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You can huff, you can puff, you won’t blow my house down.

Knowing that today begins the final push for the inner ‘block’ walls, (vs the outer pretty brick walls), 5:15 am found be bounding out of bed with an all too familiar combination of excitement and anxiety.

Brickys, as they are referred to by other trades (not sure if they refer to themselves like that?) are responsible for what will be subconsciously, or consciously seen as the general aesthetic of the building. Is it symmetrical? Is it harmonious? How does the architecture ‘feel’? Do the windows that you spent a LOT of money on and have taken 4 months to arrive, fit?

This is all in the throws of hoisting block/brick after block/brick, climbing up and down scaffold and playing with mud. The vast majority of what they do is hard and heavy and dirty, yet they are the ones that will ultimately be responsible for the everyday feel of your building.

This = stress. I have gone to great extremes to get measurements, down to the 1/4”, measuring and remeasuring, cutting, pasting, posting, making shapes and picking fonts that are easy to read, but all fit on a piece of paper that will ultimately be stuffed into a pocket, and brought out with dirty hands. At the beginning of the day it’s up to me, as the homeowner, designer (vs architect) and GC of the project. At the end of the day, it’s up to them. In the middle of the day I need to keep my eyes peeled from afar and try to spy anything that looks ‘off’. When something is spied, I need to quickly and with diplomacy, approach the foreman of the project with suggestions to remeasure, and likely pull and replace material.


I think it’s fair to say that this is not generally what contractors get from Gas.

Winter block. Winter brick.

These are some very particular queens of the mason’s trade. They are strong and bold, like they do, but they need to be handled with kid gloves. They have very strong opinions on how to be joined in a community, and afterwards will proudly state ‘well, that was easy. no problem, nothing to look at here’.

When dodging snowflakes and sitting with weather apps close on hand, as I have been, prognostication cannot give way to optimism. Last week I requested the mason team for Wednesday-Friday of this week, because Chicago was reported to go from 3’ at dawn to 37’ at dawn. As I sit here, with dawn only 4 minutes away, it seems that the prognostication and optimism have aligned. WHEW! I’m awaiting the arrival of team ‘baked clay’. Somewhat ironic considering my covid hobby was ceramics and throwing pots.

I have cranked up the water heaters to allow for warm water in the mortar mix, cleared a space in my basement for bags of grout to be stored at 60’ before mixing, the 30 cup coffee thermos dispenser is near full (gotta keep everyone warm inside if I can’t keep them warm outside) and I am hoping for the best. Temps above freezing tonite will be ‘the best’ I am hoping for.

Oh, and brickys that pleasure in exact measurements, to the 1/4”.

Brick vs frame

Why am I building a brick house vs a stick house, of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ fame? It’s not so much so it can huff and puff, and my house won’t blow down. I have known, and lived in frame houses that were 100 + years old, and they were ‘shit brick houses’ as is a phrase I have used on a number of occasions.

The real reason is because I wanted my coach house, the one that will live on my little slice of Chicago property, that I will likely look at for the next 2 decades and hopefully live in for decades to follow that, to fit, to make sense, and to look like it’s been here for at least 1/2 of the life of my front brick 2 flat, built 108 years ago.

Brick is considerably expensive, if anyone is asking. Because of that, I do my level best to trim costs elsewhere, without curating corners, of course.

It’s like the feeling I feel when (pre-pandemic) I plan a big night out at a fancy dance club, knowing that I will be buying top shelf liquor all night long, and maybe even offer a round for the table while cooking for myself and making my own coffee all week long as as to be able to allocate my funds for fun. I still eat well, and never go uncafinated, but that Grey Goose martini is going to go down smooooooth.

So now, as 7;30 rolls around, coffee brewed, plans passed along, hot water tapped and workers greeted, they begin the next stage. The very last night of seeing the street light’s golden glow through my kitchen window is past. Going forward I will be looking at the precision the brick layers are serving up, today, January 12, 2022.

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