Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pergola: Done

I finished the last bit of grouting early this morning, working on the part of the walkway that is not shaded by our big oak trees.

Grouting a stone pathway is the most peaceful sort of work. Cement and sand is mixed together with just a little water and the clock starts ticking. My red bucket holds enough for about 30 minutes of work. The commitment of focus during those 30 minutes is absolute, like meditation, because there's no time to get distracted, no time for second guessing or dawdling, no time to check email, no time for phone calls, no bathrooms breaks, no coffee, no Facebook, no time for anything except focus. Just continue grouting until the bucket is empty.

Cheryl called me from the back porch, "Fred, can you come here for a second?"

"Sorry, I can't." My bucket isn't empty yet. (Cheryl had found some nice patio furniture for the pergola.)

The pergola project is finished, but I still have about 700 more square feet of stone patio (around the big bamboo) that I could grout--I put down the stone several years ago and swept sand into the cracks, and of course I fight the weeds every summer. If I really love grouting, then I have plenty more that I can do. Maybe I don't love it that much.

For years this part of the yard was completely wild with vines and cherry laurels. It is struggling now to reinvent itself. Unusual looking vines and bushes are popping up--were they always here? Like always our goal is to find a natural balance in the yard, with plants that belong and that can survive through long periods of neglect, which I am certain to offer.

Next project: the new grill area.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Little Red Bucket

I guess I love my little red grouting bucket. It was my mortar bucket for the entire bathroom project, and now I'm using it to do the tuck grouting on my pergola stone. What a sweet little bucket. (No, I can't marry my bucket, but thanks for the suggestion. I am very happy with my redheaded wife.)

Because I'm mixing my own grout (1 part Portland and 3 parts sand) and I'm using very little water in the mix, my bucket holds just the right amount to work before it gets too dry.

One trick, as I learned after scanning through several YouTube videos, is to get the mixture just wet enough to hold together and not too wet or the cement will leach out and stain the stone. The other trick is to use a tuck grouting tool (because we are tucking the grout into the cracks), which is thin enough to get into the cracks and just the right stiffness to work the grout. And it has a pretty red handle.

When things are just right, I pour out a small amount--it sprinkles out on the stone like damp, crumbly flour. This isn't something new--people have been doing this for thousands of years.

I use my tool to sweep it into the cracks, then pack it down.

Then I sweep more into the cracks. It takes two or three packings. When it dries, this stuff will be as hard as the stone.

And not to forget my cool new masonry brush, which magically sweeps the remaining grout crumbs off the stone without crushing them.

It is so much fun that I can't wait to do more.

However my "real job" keeps interrupting me. More later