Several years ago I joined a group of fellow Hanley Wood editors for a visit to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville, Va. In the course of their work, many HW editors have developed a pronounced bias toward frame lumber construction. I learned this fact as I listened to their impressions of Jefferson's design, layout, and attention to detail of the carpentry work. Few of them spoke about the magnificence of this famous brick structure.
If I had only known then what I know now, I could have softened some of their opinions about masonry. By his own admission, Thomas Jefferson was America's first masonry promoter. And this famous structure, self-designed to his exacting specifications, was meant to be an example of what homes should be – stable, durable, and energy efficient.
My source of this new found knowledge was a great book I enjoyed last month, Jefferson and Monticello, the Biography of a Builder, written by Jack McLaughlin. “We are what we build,” writes McLaughlin as he explains why he used Jefferson's seemingly endless effort to cast Monticello as his legacy and a way to explain our third president's role in history. And the foundation of this legacy was brick.
The biographer noted that Jefferson thought wood structures lacked durability. In fact, Jefferson once wrote to an influential government friend that a new structure built with brick and/or stone “is an actual and permanent acquisition to the state, adding to its value as well as to its ornament.”
Thus Jefferson's use of masonry at Monticello confirmed his advocacy. The structure's impressive foundation and exterior walls are brick. Even the structure's famous Doric columns are made of specially molded curve brick, with stucco to give the appearance of stone.
Like Jefferson, millions of owners have selected masonry to create their legacies of tradition and sustainability. And unless we make a concerted effort to improve our overall approach to repair and maintenance procedures, the masonry industry is about to suffer from its own success.
In this issue we discuss a serious problem faced by our industry. After convincing the public of our assemblages' performance values, we find ourselves dealing with their misconception that masonry requires little or no maintenance. And when maintenance finally is found to be necessary, building owners believe the task can be handled by non-industry contractors.
Where does a non-industry person go to search for qualified answers to masonry problems? Our industry has a real problem. I know of no real unified voice speaking on masonry's repair and maintenance.