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Tag Archives: Masonry

How to Take Care of Your Backyard Outdoor Fireplace in Milton, MA

A backyard fireplace is probably one of the most rewarding investments for your Milton, MA home. Not only does it add to the opulence of your property, but also makes your yard a comfortable gathering place for friends and family. However, keeping a fireplace safe and functional requires some care, and knowing what to look out for can help you enjoy your fireplace to the utmost.

Related: 5 Designs for a Perfect Summer Backyard in Walpole MA

Rechecking the location

Safety is paramount with any fire feature, which is why it is important to revisit the placement of your fireplace. Ensure that plants remain a safe distance from the fireplace, especially after spring summer when most plants go through a growth spurt. Ask your landscaper to trim back branches and ensure that the fireplace’s location is still optimal. Moreover, try to keep the fireplace away from flammable structures and consider relocating it if you have carried out an extension or renovations.

Check for defective parts

Regular use, high working temperatures and exposure to the elements can take their toll on the various parts of your fireplace. Gas fireplaces, in particular, have to be checked more often, given they have a more complex design. It is important to ensure none of the gas lines, fixtures or valves are leaking. This can be done by your landscaper. Similarly, the burners and pilot light should also be examined for corrosion, given their exposure to the elements, as problems with them can result in trouble with lighting up and maintaining a flame.

Related: Five Important Design Trends that are Shaping Landscaping in Scituate MA

Inspect the chimney

A clean and free-flowing chimney is an integral part of any fireplace. A quick inspection of the chimney should be carried out by the homeowner before every use to ensure that it is free of serious blockages. Typically, fireplaces with clogged chimneys experience back puffing, emitting smoke through the opening rather than through the chimney. This can be caused by leaves or debris accumulating, especially during the fall, as well as due to the build-up of soot and creosote. In either case, a clogged chimney is a significant fire hazard and a professional should be consulted, especially after a prolonged period of disuse. Creosote build-up, in particular, is quite dangerous given its inflammable nature. No fireplace should be used if the build up is thick and tar-like, as this is more susceptible to catching fire. Lastly, consider investing in a chimney cover or grill to prevent debris from falling in.

Issues with the masonry

Fireplaces are constructed from a wide variety of materials. Some are more susceptible to degradation over time than others. This is partly due to the high temperature variation, as well as constant exposure to the elements that an outdoor fireplace is subject to. Check the fireplace for cracks and consult a professional over the proper repair procedure. Filling in a crack with the wrong material can cause excessive expansion and exacerbate the crack over time. Similarly, exposure to the rain can result in crumbling masonry, especially inside the chimney, which is often less protected. Coating the entire fireplace with a sealant after repairs is one excellent way to mitigate any potential disasters. Lastly, fireplaces tend to be heavy structures that can cause the soil underneath them to compact. This can result is the ground settling under the structure, potentially causing it to become unstable and a safety hazard. In any of these scenarios, contacting a professional is the best option, given the high-risk nature of structural problems with fireplaces.

Image courtesy of Unilock.

Dry vs Wet Masonry for your Stone Wall in Hanover, MA

A lot goes into planning a successful hardscaping project. Towne Tree & Landscaping will make sure you’ve covered all your bases, especially since masonry is a fairly permanent landscaping feature. After you’ve decided on the size and location, you’ll need to choose between dry-stacked or wet-laid masonry. This choice will make a big difference in the appearance of your final product. Read on to learn more about which type of masonry is better for your Hanover, MA, stone wall.

Dry-Stacked Masonry

Dry-stacking is one of the oldest forms of stone masonry. Dry stone masonry involves laying stones on a secure footing of sand and gravel and does not use mortar to keep the stones together. A combination of skilled workmanship, gravity, and sand help keep the wall upright and intact. Each stone is carefully selected based on its shape and structural integrity. The stones are then skillfully stacked in such a manner that provides both stability and good drainage.

Where to Use Dry-Stacked Masonry

Dry laid stone provides a more rustic feel than mortared stone, but the look of dry stone masonry will vary greatly depending on the craftsmanship and type of stone used.  Boulder walls use large fieldstones laid in a single row for the base, with smaller stones to fill in the spaces. This type of wall works well for boundary fences and lower traffic areas. Modern dry-stacked walls generally use quarried or manufactured stones which provide a cleaner look. Dry-stacked stone can be used for retaining walls that are less than three feet high.

Related: Capturing the Timeless Aesthetic of the Stone Wall

Wet-Laid Masonry

With wet-laid masonry, stones are laid on a strong concrete base and mortar is applied between the stones to bind them together. Stone selection isn’t as crucial because the mortar fills in the gaps between stones. Wet-laid masonry walls offer more variety when it comes to the size and shape of your wall. Recessed mortar joints can be used to create the look of dry-stacked masonry while maintaining the durability of a mortared wall.

Where to Use Wet-Laid Masonry

Wet-laid masonry creates a cleaner, more formal look than dry-stacked. It provides excellent stability for your wall and is a better choice for high-traffic areas. Seat walls, walls, and counters for outdoor kitchens benefit from the structure and permanence of wet-laid masonry. Mortared masonry is also the preferred choice for retaining walls because of its strength and durability.

Related: 5 Essential Elements for Your MA Outdoor Kitchen

Which Method is Better?

While both dry and wet masonry are durable and long-lasting, they do offer slightly different benefits. For climates with extreme temperatures and a high freeze-thaw ratio, dry stone offers more flexibility and is less susceptible to damage from frost heave. Minor ground shifts are generally absorbed by the wall as the rocks settle together.

If damage does occur, dry stone is easier to repair, and rebuilt sections will blend well with old portions of the wall. Dry stone installations can also be quicker to complete than wet stone due to the lack of mortar.

Wet-laid masonry offers more permanence but can be more costly than dry-stack, due to the additional materials and labor required. And eventually, the mortar will crack and require repairs. Wet-laid masonry also requires extra drainage to move water away from the wall since it doesn’t have the natural drainage properties of dry-stacked stone.

Capturing the Timeless Aesthetic of the Stone Wall

A commanding, natural stone wall can bring character and timelessness to any landscape. The wide availability of choices involved in the creation of your stone wall calls for some expert input into your decision, so as you plan to incorporate a landscaping stone wall in Milton, MA, consult with a landscaping professional to decide which kind of stone wall aesthetic will work best for your given property and situation.

Stone Blocks

In the modern landscape, stone walls are often built with concrete blocks; although, concrete as a material can be used itself in several different ways. Whether you use the standard concrete block (CMU), split face blocks, or retaining wall building systems, it’s easier than ever before to create a naturally-inspired, impressive stone wall for your landscape.

Stone Veneer

Homeowners who choose stone veneer to achieve the desired stone aesthetic typically use CMUs as the base of the wall on top of concrete footers. Once the base is complete, stone veneer is then used to cover the surface area. Stone masons will use your choice of veneer material to cover the wall, creating a timeless look for your landscape.

Split Face Block

Split face block offers an alternative to stone veneer that eases installation, affordability, and durability. Manufacturers produce this concrete option with a textured aesthetic on one side, making the construction of a wall with a stone aesthetic simple. Moreover, the variety of options that you’ll find indicate a newly found ability to complement any style of design or architecture needed.

Retaining Wall System Units

Another development in terms of landscape wall building is the advancement of retaining wall system units. These systems fit together seamlessly, increasing strength and durability. Yet, the seemingly random nature of the stones and the natural texture enhance the stone aesthetic of the unit when complete.

Related: 5 Uses for Retaining Walls in Landscape Design

Dry Stone Wall

Finally, when nothing but actual rock will do, call in the heavy equipment. This job will require an engineer on site to ensure correct placement of your stones or boulders. The height of this project may be limited, but the magnitude of the statement made will not be. Whether using stacked slabs or boulders, this sort of stone wall is truly a monumental feature for any landscape.

Related: Dry vs Wet Masonry for your Stone Wall in Hanover, MA

Various Wall Options

Stone walls can be used for a multitude of purposes, and it’s helpful to consider the function of your landscaping addition rather than the aesthetic advantages alone. For those with erosion issues or grading issues on the land, retaining walls can help hold back soil and prevent further erosion. For those with a flat landscape without the need for retaining walls, consider seating walls around a patio, low walls to elevate planting beds, or high privacy walls around specific areas in the yard. When making these plans and decisions, remember to consult a professional in the field to guide your choices regarding materials and design to make sure that the style meets function and that your addition remains durable, attractive, and practical for many, many years.

Related: Creating Privacy in Your Massachusetts Backyard