Having to start over with my oven
So after starting my oven with one contractor... and then having some problems...
I'm having to start again. It got so bad with my first contractor (who did a fine job with some patio surface and a grill island), they are going to knock down everything they did, leaving the foundation, and will walk away.
I've learned my lesson and will manage my new contractor, a stone mason, much more closely. In the first go around, the contractor had built many ovens before... but that didn't mean they knew what they were doing. They build the hearth at the wrong height, made the hearth too small, didn't follow the Forno Bravo instructions (they skipped the insulating layer above the hearth, they mortared around the floor pieces).... it was a mess.
The oven and the floor pieces were taken down and are salvageable.
I'm still going to have a great oven. I guess good things come to those who wait (and those who have learned to watch the contractor more closely and to not let them do critical work while out of town).
My new contractor is very enthusiastic to learn about the ovens and is willing to follow the Forno Bravo instructions. I'm sure we can work him through it, especially now that I know about what mistakes to NOT let them make.
Sorry to hear about your difficulties, but it seems you are headed in the right direction. I watched your grill slideshow. It really looks great!
I hope I can get decent results with my limestone. I've never laid stone before, but I figure I can always knock the mortar off and call a pro! Prior to my oven, my only masonry experience was a sand-jointed brick walkway, which did turn out well. I did all the back-breaking site preparation and brick hauling, and my wife tapped them into place, thus taking all the credit for how good it looked. :)
Oklahoma limestone? We'll have to send you some Texas limestone next time. ;)
-Chris in Austin
I've laid a lot of flagstone, and here are a few things that might help. First, if the thickness of your stone is at all inconsistent, always start laying with the thickest stone first. Second, if rain runoff is a consideration, you do not want to lay the stone floor level, but about an eighth of a level bubble off in the direction you want the water to run. This might involve two, three or four sides, depending on what you're doing. Third, always dry lay everything first, and try to keep your joints a consistent half inch wide. Fourth, Type N Cement with Lime is farily new on the market, and it's what is being recommended for laying flag. Careful with it, though, because it's much more caustic than regular Type N, Type S or straight Portland. Mix it three parts fine brick sand to 1 1/4 parts cement, fairly sloppy, too, so you get a good bed and good stick. Fifth, point your joints after a week or so, depending on weather, to let the bedding mortar firm up. Mix your pointing mortar fairly dry (it should be almost crumbly), to avoid staining the stone around the joints: 3 to 1, sand and Type S. Push the mortar into the joints with a half inch pointing trowel (Home Depot); it's okay if it's a bit messy in the joint at first. Let the mortar set up about an hour or so (depends on weather), then finish point until you can see water on the surface of the mortar. Let the joints sit again, then brush smooth. Avoid cleaning the stone before you point: dust is good, because any mortar dropped on the stone will absorb it and not stain the stone. Let these bits dry up on their own, then brush off.
When you actually begin laying, it's common practice to flip two of the stones you have dry laid over on their faces. Shovel or trowel in the mortar, spread it out with your trowel, flip stones back, tap with rubber mallet until you get the proper read on your level. The first stone is crucial. Take your time with it.
I'll send on some pics if you like.
How to Lay Flagstone
Once again we get clear, concise nuggets of wisedom
Bread and masonry. Awesome.
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