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Phouka Home

Our Kitchen Problems

Our current kitchen has always been barely useable. Built as an addition to the original house shortly after it was completed, the kitchen is 12' x 12' by 10 1/2' high, with one corner of the room bumped in for the little half-bath off the laundry room. Being roughly L-shaped, it is also entered through a low door cut through the 14" thick brick exterior walls. With the refrigerator in place, getting into the kitchen is like spelunking through a long tunnel into a cave.

Only one wall has a window and that is a late-70s installation of a tiny two-ended slider that let in only a little air and less light. Definitely unpleasant. The wall originally had a door and a full-size window, which were bricked in by the same previous owner. The slider window is installed in the center support of the wall, with no header. The wall is slowly collapsing, and loose bricks from the top of the wall keep threatening to fall. We have no idea what prompted this idiotic "repair".

Step 1: Finding a Brickmason

The designer we hired cannot start work until we know what the wall looks like with the new window and door in it. So, we have to have the wall fixed first.

We decided to hire a mason and have him pull out the window, remove the brick from the door and window, and rebuild the center pillar. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

First off, the exterior walls of our house are two layers of brick with an airspace. The outer wall is smooth, red, rubbed brick with tiny butter joints -- the mortar joints are 1/8" - 3"/16" thick in most places. The bricks are a little oversized. The interior wall is rougher, softer, unfinished brick, meant to be plastered over and never seen again. It appears that both walls were destroyed in the slider-window installation.

I called every mason and bricklayer that I could find locally, hoping to find someone who did restoration work on old houses. Of the seven companies I called, only four ever returned my calls, two came out to give estimates (and left without giving one), and the other two laughed hysterically. Most masons cannot work with the brick style of my house (or they don't want to try) and we despaired of finding anyone who was willing to do the work. We repeated the process about once every two years, with the same results.

This last round included a gentleman who bolted when I asked for a copy of his business license, and three missed estimates. By now, we were willing to hire anyone who was willing to do the work, license or no license -- I didn't care if the person lived in their car and would have to be watched carefully around the family silver. I just wanted the wall done.

Finally, we found a reputable local company that specialized in restoration work. We're a small job and of not much importance to them -- hence the week or so it took to return phone calls. But, they are going to do the work, and have a supplier for the old brick. We're waiting on the physical contract right now, and will start work as soon as that is in hand.

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All content ©1998-2009 R. Fingerson
Last updated 03/05/2009