March 12, 2010
FEATURE | Concrete/Masonry
Workers reinstall original bricks from 1925 car dealership on the face of a new Toronto condo
Cameras are a masonry heritage contractor’s best friend when dismantling, cataloguing and storing historic building faades and architectural details.
The Neo-Gothic limestone and brick façade of the 1925 McLaughlin Motor Car Showroom on Toronto’s Bay St. is a perfect example. The structure was carefully taken down two years ago to make way for the Burano, a 48-storey condo tower. Today the two-storey façade is being reassembled on the face of the new tower as it rises.
Yet, putting Humpty Dumpty back together was never so easy. “We took tons and tons of pictures, which has become a huge asset to us in putting this back up,” says Chris Huntley, project manager of Heritage Restoration Inc., the masonry restoration contractor on the job. “We measured the building two years ago, but drawings can only tell you so much. The pictures we took were just as important and provided us with a record of what the building looked like.”
Each stone was measured and numbered, drawings were produced and photos taken before the façade elements were stored in the contractor’s shop for two years. About 4,000 rug-faced bricks were also removed from the backside of the building as extras to replace any façade bricks damaged beyond repair.
Huntley says the contractor spent about two months cleaning and repairing stone and brick last summer in preparation for the façade’s reinstatement.
Reinstalling the right bricks in some sections of the façade proved tricky because, unlike the limestone, individual bricks weren’t numbered, just the panels or sections of the façade from which they came.
Photos proved to be an invaluable aid in determining the original brickwork details, such as header courses on either side of brick panels and stretcher rowlock courses (the small face of the brick looking outward) along the top panels of the two-storey building.
Some of the limestone architectural features were extensively damaged — many of them were broken into three or four pieces. Others had poor repairs and some had deep holes from lightbox and sign supports.
To repair fractured stone (mostly header stones above windows), the contractor inserts 3/8-inch steel rods to act as dowels into six- to eight-inch holes drilled into each segment and then applies a two-part slow-set (50-minutes) epoxy to bind them. A sealer is spread over the repair joint to prevent moisture penetration, says Huntley, adding the objective is to use as much of the original stone as possible on the heritage-designated façade.
The building also requires many Dutchman repairs, typically done where small corner pieces of limestone had broken off over time. For minor chips or cracks, the contractor digs an inverted groove to at least a half inch and installs a Jahn mortar patch.
Lime-based mortar (NHL 5) is made on site for back mortar pointing, while the face mortar (mortar pointing that passersby will see) is a premixed product that comes in two colours: grey for the brick and a lighter shade for the limestone. The replaced façade fronts a one-inch airspace and three inches of foam insulation. The stone and façade varies in thickness, from four to eight inches.
The façade is expected to be completed by mid May.
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