Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Weeping Joints at The Fire House

One of the things I really love about renovating severely decrepit houses or Pig's Ears is the numerous opportunities there are to come up with a simple fix to a major problem; a solution that others have missed.  The Fire House had plenty of these challenges and the painted exterior with it's weeping mortar joints was a great one.  In the song What Was I Thinkin' American country music star Dierks Bentley sings about a cute girl, evading the law, and dealing with the little beauty's dad, but it may have been inspired by someone who painted the outside of a brick house with weeping joints who made things worse instead of better.

Weeping mortar joints are often seen in ranch homes in the southwestern United States.  The name is rooted in the fact that they're created when the mortar is allowed to weep or ooze from between the bricks and then dry in whatever squished out form it takes.  Typically, masonry mortar joints are finished off with a tool called a jointer.  In our lifetimes, we've all seen thousands of joints in buildings that have been finished this way.  However, if you see a house or building with weeping mortar joints you'll likely take more notice because it's not something you see everyday (unless you live in Arizona).

We live in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  I know of one house in Charleston that has weeping joints and I think it looks good, due in large part because the brick and joints have never been painted and the contrasting colors work well together.  The brick is a rich brown, offset with the gray mortar, and the little house has windows trimmed in white. What helps this home to really pop from the street is the green ivy that has crept up from the ground.  These vines are always beautifully manicured and it's really charming.  However, what I had with The Fire House was ugly.  It had been painted and it was the opposite of charm; it was seriously jacked-up.        

Remember that 80's pop song by C+C Music Factory, Things That Make You Go Hmmm...?  These weeping joints fit into this category.  I lost track of all the people that paused in front of the house to ask me about them.  With puzzled looks on their faces they'd say things like, "What's that all about?", or "What do you suppose they were trying to do there?", or maybe my visitors would just look and shake their heads with disgusting disapproval as they continued forward to see if the interior looked as bad as the outside. 

To me, the dancing fighter in the clip exemplifies these mortar joints and the people chirping at me about them; it was a lot of attention and consideration spent unnecessarily.  Like plenty of other issues in the house I received countless suggestions, opinions, and words of advice for months about how I should handle this small matter and folks freely told me what I couldn't or shouldn't do.  Most made it a bigger issue than it was and in the end it was pretty simple to deal with.  I can relate to the guy in the dark trunks in that I patiently and politely listened.  When I needed to take action I did and I put the issue to rest.  I spent twenty or thirty minutes every day chipping mortar off, one 5' x 5' section at a time.  Everyday, it was the same drill and after a few weeks the problem was solved.  People were surprised and said things like, "Hey.  What happened to the stuff on the walls?"  And I'd answer flatly, "I just chipped it off.  It was easy."  And, not only did it look good, it looked like it could have always been that way.

After - This is a front section, the same view shown above.
Before - At the back.
After - Same spot.


  1. okay, buddy, i'm now not only a follower but a freaky gobbler of the past posts about the firehouse and the other pig pens you've taken on.

    WOW. big, fat WOW.

    yes, katy sent me your way and i'm utterly impressed with your guts and gumption...and skill! way to go! bob vila's gonna BEG you to join his team!

  2. A big fat THANK YOU back at you Miss Salvage. Having seen your work at The Salvage Collection, that means a lot to me. I hope my posts help to inspire you to keep transforming your furniture finds into pieces of art.

    Thanks again,