Stories From the Field, Page 12 of 16

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!

Post: Masons Are Like Farmers

Friday June 13, 2014

Here crew chief Mirek gives a thumbs-up as he waits out a sudden rain shower on a recent project in River Forest.

Here crew chief Mirek gives a thumbs-up as he waits out a sudden rain shower on our project in River Forest.

Like farmers, masons spend most of their long workdays during the season outdoors and in the elements. We grind out mortar joints when it is cloudy and the mercury is in the 40s. We replace bricks when it is windy and in the 80s. We seal masonry walls when the sun is beating down on us, and we wash masonry walls when it is drizzling on our heads. We are passionate about what we do and the services we offer, and a little bit of weather doesn't prevent our seasoned crews from showcasing our talents. Be it brick, limestone, terra cotta or concrete block, we look forward to assisting you with your next masonry restoration project. Click here to get started.

Post: Look Up!

Wednesday May 28, 2014

Looking Up

Everywhere you look in our great city there is evidence of extraordinary masonry craftsmanship from a bygone era…but sometimes you need to look closely to find it.

This is a photo of the third floor of what at first appeared to me to be a rather nondescript commercial building located on the 4600 block of North Broadway in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. The moment I spotted this upper floor detail, I leapt out of the car and photographed the image. What a beauty!

The full view of this brick, stone and terra cotta facade is obstructed by a multitude of elevated train tracks and a modern first-story commercial awning not in keeping with the period or elegance of the building.

Among the facade's show-stopping features is this gorgeous terra cotta medallion centered between the top-floor window head and the limestone watertable. It measures about four feet in diameter and its tight, organic design and stunning complexity is Sullivaneque in every respect. The creamy yellow bricks flanking the medallion are also quite lovely, and their glowing radiance appears to emanate from deep within — that's due to the mineral composition of the clay bricks and the gases used in the kilns to fire them. (Many of the heavy metals in the bricks and the gases used in the kilns were banned as a result of the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970.)

Next time you're passing an older part of town, look up and revel in our city's historical (and irreplaceable) building stock.

For over 60 years, AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing has lovingly restored brick, stone and terra cotta buildings of historical significance. If you've got a beauty like this one (or a diamond in the rough), give us a call.