Repointing a Basement Wall

Our 1905 house has a brick foundation.  Brick is a great building material that lasts for centuries, but it does require periodic maintenance.  The mortar holding the bricks together is typically made of sand, cement, and lime.  Old houses, pre 1900, had lime and sand mortars.  Cement based mortars did not become mainstream until around 1930.

Due to water intrusion, some areas of the mortar have disintegrated.  This happens because the water passes through the mortar and dissolves the lime bonding agent.  What is left behind is just the sand and that can be raked out easily with ones finger.IMG_7562Removing the old mortar is not that difficult of a job.  I used a 4 1/2″ angle grinder with a diamond tipped tuck pointing blade ($35 at Menards).  Be sure to wear plenty of protective gear because it will be a dirty and loud job.


After doing a 3’x2′ test section of wall and switching out batteries 8-9 times, I ordered a corded grinder off  You can get good deals on reconditioned tools that are just as good as brand new.


For the replacement mortar, I chose to mix up a type O mortar.  The following table from shows the mortar specifications.

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Type O mortar has less compressive strength than the other more popular mortar mixes (M, S, and N) because it has less portland cement and more lime in it.  Lime fell out of favor with builders around 1930 because it took longer to cure than cement and it had lower compressive strength.  Lime based mortars are more flexible, self healing, and direct water better than cement heavy mortars.

Big box stores do not carry Type O mortar, but you can make your own with three simple ingredients.  Type S hydrated lime, portland cement, and masonry sand are the only ingredients that you need to make up any mortar mix.


I am happy with how this test section of wall turned out.  With any luck, the new mortar will last 50 years before needing replacement.


I did not want to start another section of tuck pointing until the corded grinder arrives.  I was able to cross another masonry job off my list by patching up the gaping hole left by a previous owner / HVAC contractor in the north wall.


Why they didn’t spend half an hour to make this look nice is beyond me.




After being gone for a long weekend we came back and noticed that the basement walls/floor in the north west corner were damp (as usual) except in the area that I repointed the mortar.  That was bone dry!

Throwing an E-Yard Sale

Growing up, I remember my parents doing one yard sale.  They probably did a lot more than one, but only one made an impression.  We set up every folding table we had in the yard.  Laid boards between them to make extra space and labeled dozens of well-loved trinkets for sale.  Bargain hunters trickled through and we sold a tiny portion of what we had set out.  Then we had to haul it all back into the house where it sat and sat, and sat, and sat.

Somewhere in my life journey a switch flipped and the thought of clutter became unappealing.  I grew up in a three bedroom house with five siblings.  Clutter was unavoidable, but now that I have a choice in the matter, I am a clutter phobic.  Thankfully, Shae is also a clutter phobic and we actively work to keep our house clutter free.

So what is clutter?  My general rule of thumb is that every item must serve some purpose and have been used within the past year.  If a box hasn’t been opened in over a year, its contents are clutter.  The box itself is clutter.  The whole shebang must go.

Last week we were both feeling a strong itch to clean out some of the detritus so I set aside an hour a night to go through a dresser (misc electronics, stationery, etc.) drawer by drawer.  Shae went through several boxes in the attic.

I generally make four or five piles as I sort through a box.

  1. Recycling
  2. Give Away
  3. Sell
  4. Trash
  5. Keep

If at all possible, I like the piles to go from largest to smallest in that order.

Recycling and giving away are nice because it diverts material from landfills.  At the same time, I make a conscious effort not to bombard family and friends with stuff.  Do my nieces and nephews really NEED temporary tattoos or 10 beanie babies.  Probably not, that is just making more work for their parents.  Some items are valuable but no longer used, I’ll get to that in a second.  Finally there is always something that can be thrown away.

In the course of a week, we set aside a number of sellable items with the intention of having an E-Yard Sale.  Shippable niche items were listed on eBay, the popular online auction site.  Larger general items were listed locally on Craigslist.

On eBay, I sold 2/3 items that I listed.  I sold an old graphics card for $59 and a set of RAM modules for $20.  A brand new A/C pressure switch for our old Nissan Altima did not sell and was tossed in the trash at the conclusion of the sale.ebayI sold 1/2 items listed on Craigslist.  I had picked up a pair of end tables off the curb while walking around our neighborhood.  I sold them for $35 to a woman who was ecstatic to get them at that price.  The folding tv tray table has not sold yet, but Shae might have found a buyer through a different classifieds website.

All told, I made over $100 by cleaning out some clutter from our house.  Shae has made over $40 so far and still has some big ticket items pending.  We also have three large boxes of toys, books, and misc crud that we will be donating to charity.

It feels so good to clean out our house.  Working through sentimental attachments can be difficult, but donating to charity makes it easier.  Isn’t it better to let someone else enjoy an item than to let it sit unseen in a box or drawer for years?  Focusing on selling only items worth $10 or more online is also easier than setting up an entire conventional yard sale.  You can set up an E-Yard Sale in your underwear!


Epic Trip West – Part 3

After eating a picnic lunch at Walnut Canyon, we packed up and drove up and through Flagstaff to come back down on Lake Mary Road for, you guessed it, Lake Mary.


click on image for full size panoramic

Lake Mary is a reservoir that captures meltwater from Mt Humphreys.  It serves as the primary supply for Flagstaff and is a popular fishing/recreation area for locals.  Lower Lake Mary, pictured above, was mostly dry.

Without fishing poles, there wasn’t much to do so we moved on.  Back in downtown Flag, we parked next to the library and forded over the mighty Rio de Flag (Flag River).  You can see it in the background of this picture.  Yep, it was also dry and is essentially a ditch.


Ed knew of a park nearby so we walked there along the river trail and waited for Frugal Boy’s cousin and parents to arrive via car from the Midwest.

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With everyone together, snacked, and settled down, we hit a grocery store on our way out of town to stock up on dinner ingredients for the next few days.

If you are making the drive from Flag to the Grand Canyon or vice versa you can stop at Snowbowl, a winter sports mecca.  The scenic drive up the mountain provides a sweeping vista of the surrounding area.

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That night, Shae and I made fish tacos for the crowd.  We’d need the energy for the next day’s hike down into the canyon with two one year olds!

The Grand Canyon isn’t my favorite hiking destination because the easiest part of the hike is first and the hardest part is last.  Most hikes it is reversed and if the going gets too tough you can call it quits and stomp downhill.  With the Grand Canyon though, you have to haul your butt out of whatever elevation drop you put yourself into.  The one benefit of hiking up at the end is that it also cools off the closer to the rim you get.


Frugal Boy and his cousin (also in a backpack carrier) drew many remarks from fellow hikers about them having the best seats in the house.  Later in the trip I used a ‘hiking’ carrier and found it to be much more uncomfortable than the Boba.  The Boba distributes the weight better onto the hips and because it plasters FB across your back, the center of gravity is better than the taller carrier that my brother used to carry my niece.

IMG_3854Our hike below the rim was short by our standards, at a mere 3 miles round trip, but with the elevation change and little ones, it turned out to be just right.


what goes down MUST come up


After eating a picnic lunch at the top we took the free shuttle out to Hermit’s Rest.  In February when I visited you could drive your own car out there and stop at the various overlooks along the way.  Due to traffic, the road shuts down to all unauthorized vehicles during Spring, Summer, and Fall so you have to walk or ride the shuttle.

The rest of the day was spent lounging around Ed’s apartment.  The south rim of the Grand Canyon houses around 2000 workers for the NPS and concessionaires (Xanterra being the largest).  Most of the village is tucked away and not marked on visitors maps, and the labyrinth of roads, paved trails, and complexes can be quite confusing to navigate.  Due to the lack of internet access, spotty cell coverage, and physical remoteness, the Grand Canyon Village feels like a world of its own.