Bathtub Arch

Brick hollowing

On the near side of the planter is a tall marble pillar in the center of the bathroom. Between the vent pipe and the marble pillar I have just barely enough space to do the arch of bricks that I wanted to do. But there isn’t enough space for the bricks. The solution was we hollowed out the first few bricks so they enclosed the marble and pipe.

Bathtub arch rising

The result looks very natural. In addition to hollowing the first few bricks I made the bricks on the marble pillar end shorter to match the width of the pillar. Interestingly, one doesn’t notice that at all in the final arch. This is due to a bit of perspective trickery and the fact that it is a small room so you see things in parts up close rather than all at once from a distance. An interesting effect.

The arch form is sitting on supports which include wooden shims. The shims are important because when the arch is completed I pull those to drop the form downward leaving the bricks in place. This avoids cracking the setting mortar.

Holly cutting arch keystone

Like with the dog house arch we used a natural stone for the key at the top. We have, literally, tons of stones that are either exactly the right shape or close to it.

Cut Keystone ready to place

This particularly pretty yellow quartz was perfect after Holly nipped the bottom off with diamond blade on the table saw.

Keystoned shimmed in place

The top of the keystone will be embedded in the bathroom ceiling which is also the floor of the utility room above. The bathtub arch divides the span of the ceiling making it stronger. I will be putting a lot of weight up there in the form of water storage tanks, the water heater and the coral reef aquarium refungium which will actually be larger than the tank which divides the bathroom from the bedroom.

Holly cleaning bricks before form removal

We began cleaning mortar off the bricks prior to dropping the arch form – remember those shims!

Bathroom vent pipe & arch crown

One trick I found with the arches is to stabilize them with a ridge, a crown of concrete, over the top of them. I use accellerant in the concrete (Calcium Nitrate) to make it cure faster so that by the time I’m ready to pull the form the arch is that much stronger. This crown is then embedded into the wall that rises above the arch. I worry about breaking the mortar on an arch while it is still green yet I need to pull the form as soon as possible to clean the brick work of stray mortar to prevent staining. The crown is my simple solution and it seems to have worked every time – I’m up to five brick arches now without a single break.

Arch form removed

Once the form was out of the way we were able to literally scrub the bathroom (arch) with a toothbrush to clean it. Sounds like something Sarge would make Beetle Bailey do in the comics.

Dirty bricks to be cleaned vs a clean patch below

We started cleaning with just water but then I discovered that the Muric Acid (HCL) does a far faster and better job, especially when combined with a followup of a metal bristle brush. It doesn’t bother the granite or bricks at all yet it quickly and easily removes the cement. Just be sure to wear a full face mask, gloves and heavy shirt. It also is a good idea to wash the arch with water regularly while cleaning.

Bathroom tub arch

Finally the bricks are clean! Holly says she just can’t stop admiring my arches. Gee…

Bottle wall and arch front

A front view of the resulting wall. The odd angles make the construction a bit more challenging, thus part of the reason we’ve been cutting so many bricks. The central marble pillar is square to the room but the partition is at a thirty degree angle to it. Thus each pillar brick and the first three bricks of the arch needed a nick out of them to fit neatly to the pillar.

The arch starts at 5″ brick lengths on the west and goes to full brick lengths by the time it gets to the top of the arc. By doing that I achieve an illusion that the space is larger than it really is, we avoid catching our heads or shoulders on protruding bricks and the partition is thinner thus occupying less space. Doing that took a bit more calculations and time but the effect is well worth it and I’ll only do it once – now it is done.

In addition to dividing the tub from the toilet, this partition also is the wall of the tub at the bottom, contains a bottle wall like we tested on the dog house. This bottle wall is much more elaborate and includes two beautiful blue bottles and a square brown bottle set sideways to show the design. When the sun comes through the wall in the afternoon it is spectacular.

Bottle wall and arch back

The bottle section of the wall is framed with two thin pieces of grey granite to match the granite window sill. We made all the concrete for the walls with white portland cement which will lighten in about a month to the color of the marble. The bathroom is our darkest room so having bright walls and white marble will help brighten it up. The lower areas that are prone to dirt will be darker stone and concrete to make cleaning easier.

Above the upper slab is a granite planter where I plan to grow ferns, spiders and other moisture loving plants. The sides of the planter are where I split my lip the other day. All healed up now and no permanent damage to the granite.

The brick arch that has been occupying so much time and thought rises up over the planter allowing for air circulation as well as the passage of light into the bathing area and beyond to the sink. The brick we went with comes from Vermont Brick in Highgate, Vermont. I used paver bricks. They are extra hard and dense making them a good choice as they will be exposed to a lot of water from the shower.

Outdoors: 57°F/25°F Mostly cloudy, 1/2″ Rain
Farm House: 61°F/52°F
Tiny Cottage: 62°F/55°F Door open all morning – stone wall probe is 66°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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2 Responses to Bathtub Arch

  1. karl says:

    marvelous, looks like fun.

  2. SegoLily says:

    This will be so interesting to check out when it’s all done!

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