This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
While it is necessary to consider the matter of drainage at this time, the actual work of building the cesspools and laying the drain pipes is usually taken up at a later period and the whole of our energy at this time should be directed toward the building of the cellar walls. Already the timbers for the frame are being delivered and the contractor for the carpenter work is filled with forebodings lest he have no wall to put his sill on when the first floor is framed. We direct the mason to build the cellar walls with all the speed that he can, "consistent with good workmanship", and set ourselves the task of following him up sharply to see that this is done. The greater part of the stone for the cellar walls has been carted onto the lot and we shall do well to look it over with the mason, pointing out to him that many of the boulder stones are too round and should be split before being used, while some of the more slaty stones, which appear to have been recently blasted, may have cracks in them which will allow the water to soak in. This may be detected by striking the stones with a hammer to judge of their soundness by the clearness of their ringing. The stones, upon the whole, are a good looking lot, and it will remain only to see that the walls are properly built.
Fig. 12. Dry Well.
In the first place the walls must be built entirely free from the bank so that they are self-supporting (Fig. 13), besides giving an opportunity of cementing the wall on the outside as called for. This is a thing generally neglected, and yet is much more important than that the inside of the wall should be smooth and handsome. The ordinary careless way of building the cellar wall of a country house, is to lay the wall up to the top of the ground without mortar, of stones of varying thickness, brought to a face on the cellar side, and with the "tails" of the stone in irregular projection on the outside, some partly resting against the bank and others barely filling out to the required thickness, and the whole smoothed over on the inside by a thin smearing of mortar. (Fig. 14.) This is a method which should be avoided for many reasons. In the first place a wall of this kind is little or no protection against water, for the uneven projections on the external face serve to catch the water which runs down on the outside and to lead it into the inner face, where the thin pointing of mortar is very little protection. Then, too, any movement as of frost in the ground, tends to overthrow the wall by reason of the long stones which tail into the ground, and often bear upon the soil in such a way that any settlement or heaving of the soil will open cracks, and cause the wall to bulge inward as is often seen in country cellars. In reality it is more important that the outside face of the wall should be smooth and impervious than the inside face. Satisfied that the stones which are being delivered are suitable for our wall we shall need to give our attention mainly to the construction, to the mortar and bonding, to the solidity, and later to the pointing. The specifications say that the stones shall be laid in "half cement" mortar. This we interpret to mean equal parts of cement and lime, and not half as much cement as lime, as some contractors have been known to claim. In slaking the lime for mortar it is important that the water. in the proportion of one and one-half barrels to on barrel of lime, should be added in as large quantities as is practicable, as the putting on of water by bucketfuls with time taken for stirring between, tends to chill the lime which is already beginning to heat. After slaking, the lime must stand as long as possible before mixing with sand, and the cement should not be added until required for use, as it will set in a few hours. This mortar is to be mixed in the proportion of one part of cement to one part of lime and eight parts of sand, and must be thoroughly mixed, as will be shown by the evenness of color and smoothness. To be of good quality, the lime should be free from cinders and clinkers, in hard lumps with little dust. It should slake actively and entirely, making a fine soft paste with no residue or "core". Lime should always be slaked in a pen built of boards and never on the ground or in a hollow in the sand. A pen about four feet by seven, and ten inches deep is large enough to mix a cask at a time.
Fig. 13. Good Cellar Wall.
Some kinds of lime, when slaked, leave a residue of stones and gravel and when this is the case instead of the mortar being mixed in the same box in which the lime slaked, the mixture is thinned with water and is run through a fine seive into another box in which the mortar is mixed. If Rockland lime is used as is specified in our case, this will not be necessary.
The sand used, should be sharp and free from dirt, loam or other impurities. To obtain this, it is generally necessary to screen the sand. For our purpose a rather coarse sand will make the strongest mortar. The sand must be carefully inspected and in case of any doubt should be tested for purity. One test is by putting a handful into a dish of water, when any dirt or impurities will at once rise to the top as the sand sinks. Another test is to squeeze a handful of wet sand, and, upon opening the hand, if the sand retains its shape and soils the hand, it probably contains loam or clay and should be rejected. If. it falls down loosely without staining it is probably clean and good. The presence of fine loam in the sand will make the mortar work more easily and it is sometimes so used by unscrupulous builders.
Fig. 14. Poor Cellar Wall.
There are many brands of Rosendale cement, which is the kind called for, and they are so well known that for ordinary purposes it is only necessary to see that the casks bear the name of the specified brand, and that the cement is fresh and has not become crusty from absorbing moisture. The darker colors also indicate the better qualities. In case of any doubt, a simple test is to make two cakes of about a handful each mixed with a little water and allow one to set in the air, while the other is put to set in water. If the cement dries in the air with a light color and free from cracks, and sets under water with a darker color and without cracks, it is of a good quality; but if either cake cracks or becomes twisted and bubbly it shows a quality of cement which is inferior, and should be rejected. Cement must be kept in a dry place as a little moisture will cause it to set and it will soon become worthless.