Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bacon's Castle Stair Tower Half-Plastered

The stair tower restoration at Bacon's Castle is a classic example of the enigma of historic structure repair. What started out as a simple replaster job mushroomed into so much more. Close examination showed the existing plaster loose, the bricks behind it crumbling, and the hewn white oak beam that was inset four inches into an eight inch wall, severely decomposed. Plaster removal revealed that the pavers, identical to the early pavers that made up the kitchen floor, had been used to make up the brick bond under the beam. The brick bond under the beam was Flemish, while English bond was employed above the beam. The brick used was very similar to the brick in the whole of the 1665 section of the house, and the mortar contained shell and charcoal. Visible at the lower left of the exposed brick photos is the infill to the early semi-circular window arch, later replaced by the only jack-arch in the entire house. Approximately 50 bricks, and of course a new white oak beam, had to be replaced to stabilize the wall and provide a good surface to plaster to. The interior of the brick wall was so uneven that 1.5 inches of scratch and brown coat had to be used to bring the wall flush. The crew will have to reset their scaffold to plaster the area above the beam.

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