Carol Is Finishing The Stone Work

Carol is on fire, one moment she is preserving and next she out the door with hedge shears in hand. Many women have a love of shoes, some dresses, some cake, some just love to shop but Carol is in love with hammers. Part of her day to day jewellery work, she has hammers of every size, and it is safe to say that she is more at home with a hammer than secateurs. So, it was only a matter of time that she noticed the last patches of black concrete and crumbling pointing behind the Welsh Dresser in the kitchen before reaching for her hammers.

Carol is finishing the stone work

This is last damp patch in the kitchen, we have employed dehumidifiers and discovered that much of the damp comes mainly from the black concrete used, laughingly, as a damp proof course. Carol has waded in with hammers and steel chisels to rake out the last of these joints. For an afternoon there is the distant sound of the hammer, muffled questions from behind a mask and the occasional four letter word as I take photos. After a few hours the black concrete and crumbling pointing is gone.

Learning how to point

Raking out joints is a mix of missing your thumb and digging between blocks of stone that could move and drop on your toes. You want to remove around an inch (2.5cm) of the old mortar -- the fact is in parts after raking out some joints your chisel vanishes into the wall and you can feel air blowing through from the rubble cavity; the old mortar has blown away long ago -- clearing out around an inch or two inches of old mortar means your new mix will sit in the wall more securely. The new mix should last a lifetime. Another thirty minutes and the stone is cleaned off with a stiff brush, and Carol notices that she is still in her everyday clothing. At least the woman does DIY in style.

DIY women

We work together to mix the new mortar, a mix of 3:1:1 (sand, cement and lime). We could go for the raised pointing style but we agree that this would be rather fiddly on some of the stone, not all of it is level with each other, even the cabinets had to be built around walls that arch out and ache in. We can go for something a little bit more rustic but it's messy and Carol needs to change first. It beats how I used to do such work, sweating from medication and pain, I often did this kind of work just in my underwear. Not exactly health and safety safe. At least I wasn't using an angle grinder. I have a natural love of hand tools and the methodical, slow process of clearing areas with them. Grinders for pointing always seem like taking a tractor to crack a nut. That's rather a distasteful image when considering pointing in your underwear.

How to stop pointing cracking

Together we feed in the new mortar mix with a pointing trowel -- a thin pencil like trowel, the right tool maketh the DIYer -- by the third bucket, Carol is mixing it and by a third of the way through the first bucket she's doing all the pointing and telling me to shut up. Which I do.

How to mix mortar

After half an hour of drying I show Carol the trick of taking a soft, wet brush to the joints, clearing away excess, preventing cracking and making a rather organic finish. To do this you must follow the joints that you are working with, like following the grain of the wood, this prevents you dragging the mortar and leaving brush marks. Carol does this for the next few hours -- every thirty minutes -- to prevent the mix from cracking, as the stone walls here can easily suck out the moisture in a mortar mix. After one day, the wall is finished and we can turn our eyes to painting the kitchen.


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