshop – it was a very informative session, and I learned a lot!

Marty Naber has been spending the past week on the roof of our headquarters building, the historic Hoyt-Potter house in Corn Hill, where he is faithfully reconstructing our chimneys. Some masons do not particularly enjoy working on chimneys, steeples, or other locations high in the air, but Marty and his team thrive on it! Chimney restoration is his favorite type of masonry project.

Most homeowners will not (and should not!) attempt to restore their own chimneys, so the portions of Marty’s talk devoted to his work with chimneys were not so much about hands-on projects that homeowners should attack themselves, as about what a contractor should be doing. For example, Marty mentioned that most homeowners do not go on their own roofs, cannot see all sides of their chimney, and may have no idea that there is a problem with their chimney until a roofer mentions it. In that situation, ideally, the chimney should be repaired first, followed by the roof, but in reality, roofers will often finish their project first, then tell the homeowner, “by the way, you need your chimney rebuilt.” Marty’s team can deal with this sequence, but he said it is much better to do it the other way around. Marty showed illustrations of the right and wrong ways to repair chimneys, some of the most common types of repairs his company makes, and explained why these repairs are necessary.

In addition to their chimney work, Marty’s company does stucco and cobblestone repairs the old-fashioned way (with results virtually indistinguishable from the original work), and repairs brick and stone walkways, steps, and so on. His presentation showed fine illustrations of all of these types of projects.

Our workshop participants (including myself) came prepared with questions about their particular masonry dilemmas, and we discovered that our group included people with early-19thth century. century houses all the way up through the early-20 I was glad to find out that the discoloration on my stucco house, which initially really bothered me when I bought my house but which I’ve since come to appreciate as a “patina,” can be cleaned if I want to do so but is a normal and harmless phenomenon. I was also surprised to find out that Marty is not opposed to all masonry sealants; he said there are some one-way sealers that form a barrier while allowing the masonry to breathe, and under certain conditions, these products can be helpful. (That said, I wouldn’t advise anyone to experiment with these unless you know what you’re doing!)

We warmly thank Marty for his presentation, and for his careful work on our historic building!

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services