Playing With Jacks: After

We’ve been playing with jacks at our house again.  Remember when Renaissance Man and I did that before … three weeks ago?  If not, you’ll want to read about it HERE — so this post will make sense.
This is the view I left you with … the view from our kitchen window. Lovely, huh?

The view that resulted from this “I’m not sure why it started to widen” crack in the 100-year-old lintel above our kitchen window…

In a situation like this, the first thing you must do is get input from someone competent about old house construction. As I mentioned in my previous post, it turned out that the first person we consulted did NOT understand old houses. So that was an easy call for yours truly. If you don’t understand, have experience with, and respect old houses — I don’t want you working on mine! … So we asked around, and called someone else.
Jackpot! Keith Ivy and Rusty Brunson teamed up to give us good insight, advice, and the best end result we could have realistically hoped for. Here’s how it played out …
It was a cold, windy day when Rusty set up his scaffolding and started to work.

He removed a few bricks above the lintel — just to be sure everything was constructed as we’d told him. Always best to double check!
Yep … our exterior walls are two courses of brick thick. See the second “wall” (course) of brick at the back?

Notice how amazingly clean the bricks are …

That’s because our mortar is rotten, which is common in old homes (and My Place is 104 years old this year). When rotten mortar is scraped out from between old bricks, it crumbles … a lot like sand.

To be on the safe side, Rusty and Renaissance Man decided to stabilize the ceiling on the kitchen side of the window. They attached a 2×4 to the top of a floor jack, covered it with an old blanket to protect the ceiling … and jacked it up.

Yeah, there’s always a “behind the scenes” part of the story …
When your floor jack isn’t tall enough, you have to cut 2x4s and stack them to make up the difference!

Once we knew the kitchen ceiling wouldn’t collapse, (didn’t really think it would, but …) it was time to remove the exterior jack — and the rest of the bricks above the lintel.

Then remove the lintel itself … both pieces.

Do you see the thick piece of wood below the bricks? It’s 2×6 dimensional lumber. That means it’s ACTUALLY 2″ x 6″ – not closer to 1.5″ x 5.5″ like new lumber.
This wood is oak (think solid, stable, built to last …) All of the “bones” of our old house are oak. Today a window header would be constructed of pine (think soft, inexpensive…)

Now look closely … A 3/8″ thick flat steel plate is laid across the front course of bricks and butted into the oak header.

The lintel (estimated by Renaissance Man to weigh between 150-175 lbs.) is then set on top of the steel plate.
… Probably why the temporary jack was put back under everything — until the mortar cures.


Mortar was used to seal the crack in the lintel …
<   ... and to re-set the bricks in their original locations.
No, I did NOT take the next two pictures from the roof — Renaissance Man did. Boys will be boys … (or as he tried to tell me, “I’m doing it for your blog readers.”) Uh huh.

<   Almost finished ...
Last little touch-up …

A couple of days later … when sunshine had returned (literally and figuratively!) and the scaffolding was gone …

The mortar just needs a few more weeks to cure while the outside air temperature (hopefully) warms up. Then Renaissance Man will do a final surface cleaning of the bricks … and we’ll call it “good.”

Although we know the mortar will lighten significantly, we understand that it will almost certainly never be the same color as the old mortar; that’s to be expected. I really don’t mind. My Place has taught me to loosen up my perfectionist tendencies! Besides … one day, some observant soul will notice the color difference and wonder what happened. Oh, the stories this old house could tell! I’ll tell you more of them someday …

Interesting tidbit: Rusty told Renaissance Man that years ago when homes like ours were built, there were laborers whose sole job was to clean the bricks — polishing them to a shine by rubbing them with bags made of some kind of grass. Wow! I knew old brick houses sometimes looked beautiful, but I had no idea how they got that way … How time-consuming that must have been!
I’m joining Between Naps on the Porch for Metamorphosis Monday.


  1. Your metamorphosis is absolutely fabulous. I so hope that you enjoy every bit of it.

    Have a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

  2. What a great post. I had an old house for 10 years and when we did the reno we had the same wonderful, old, heavy oak 2 x 4s that we reused. No more of that wood now! Just fascinating and, of course, it’s good to see your lintel properly repaired. Lucky the weather cooperated.

    Hope you’ll stop by and see our latest bedroom ideas. Jane

  3. My favorite homes we ever lived in were the older ones — such personality and charm!

  4. I love a happy ending to a story.I was wondering what ever happened to your problem. Thanks for sharing.

  5. You have a BEAUTIFUL kitchen!!! I love it!
    Fascinating to see the way they did the old Lintels! Looks like your mason did a great job and knew what he was doing!
    Thanks for sharing!
    And say ‘Thank you’ to Renaissance Man for taking the extra pictures for us!! 😉