Thursday, August 16, 2012

The First Finished Floor

...will be the brick paving on the porch, laid in the same Flemish bond pattern (alternating courses of long, short, long, short) used for the edging all around the house and the base of the brick walls of the Great Room.

I can't tell you how happy I was taking this picture. This was at the end of the first day of paving work. When I saw the rows of bricks lined up in front of each column, I knew the mason got it. This didn't happen automatically. That morning I watched as he started to lay out the pattern and I noticed that it seemed to be shifted a bit from how I worked it out on my drawing. So I explained that the pattern was meant to line up with each column; that, in fact, the particular spacing of the columns was determined by this pattern.

He looked a little confused, and I had to leave for work. So I pointed him to the drawing in the set that (of course) shows every single brick on the porch and how they line up with the columns and the brick edging. Then I left and worried and prayed for the rest of the day that I wouldn't come out and find a mere shadow of the order I intended. What a joy then to see that he came up with a perfect strategy for getting it right: lay the bricks at the columns first, then fill in the pattern between them.

I had a hunch that this would take some careful explaining on my part. I've noticed that just about every trade that's worked on this house has come to it with a (mostly unconscious) sense that their portion of the work is complete in itself and doesn't need to relate to work already in place. If you're called in to put down a Flemish bond brick patio then you run that brick around and don't worry about how it lines up with existing columns and windows. And why would you? No one's asked you to do that before. But the way I've designed this house, every part relates to every other part. Everything is intimately connected - windows to joists, joists to studs, studs to nails, nails to bricks, bricks to windows. I don't blame these guys though; most buildings are not this precisely tuned. Or - most buildings are not designed by an architect with severe visual OCD - however you want to put it. But hey, take a close look at nature and you see that we were made by a visually OCD God. So I'm okay with this.

Unfortunately the brick size I chose doesn't come in 4-inch squares, so the mason has to cut the short bricks for the pattern with a power saw. This is a stack of 4's ready to be laid, and below is what my forest looked like near the saw. Be grateful you don't have to hear what this sawing sounds like. A thousand fingernails down a thousand chalkboards, amplified with loudspeakers, is how I'd describe it. I doubt my neighbors feel that I'm showing them much love right now.

The second day on the south porch - filling in between the columns:

Mortar will be added between all the cracks later; that will be the last step.

Third day:

I also like that the mason uses string lines to be sure every single course is perfectly straight.

Fourth day, and the south side of the porch is nearly complete:

Below I think we are witnessing a case of "getting the hang of it." The entire north side of the porch was almost done after two days:

Ah, yes. This is what I wanted. Because the porch pattern lines up with the wall pattern, the wall seems to fold down to become the porch surface; or, the porch surface decides to go vertical and become a wall, then transforms its pattern. The visual connection between floor and wall will be more direct once mortar is added between the porch bricks.

A little late-evening sun-splatter just makes everything better.

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