I live in a home built in 1897. To survive that many years, occupants, weather conditions and the quirks of fate, it had to be built pretty darn well. Oh sure, like all aging divas she has to have regular fawning and gifts of intense labor, but, we love her all the same.
Some of the more beautiful characteristics are the ones that require the most upkeep. The quirky Victorian trim, the sitting porches, and the brick walks.
Lore says our home was built by a descendent of an original Bishop Hill family on land that was once part of the Bishop Hill settlement. Being a history buff and enjoying our neighboring village, I’ve tried to not alter the home in ways that take away from the historical significance.
Having said that, we did install all new custom sized energy efficient windows when historical significance lost to the prospect of freezing on this windy hill. And now I’ve had to make a decision on a similar issue: Replacing the majority of my brick sidewalks with cement.
When we bought this place, we didn’t even know there were sidewalks. I found them when I was using a shovel to transfer some plants and hit something hard. Digging down about six inches, I found brick. Whenever I’d want to take a break from the work inside the house, I’d go outside and uncover a few more brick. Eventually, I had a brick walk in front of the house and down to the driveway.
Not only was the foundation and chimneys Bishop Hill brick, our walks were the same brick. Oh joy! Oh historically correct! Oh quaint and picturesque! Oh huge amount of work to maintain.
The old brick is soft and isn’t glazed. Water is one of the main reasons brick fails and these conditions beneath six inches of soil for who knows how long was a recipe for brick death. If you’re a brick mason, please have patience with my lack of technical knowledge.
The old walks apparently didn’t have much of a gravel base either. I’d spend spring time digging out failed bricks and replacing with another (every square foot of this yard has some kind of debris constantly pushing up including brick).
They’d heave and turn and sink and flake. Then the weeds would take hold and that was another constant battle all summer long. I’d sit with a small paint scraper and pull them out. I’d use weed killer. It was constant. Then finally it became too much. They were failing at a more rapid rate and I was failing to get younger and more agile. They had moved into a time-consuming hazard.
Last week we replaced our front bricks with cement walks. Quaint and historically correct they are not. The restoration purist will shudder and condemn. But, as I was researching brick failure, the comment, “the downside to looking pretty” hit the nail on the head. And my granddaughter spent last evening bouncing a ball ever so perfectly on the new walks because they were so smooth and fun. That pretty much counts as a big plus in my book.