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100 YEAR OLD CONCRETE BLOCK

ROBERT_WEISS's picture

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Looking at a 1900 house with an old concrete block foundation - with a stone-like pattern on the outside. Most has been skirted with siding, but some is exposed and is detiorating, though it looks fine from inside. Anyone know about the long-term prospects for this to survive structurally? Most old concrete of any kind here (Western Colorado) seems to flake off - often because of alkali soil, though I'm told the old mix just wasn't right.

(post #169382, reply #1 of 7)

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Robert;
Here in northern Virginia there are several two-story buildings with block like you describe.Once,while stopping at the country store adjacent to one of these buildings I ask the old gentleman running the register if he knew about the origins of the rough faced block.He explained that at one time Sears,Roebuck sold forms for making individual concrete block.The block was hand poured on site and once cured would be cycled into that days work.
The quality control was solely in the makers hands.My opinion on your question is that if the block you speak of lasted all those years they should be adequate.

Don L.

(post #169382, reply #5 of 7)

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Looking at a 1900 house with an old concrete block foundation - with a stone-like pattern on the outside. Most has been skirted with siding, but some is exposed and is detiorating, though it looks fine from inside. Anyone know about the long-term prospects for this to survive structurally? Most old concrete of any kind here (Western Colorado) seems to flake off - often because of alkali soil, though I'm told the old mix just wasn't right.

(post #169382, reply #2 of 7)

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Robert , Most of the old blocks were hand rammed in a single block mold . the molds were made by several companies. I have a couple of blocks from my gradfathers house , It looks like the face was made of a fine sand mix and the rest of the block was of a course mix. I made a fiberglas mold of one of those blocks so that I could make some old style blocks. Works fairly well , Ifill the mold and put a dampend block on top flip the mold and remove then cleanup the edges. Out of 200 blocks about 5 faces came off before I used them . I havent used any acrylic fortifiers im my mix yet, next batch. Someone told me that a guy in Ohio has an old mold and hand rams block for sale. Makes about 200 a day.

(post #169382, reply #3 of 7)

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Robert W. Those old suckers are common around here, eastern Nebr. Most of them are in good condition. Problem that we have (you might have) is that the mortar is often garbaged out, clay soil, which is hell on basement walls when wet and none of them have been reinforced with re-bars. Weight of the structure holds them somewhat in place. Those from turn of the century are often stamped "Miracle Block".
Have fun.

(post #169382, reply #4 of 7)

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Was looking at a Builder's Bookstore a few weeks ago, and noticed the old Sears machine in an illustration. There is a park accross the street from us that has some entrance monuments made of the same block, and dated 1904. The blocks look like chiseled stone with dressed edges. Was interested in reproducing the look myself.

The block here is in good shape, but we don't have much trouble with hard freezes in central California. Haven't had any strong earthquakes in that time either.

The machine, as illustrated in the original ad, was about the size of a small weaveing loom, and might have been pedal operated and made of angle iron and steel stampings. Just glanced at it, but it looked like the damp concrete would have been rammed together in a multi-part form, and then rotated open again at the end of the cycle, where the block would be gently lifted out and scoops of damp concrete inserted again. Could probably make quite a few in a day if helpers could keep the materials flowing in and out. Would have been a good use of unskilled or volunteer labor in those days.

Portland cement Concrete 100 years old was made when the technology was still quite young. Quality control was spotty, and mistakes and misconceptions not uncommon. The fact that it doesn't have steel rebar might have helped it last as long as it has. Water entering a poorly sealed foundation wall would have caused the rebar to rust and expand over the years manny times its original diameter.

Gary Wheeler

licensed architect & general contr.

rockface block (post #169382, reply #6 of 7)

Hello,

I realize this has been a long time since your post, but I am looking for some block and you said there was a guy in ohio that makes them  I was wondering if you remember who and where.

It would be greatly appreciated

Thank you

Jim Haffly

Classic rock face block is still available (post #169382, reply #7 of 7)

If you are looking for this product. Visit us at www.classicrockfaceblock.com We have many patterns and sizes to choose from and can ship within 4-5 days. We ship to US and Canada. Call us for more info. 888-960-8302