Stories From the Field, Page 11 of 15

Post: Some Thoughts About Safety & Insurance

Thursday December 11, 2014

Just recently, I heard about the second fatal accident in Chicago in as many months involving unlicensed masons and improperly erected scaffolding. Had these men received the proper safety training, perhaps they would still be alive today.

All of AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing's masons receive extensive and on-going safety training to protect the welfare of the workers, and the company is appropriately insured to protect the welfare of our customers.

Remember to always ask your mason for proof of insurance in the form a valid Certificate of Insurance (COI) before the job starts. On the COI there should be a phone number of the issuing broker, agent or company. Call that broker, agent or company and make sure the mason's coverages are, in fact, in place and the limits stated on the COI are, in fact, what the mason has on file with his insurance company. You do not want to discover after an accident that the certificate of insurance was fraudulent or had been terminated for non-payment or some other reason because that puts you—the innocent customer—at greater risk of being sued by the injured party.

If you have questions about what kind of insurance your masonry restoration should be carrying or the appropriate limits, please give us a call and we'll walk you though it.

Thank you for the opportunity to be of service!

Post: Why Temperature Matters At This Time of Year

Tuesday November 11, 2014

Our crew of hard-working masons continue to work despite the cold because the site is wrapped in heavy-duty weather protection and the heaters are permitted to run day and night.

Our crew of hard-working masons continue to work despite the cold because the site is wrapped in heavy-duty weather protection and the heaters are permitted to run day and night.

Peter and Mark stand in front of their freshly-constructed foundation wall despite the freezing temperatures outside. Ambient temperature inside the protected work site remains constant at 50 F.

Peter and Mark stand in front of their freshly-constructed foundation wall despite the freezing temperatures outside. Ambient temperature inside the protected work site remains constant at 50 F.

This week's Arctic blast of unseasonably cold weather has brought night time temperatures down into the teens — and that's before the windchill gets factored in…that's cold! Historically, this part of Illinois doesn't experience consistent hard freezes until early December, so the unseasonably cold weather has caught many masonry restoration companies by surprise.

Yet despite the extreme cold, this week I have seen many masonry restoration companies continue to work. This is really unfortunate for the consumer since curing mortar is very sensitive to cold temperatures. If night time temperatures should dip below 26 degrees, then the tuckpointing and brick work will suffer. (Starting at this temperature, the water in curing mortar begins to freeze, and if that happens the longevity of the work becomes severely compromised—even though it may look fine to the naked eye for a season or two.)

Some masonry companies add anti-freeze to reduce the freezing point of the water in their mortar, or they add accelerants to the mortar to make it dry faster. Unfortunately, both strategies lead to a finished product whose bonding properties, resistance to wind-driven weather, and overall longevity are compromised—sometimes severely.

There are only two ethical ways a masonry company can accommodate colder temperatures—either heat the job site day and night until the mortar cures, or suspend the project until the spring when night time temperatures rise out of the danger zone.

Many masonry companies heat their job sites with liquid propane or kerosene while they are working, and then take their heat source home with them when they pack up for the day. This leaves the curing wall vulnerable to sub-freezing temperatures at night when temperatures are likely to be the coldest. Not a wise strategy. At a current job in Carpentersville, AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing is continuing to rebuild 100-year-old brick walls despite the cold because the owner has elected to tarp in the work area and run two natural gas heaters day and night (the heaters are hard-piped to the building's gas line).

Remember, the temperatures which matter the most are the night time temperatures (i.e., the coldest part of the day/night cycle). Temperatures which dip much below 26 degrees will have a deleterious effect on the curing mortar's bonding properties, resistance to wind-driven weather and longevity — unless the job site is heated day and night until the mortar has cured.

To learn more about our honest approach to masonry restoration work, please give us a call or send us an e-mail.

Stay safe.


Post: Kudos to Frank Kruk

Monday September 15, 2014

Swingstages and heavy-duty pedestrian canopies and debris nets in place at the Daniel Burnham-designed Randolph Place condominium building

Kudos to AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing's veteran project manager, Frank Kruk, for starting the second phase of work on the Daniel Burnham-designed Randolph Place condominium building in Chicago!

Due to this building's age, positioning of retro-fitted steel balconies, multi-level roof design, and busy Chicago traffic below, this project has been a fun challenge for Frank, who is recognized as one of the industry's most experienced licensed masons.

In the photo aboveat right you can see how Frank and the men have set up their swingstages at the top of the building, while heavy-duty pedestrian canopies and debris nets are positioned below.

AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing applies the same experience and energy restoring legendary century-old structures like Randolph Place as it does your family's brick three-flat or your mother-in-law's concrete block condominium. With over 60 years of continuous experience, we possess the skills needed to restore your masonry structure back to its original, glorious condition.

Give us a call and we'll explain how.

Post: Counting My Blessings!

Thursday July 31, 2014

Harrison, Possible Third Generation Mason, Holding a Brick

A few months ago I had the opportunity to bring my daughter to work as part of her school’s Take Your Child to Work Day. My seven year old, Charlotte, really enjoyed the opportunity to see what her father does for a living and watch AAA-1 Masonry’s licensed masons in action. Scaffolding was erected, mortar mixers turned and turned, men shouted out orders for more bricks and mortar, and Charlotte had the chance to see exemplary masonry restoration work in real time. We drove to Bucktown, Wicker Park, Hyde Park and the North Shore during our day together. It was a memorable experience for both of us, and she slept very well that night!

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to bring my five-year-old son, Harrison, to work during the morning hours. (We work every day the weather allows Monday - Saturday.) Wow, did he have fun! Prior to the men starting the construction of a new section of wall in Edison Park, Harrison was allowed to hold a few bricks and pretend he, too, was a mason. We talked about the different size bricks we use (Standards, Modulars, Romans, etc.), the different types of mortars we use depending on the application, and the importance of maintaining a safe and clean job site.

The best part of the day, though, came at bath time when Harrison shared with me that he wants to do exactly what I do when he gets older. Those were the nicest words this Daddy mason could hear! Might there be a third-generation mason at our little masonry restoration company in the not-so-distant future?!?

Thank you to all of our loyal clients for your continued patronage and numerous compliments!

Post: Your Brick Structure Can Last Another 100+ Years with Preventative Maintenance

Tuesday July 8, 2014

A neglected 105-year-old exterior brick foundation wall

True brick structures (i.e., buildings constructed without the use of any concrete blocks or veneers) should last hundreds and hundreds of years if properly maintained. Given the legendary quality of true brick construction, most prevalent during the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, most of our clients willingly pay a premium for these structures and are very interested in learning how to maintain them.

It takes many decades of neglect (benign or otherwise) to make a true masonry structure look as deteriorated as the one at right. This century-old brick foundation wall could have been saved by grinding & tuckpointing the mortar joints between the bricks when they first started to crack apart years ago. Ignoring the need for minimal maintenance has allowed wind-driven rain, sleet, and snow to infiltrate deep into the brick wall. When all of that moisture inside the wall freezes and expands repeatedly during the winter months, it breaks apart the mortar (and eventually the bricks) allowing the moisture to infiltrate even more deeply into the brick wall.

The face of nearly every brick in this wall has spalled (i.e., fallen off) and you can see pieces of the bricks have collected on the ground. Once bricks lose their face, they are much more porous and will absorb wind-driven rain, sleet and snow more deeply into the wall — which leads to accelerated deterioration of the adjacent masonry.

It appears that a handyman did try to patch this wall at one time with a sloppily applied coat of gray mortar. You can see that the same mortar was used to patch over the faces of some of the worst bricks, too. Had AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing been called out some years earlier, the brick faces might still have been intact and the required work may have involved only mortar restoration (i.e., grinding and tuckpointing). In our business, preventative maintenance can preserve a masonry wall for a long time and for much less money than full-blown brick replacement, as is needed here.

True brick construction requires much less regular maintenance than new brick-and-block construction or trendy split-face block walls, but it does require some maintenance. If you call us out before your beautiful true masonry walls deteriorate to this point, then the scope of work required will be much less… and so will the cost.

Be safe out there!