Historic Building Restoration


Our blog of current work is updated regularly (see below). For a more frequent set of postings, our instagram account is active as well..

Paint stripping wood from the late 1800’s is tedious work but worth saving.
#heritagehouse #carpentry #traditionaltrades #preservation (at High Park)

Here are some photos of our heritage job off Yonge Street… We completely rebuilt the front and back masonry, as well as both chimneys. The east and west sides were repaired and repointed. The 4 wood dormers and all supporting brackets were recreated in our shop..Kagter has been busy doing a great job on the slate and lead coated copper.

Click on image to enlarge photo.  

We have begun our work on this nice semi off of Bedford Road.  We will be cleaning, replacing brick, rebuilding arches, applying a colour wash and traditionally tuckpointing with a black bead.   More pics to come…

 Our next job near Cabbagetown had 4 layers of paint on the brick.  We removed the paint and found dichromatic brickwork full of Victorian charm.  The arches, belt courses and all the other detailing make this house worth the transformation.

We completed one of our Cabbagetown jobs this past month.  2000 brick were replaced between both semi’s and a complete repointing job using hydraulic lime/sand mortar.  Many of the arches needed to be rebuilt as well.  We will do a final cleaning to remove residual dust after the mortar has had time to cure.

Our restoration work is coming to a close on Crawford St. south of the Annex.  We stripped many layers of paint and carbon with the help of John daRocha from Tecnovia (www.tecnovia.ca).  After he finished we replaced hundreds of brick on the front and rebuilt the 3 porch columns as well as the chimney with custom cap.  This house will look great once the porch is completed.

Preserving your masonry in Toronto

The Toronto Heritage Grant Program:

If you own a home in Toronto that is designated in Parts IV or V of the Ontario Heritage Act you may qualify to receive a grant for eligible conservation work up to a maximum of $10,000.00 for individual properties.  This program is administered by the Heritage Preservation Services Unit of the City Planning Division to encourage the conservation of designated heritage properties in the City of Toronto.  For more information please visit: http://www.toronto.ca/heritage-preservation/grants/index.htm

 Are you confused with the use of words like pointingrepointing and tuckpointing? You are not alone as they are constantly misused right across this city.  The term “pointing” refers to a joint that was originally raked out by the mason laying the brick or stone.  This joint was then left to dry and then filled by a highly skilled crew who were capable of applying a decorative finish to the joint.

“Repointing” is referred to replacing a mortar joint when it has failed.  Repointing is the most common form of restoration.

“Tuckpointing” is the most misused term in the trade today.  Examples of tuckpointingcan be found all over Toronto on houses that were built before 1910.  Tuckpointing was a highly skilled art that originated in England in the late 1800’s.  At the time it was fashionable to build with very tight precise joints.  Tuckpointing was born out of this style and was a way of achieving a similar effect using cheap irregular bricks.  These bricks were laid in a matching, usually red, mortar that created an illusion of a solid wall of red clay.  The mason then “tucked” a white lime putty bead ranging from 4mm to 6mm onto a line that was scribed onto the mortar or brick.  This white line, called a “tuck” was very measured and accurate giving the impression that the house was built with very tight joints.  Tuckpointing allowed masons to build with speed and trick the eye into thinking the work was built with precision.  You can find remnants of this style in older neighbouhoods like Cabbagetown and Parkdale.

Masonry Cleaning:

Masonry cleaning is another form of restoration that has become popular with brick building owners.  During the 70’s and 80’s it was popular to sandblast the brick to either remove lead based paint, or years of carbon buildup from atmospheric pollution. Painting brick and sandblasting are considered the worst things you could do to exterior brick.  If the kiln fired weathered exterior of the brick is removed, it’s only a matter of time before the brick begins to crumble or spall as it is often called.  Once the damaged brick has spalled, it can only be replaced rather than repaired.

Cleaning soft masonry is controversial as it is often done with a half hazard approach and can have disastrous results.  Finding a masonry cleaning professional in the city involves doing your homework and sticking to a strict form of guidelines.  If you are considering either removing paint or carbon off the brickwork, I strongly suggest you do some research and find out what chemicals and procedures are required to successfully clean a building.  It is not as simple as going to Home Depot to rent a pressure washer and blast off the years of dirt.  Masonry cleaning is complicated and should be left up to a person who understands the process of site preparation, waste-water containment and the chemicals on the market.  Removing layers of lead based paint has to be one of the dirtiest and dangerous jobs out there.  If you are considering this, I strongly suggest you perform test areas on various areas of the painted surface. Keep in mind that all the harmful waste-water has to be collected and properly disposed of as a hazardous a waste product.  A system of containment troughs that run off into barrels has to be set up and tested with clean water prior to the cleaning process.  Any scaffolding has to be designed with a screen to keep wind from blowing chemical residue off-site.  The workers doing the paint stripping must be completely protected from head to toe as the heavy-duty paint stripper can blind or burn through the skin.  If during the test panels you cannot safely remove the paint with no more than 400 psi (50psi is straight from a hose) then you should consider abandoning the paint removal and consider either repainting again or rebuilding the outer brick façade (a big job).   

There are two cleaning systems called the DOFF and JOS systems that involve steam and various forms of mild abrasive products that are gaining popularity within the commercial restoration sector.  These cleaning systems are far more advanced and should be researched as well.  In Toronto, Goodbye Graffiti is using a steam/chemical free system that safely removes paint.  Steam cleaning can be very effective and better for the environment.  http://www.letsclean.com.au/jos.html

Removing carbon off the brick is much safer and can be controlled as long as specific guidelines are followed during the cleaning process.  Prosoco, out of the U.S., has practically wrote the book on masonry cleaning.  They have a very impressive website that can steer you in the correct direction.  If you are thinking of having this type of cleaning done, they have numerous cleaners like EK Restoration Cleaner, that does not contain hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acid and is safely removed with a near neutral pH coming off the wall.  This cleaner is safer on the surrounding green environment and makes waste water disposal easy.  With all masonry cleaning it is recommended that a pressure washer be only used to rinse the wall at an even spay with no more than 400-600 psi.  Following Prosoco’s cleaning procedures in detail on a per product basis will ensure your brickwork will be cleaned safely.  For further information please visit their site:            www.prosoco.com 

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