Cap Stone Cutting
Once we had the pillars in place for the bathroom and bedroom doorways I needed cap stones of grey granite to start the brick arches. Much of the junk granite we get from the quaries and stone sheds are skin pieces that have drill holes in them. Looking at a drill hole and break edge on it resembles scroll work. Thus to give the pillars elegant caps I had Holly, with her diamond engagement ring (the skillsaw blade), cut a slab as shown above. A few minutes later with hammer and chisel and I had cap stones like the one below.
Pillar Cap in Place
I chose the best four pieces of granite for the cap stones, leveled them to the pillar and each other and set them in mortar.
Foam Arch Forms
To build brick arches I’ve learned to make foam forms. The earlier forms I made of 2×4 and plastic were based on what I read in a masonry book. The foam is much faster and easier to build. When necessary it could be cut out although if you shim the form up it can easily pulled.
This form is made of a backing board, to keep the bricks perfectly even for the door frame, spacer blocks of foam, and two curved pieces that define the arc. I glued them together with silicon.
Bricks or some other weight make the silicon adhere better resulting in a stronger form. Let it set over night. Don’t breath the fumes. Yuk.
Forms in Place
Hope is demonstrating her silly eyes in front of the bedroom doorway. The forms are now set up in place, ready for me to begin brick work. Getting them level horizontally and vertically is important as that defines the space of the future arch doorway. If the form were off vertical level then the arch would tip towards or away from the door leaving a gap.
Red Bricks Rising over Bathroom Arch
My first brick arch took me two days. I now, once the form is set, it takes me about 30 minutes to lay all the brick. The key stone generally takes another 20 minutes.
Setting the Bedroom Keystone
When we did the dog house test arch I stumbled on the fact that we have a lot of nicely shaped keystones literally kicking around on our land. The quartz tends to break to good angles for keystones at the top of the brick arches. In the photo above I’m adding a couple of shims to lock the key.
Done and Undone Arches
The photo above contrasts a completed arch on the left, into the bathroom, and a form ready to go on the right into the bedroom. I couldn’t simply reuse the tub arch or the bathroom arch forms in this case because every doorway is a different size. I wanted the bedroom, which is also my office, to be a very wide doorway so that when the door is open it merges the spaces of the common room and the bedroom. Since I’ll be building custom doors, and there are only two, the different sizes isn’t a big deal from a construction point of view. It also has an interesting visual effect, that yes, I admit I planned, because the more distant bathroom door is smaller. This makes the room look longer thus visually enlarging the tiny cottage. Fun with perspective.
Raking the Mortar Joints
Holly is using a chop stick to rake the mortar back on the joints between the bricks. This is the first step in cleanup after the form has been removed.
Muric Acid Wash
Will is washing the bricks with Muric Acid (HCL) to clean off the cement stains.
After raking and washing the bricks they get sprayed down with water and then scrubbed with a stiff wire brush. Will does this repeatedly as he works with the acid to check his work.
By the way, note the protective gear. Usually Will also has a long sleeve shirt on as well which is a good idea when working with the acid. You don’t want it to splash on your skin.
The garden sprayer is an amazingly useful tool on a concrete construction project. We use it for wetting the saw blade when cutting stone, watering the concrete as it cures, applying curing agents like the Aquron 2000 and 1200, washing down the muric acid and moistening walls before parging.
Through the bathroom arch on the left you can see the bathtub arch, planter and bottle wall. The wester light streams in that window. The effect of the multiple arches into the distance is quite beautiful.
On the right side of the photo you can see the coral reef aquarium through the wide bedroom doorway.
In a few days the accelerated mortar will be hard cured so we can form and pour the bedroom ceiling. I’ve already crowned both the arches to give them added strength while they await the ceiling pour.
Outdoors: 49°F/26°F Partially Sunny
Farm House: 58°F/54°F Fall Fencing
Tiny Cottage: 54°F/44°F Exterior corners and foundation parge
And, being a veteran of the build-your-own-house with my parents, I am so happy to see Will (and all of you) wearing safety gear. Dad drummed that into us as kids and it has become a life-long habit.
Hey Walter, do you guys homeschool? I don’t remember reading anything about school; just curious :O) I loved homeschooling our daughter. I think it’s great that everyone in the family gets in on the house project. Everyone has their job. When do you expect to be finished and moved in to this lovely compact abode? Robyn in the Northwoods
Yes, we homeschool and love doing it. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
We’ll probably move in to the tiny cottage in about a month so that we can enjoy the warmth of the cottage. Our old farm house is very hard to heat where as the cottage is designed to keep itself warm, or at least above freezing, even in our cold winters.
In terms of the build-your-own-house-and-live-in-the-mess issue, our trick is that we’re going to move back out of the cottage next spring so we once again won’t be working where we are living. This also gives us the winter to relax and take time off from the building, plan what we’ll be doing next and I’m going to enjoy working on my coral reef aquarium. :)
The arches look wonderful. The house really seems to be coming along nicely. You have a good thing going, there.