12/06/16
How to hang Christmas lights on brick using a glue gun



Brick homes dress up beautifully for the holidays with greenery and lights for a classic look. But how do you hang lights without nails in window sill and eves?

Use a hot glue gun. We found this method online and wanted to test it ourselves, so we took our supplies to the Pine Hall Brick showroom in Greensboro and set up a Christmas light laboratory.

Here’s what you’ll need:
• Hot glue gun
• Extra glue sticks (you might need a little practice in getting the bead just right!)
• Extension cord to reach the “job site”
• Outdoor Christmas lights
NOTE: these instructions are for application to brick—unpainted—only. We do not recommend this for stucco, stone or other sidings.

You can use any outdoor lighting you choose, but it’s probably best to buy the larger bulb and base varieties, because you’ll have more surface upon which to apply the hot glue.



As always, test your strand first and make sure all the bulbs work. Then, we recommend removing the bulbs to make installation go a little faster, since the bulbs can be very fragile.



With any standard glue gun, apply a one-inch tube of melted glue to the side of the light. Think of applying toothpaste to your toothbrush! As an alternative, you can also apply a button of glue to the flat base of the light, if you prefer that the bulbs be perpendicular to the brick. Don’t be afraid to use too much glue, especially if you expect heavy precipitation. DO NOT TOUCH THE HEATED TIP OF THE GLUE GUN TO THE ELECTRICAL WIRE OF THE LIGHT STRAND.

It’s best to do this on dry brick, but the glue will hold up to rain and snow. Heavy ice might present a problem, but in most cases the lights will easily stay up till January.



Before the glue hardens, press the light onto the side of the brick fro at least 20 seconds, then move on up the strand and repeat. Try to keep the cord taught, but not so tight that it puts stress on the lights above.

It’s a good idea to wear gloves because the hot glue can cause burns. We used knit gloves, but wished that we had some cool mechanics gloves like these that you can pick up at home improvement stores.


Once the lights are in place, you can reinstall the bulbs, alternating in any pattern you choose.

You don’t have to apply glue to all the lights, either. In fact, you might want to have a nice swag here and there. The glue on the anchor lights should be plenty durable to support several unglued lights.

When it’s time to remove the lights, remove all the bulbs from their sockets. Then apply a cotton swab saturated in alcohol to loosen the glue, which should then lift off like tape. If any are stubborn, keep applying alcohol until it some loose easily.  ChristmasDesigners.com provides detailed video instructions.



You can also try “brick clips.” These are sold and home improvement stores around the holidays. They’ basically brackets that grip the top and bottom of brick. But your mortar must be recessed at least an eighth of an inch. Use a small screwdriver to depress the springs at the boom of the clip. Actually, brick clips are probably best for indoor use on fireplaces, where they’re ideal for hanging stockings. Brick clips shown here are 2-1/8-in H to 2-1/2-in H and available at Lowe’s. 

Merry Christmas from Pine Hall Brick!

Pavers shown here are Pathway Full Range. The beautiful brick shown here is Rustic Village!

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/23/16
Entertain outdoors by the fireplace year-round

Summertime campouts may be over, but with a rustic outdoor kitchen of brick on a paver patio you can enjoy the crackling sparks and aromatic smoke of an open flame that’s as cozy as it is fun and practical.

Why not move holiday gatherings to the patio? Go old-school with a pot of chili simmering over a bed of hickory coals. Or just heat up some cider—soft or hard!—and enjoy a football party in your home outdoors.

We’re loving the potential of this amazing outdoor fireplace built with Pine Hall Brick Vienna oversized tumbled brick paired with wine mortar. It’s got plenty of space for party-sized spread of hearty snacks or trays of barbecued ribs.

When you entertain on a paver patio, nobody has to wipe their feet or mind their plates, too much. So an outdoor kitchen is ideal for kids, pets and your rowdiest neighbors.

The impressive spiraling chimney makes the fire a lot more efficient with a stronger updraft than an open campfire and it keeps the smoke out of your face. A smaller grilling niche lets you barbecue meats over charcoal or firewood.

It’s rustic, but beautiful with impressive decorative masonry work that can add re-sell value to any home. Of course, experts advise against fire—or even turkey boilers—with wooden decks. They’re just too combustible. But with a paver patio, you can entertain by a roaring blaze to keep everyone toasty.

The brick gives the aesthetically-minded entertainer a neutral palette that can be accessorized with bold colored or seasonal picnic table cloths, blankets and even fun outdoor cookware. We found a cool red percolator from GSI Outdoors for a hot pot of coffee, western roundup style.

This fireplace was professionally built, but some DIYers might want to give it a shot. Pine Hall Brick, of course, supplies all the structural brick, but we also sell and advise on the use of high quality fire brick (see yellow brick above) for the inside of the chimney.

Your home outdoors is fun year-round with a paver patio and fire only makes it better…along with some fleeces and wooly socks. See more Pine Hall Brick fireplaces and fire pits, visit our Pinterest page.

11/10/16
An insider job for a beautiful outdoor space

 



Vernon and Nancy Moore live less than a mile from the Dan River where were we get our clay to make pavers for good reason. Nancy is our human resources director and Vernon is our retired vice president of operations of the paver plant. When they wanted an innovative hardscape to extend their home outdoors, they contracted with Hugo Yañez, owner of Fred’s Masonry and, himself, a former brick maker for Pine Hall Brick.


                                   Hugo Yañez, owner of Fred’s Masonry and former brick maker.

Of course when you get three brick professionals together, they tend to look for creative ways to design livable outdoor spaces. And with our paver plant just over the river, it was easy for the team to purchase plenty of factory seconds, samples and discontinued items.

It’s a fun design with a path leading from the front of the home to the back with two small patios for grilling and dining, respectively, both connected to a spacious seating and entertainment space.

“We sort of had an idea, but got a landscape architect to help us draw it up,” says Vernon Moore. “I knew Fred from a long time ago at the plant so we called him to do the installation. He did a great job!”



The three patio spaces use a unique specialty paver called Clemson Block, 12” x 12” square clay pavers, originally designed for a Clemson University hardscape. Nancy bought them as seconds. The pathway uses an early version of Pine Hall Brick Old Town pavers in cocoa that pair and contrast beautifully with the pinker and lighter Clemson Block pavers.

Clemson Block is still manufactured, but only for large special orders. By the way, anyone can buy factory seconds in a range of styles at our annual Paver Days events. Read about that, here.



Nancy Moore applied her own creativity—and a limber back—to add a touch of whimsy to the backyard experience by repurposing Pine Hall Brick bullnose step treads, designed to be used for outdoor stairs, as borders to gardening features. Like the pavers, the treads are fired clay, designed to be durable for centuries. She also created paths across the lawn using concrete stepping stones set in red brick chips.

Fred’s Masonry is a full-service masonry contractor handing brick construction as well as paver installation. Yañez’s experience in brick manufacturing launched his career as a mason. He’s a sought-after expert for home improvements with installations around the Triad that go back more than a decade. The Moore’s project was completed in September 2016 and is one that Yañez takes a lot of pride in showing.

 

10/29/16
A white brick masterpiece captures old world charm

Brick defines Worth Mitchell’s home in Kernersville, NC. From the gated entry with its distressed mortar treatment reminiscent of a 400-year-old Spanish villa to a beautifully aged two-story veranda and patio with pavers, Mitchell has crafted a dream home that looks like it belongs in an upscale travel magazine.

And that’s exactly what Mitchell had in mind when he designed it.

“I wanted to marry old world Charleston with old world Spain,” says Mitchell.  “I knew there was going to be a lot of brick. And we just kept going and going and going with it.”

The home itself seems to keep going, too. It’s over 11,000 square feet, including a seven-car garage, sprawls over the hillside property just above the headwaters of the Haw River. The secluded lot is landscaped with plenty of greenery and the manicured shrubs along path to the front door compliment the home in a way that’s cheery and welcoming even on an overcast day.

Mitchell acted as his own contractor and designer with the help of Steve Almstead of Almstead Custom Homes during the 2007-2009 construction process. As a successful serial entrepreneur—whose business interests include high end construction, development and design, gourmet sauces and seasonings, Spanish galleon shipwreck salvage and Kvell Vodka, a high end 10-times distilled premium Vodka—this homeowner takes DIY to a whole new level.

“I designed it on a napkin, then took it to a buddy of mine, Sal Interlandi of Sal Interlandi Architects,” says Mitchell. “Sal’s a very, very talented architect who put it on his CAD system and got it all handled which included rendering a set of plans.”

Using a palette of Pine Hall Brick Oyster Pearl product, Mitchell was able to achieve a masterpiece of subtle shades and earth tones with the popular white brick. And got a lot of satisfaction pulling out all the stops with the masonry details.

You see this in the soldier courses, the randoms and the herringbone and English bond where every third course is flipped to show the back unfinished side of the brick. All the corners on the steps, windows and doors have ogee returns and one-and-a-half Spanish arches are used beautifully.

 

It’s almost as if Mitchell built his own village complete with outdoor cafes, gardens and paths. To get to work, he takes stroll down a walkway paved with Pine Hall Brick English Edge clay pavers to an office that overlooks three small waterfalls in the draw behind the property.

Like a lot of entrepreneurs, Mitchell is always in motion and he’s now in the process of selling the home. Pine Hall Brick will play a big part in marketing its curb appeal.

The home is currently listed by Wendi Huffman of Tyler Redhead & McAlister.

To see more photos from the Mitchell home and other inspiring designs, visit our Pinterest page.

10/13/16
Jason Reader sold himself on Casa Grande with white mortar


Home builder Jason Reader prefers to build with brick whenever possible.

“We use lots of materials, but if the neighborhood and the price point line up, I’m absolutely going to choose brick,” says Reader.

His most recent completed project is a 5700-square-foot brick beauty for some very special homeowners: the Reader family.

The modified Tudor style home wraps around Reader’s lifestyle with an office specially built for J Reader Construction that’s linked to the main home by a nifty portico walkway over the driveway that leads back to a separate two-car, one-golf-cart, garage.

Not only does this arrangement eliminate any commuting to work, it makes getting to the golf course a short cart ride to the Bermuda Run Country Club that backs up to the property.

It’s built with Pine Hall Brick Casa Grande. The dark brown brick with just a hint of red is balanced beautifully with white mortar. As a builder, Reader had specified a lot of the popular Casa Grande line, but when he saw it with white mortar, he knew that was what his personal home had to have.

Reader managed to have his new home ready to show this weekend and next in the Winston-Salem (NC) Fall Parade of Homes. It’s the 10th home he’s built for himself.

“And it’s the last one I want to build,” says Reader, “at least until our daughter is out of college!”

So quality was upmost in Reader’s work.

“I like to borrow from other designs I see and from other homes I build custom or on spec,” says Reader. “I mix and match rooms and exterior features working with my draftsman to get exactly what I want. The spec home I’m building next door comes from about eight different plans.”

The Reader home features a lot of stylish exterior elements that accent the expansive face brick, like cedar corbels, stained exterior ceilings and a stately second floor bay under a curved gable for his daughter’s playroom. Reader also combined Hardie Plank and stone with the brick façade for nicely balanced curb appeal.

Reader began as a floor sweeping apprentice, working his way up to eventually become a contractor — learning from his mentors along the way.

“I’m still best friends with the first contractor who hired me,” says Reader.

J Reader Construction sets itself apart by being consistently present at its job sites to monitor progress and assure quality.

Jason Reader attributes a lot of his home’s quality to choosing the best materials, like Casa Grande with white mortar from Pine Hall Brick.

09/21/16
Fall is for fire pits

As summer fades and the early autumn sun starts to drift lower in the sky, the cooler evenings make your home outdoors more inviting. A patio expands your space and makes it more enjoyable for your family and guests. Why not install a brick fire pit for home value and fun?

An attractive circular brick fire pit can match your home’s face brick and, as with interior spaces, decorating the new space becomes part of the fun. You can make your toasty patio beautiful and functional year round. On warmer nights, bring out the wicker or rattan. Or maybe you prefer a classic white rocker.  For winter, you might want something with a bit more upholstery, just add a few stadium blankets and put some cocoa on the coals.

A fire pit lets you be as rustic or as elegant as your mood or occasion requires.

My Home Outdoors took a look at a how affordable outdoor seat cushions (by Solarium) give you some easy decorating options. Here, our Vienna brick matches nicely with deep red.

If you’re on a budget or a first-time homeowner, you may not have to spend a lot on expensive patio furniture. Outdoor seat cushions and pillows are durable enough to be used directly on the patio.

How about some yoga or morning meditation by the fire? A kids’ party with s’mores turns your patio into a campsite with all the comforts of home. Add a guitar for a few rounds of sing-along.

Or just a good wine or craft beer with your neighbors under starlight.

Fire pits are also easier to maintain than an indoor fireplace and offer a lot of versatility. Whether you just enjoy the mood that fire sets or you want to go full-on outdoor chef, a brick fire pit lets you build a beautiful roaring blaze or a long burning bed of coals where you can roast corn, potatoes or tend a kettle of chili.

A word about wood

One big difference of having a fire in an outdoor pit versus your indoor fireplace is you can burn a greater variety of wood. Chimney cleaners don’t generally recommend softwoods like pine and cedar indoors because they produce a lot of tar that collects in the chimney. But with a fire pit—and no chimney—you might enjoy some yellow pine or cedar if you want an especially bright, dazzling fire. Such softwoods burn faster than hardwoods, so if it’s for a party, you might want to stock up. If you want a longer, hotter fire with good coals for cooking, you’ll want hardwoods like oak, hickory and hard maple.

If you love fire, a brick fire pit is a great way to have more of it. And with a little imagination, the space around the fire can be as inviting and enchanting as your den indoors.

 

(Fire photo: Emeldil at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

09/08/16
Brick part of new high performance homes

When you build new homes on Stratford Road in Winston-Salem, NC, there’s an expectation for square-footage, quality and beauty because it’s one of the city’s most prestigious streets, lined with trees and spacious century-old homes.Builder Don Hamrick is raising the bar to include energy-efficiency.

Hamrick’s side-by-side 4,200-square-foot Pine Hall Brick homes, now nearing completion, have signs that guarantee heating and air conditioning bills of $59.00 per month.



Custom Homes by Hamrick takes pride in making such performance building affordable to the general market.From modest custom homes to his grander properties on Stratford Road, the company doesn’t skimp on materials or craftsmanship. It pays off in beautiful homes that far exceed Energy Star standards, making them some of the most green projects in the market.

 

Hamrick’s Stratford Road homes feature Pine Hall Brick Chesapeake Pearl brick and Casa Grande brick respectively. And while a platoon of craftsmen hustles to have them ready for the fall Parade of Homes, they already fit right in the stately sylvan street. The design and construction is state-of-the-art, but with such classic brick colors, the effect is “Old Winston-Salem,” even with the excavation dirt and pickup trucks parked on the sidewalk.

Inside, Hamrick takes pride in describing his construction approach to creating tightly sealed homes literally from the ground up. It starts with specially sealed crawlspaces. It includes precisely blown insulation in every nook and cranny of the walls and separate HVAC for upstairs and downstairs that use lighter, more efficiently “right-sized” equipment. Performance building is a process that results in less humidity, less likelihood of mold, healthier air and, most important, that amazingly low energy cost.

“On spec houses like these, friends ask me, ‘why are you building in all that, you could just sell them on eye-candy,” says Hamrick. “But when I built my own house 15 years ago I learned how to do this and decided it’s the right way to build.”


                                                                                            Don Hamrick, builder.

Hamrick’s choice of brick color—Chesapeake Pearl and Casa Grande—couldn’t be better for the neighborhood and it’s also a boost to curb appeal for some lucky buyer.

“People associate higher quality with brick and brick is a great exterior cladding,” says Hamrick. “It’s competitively priced against fiber cement siding and gives you the same lower rates on home insurance for being fire retardant.”

My Home Outdoors will check back once the Stratford Road homes are completed. In a town where Pine Hall Brick is everywhere, they’ll soon join a 100-year-old legacy.

08/18/16
Give your home a smarter exterior

It’s the time of year when parents drop off their kids at college, visit their alma mater or start taking a class at their local university.

What is it about college campuses that creates the serene mood and cultivates the sensation of being away from the harried pace of everyday life?

The answer might be right under your feet.

Take a walk on an American college or university campus and you’ll probably see acres of bricks and pavers under a canopy of stately old hardwoods. The classic American campus is an aesthetic standard of venerable beauty and contemplative serenity. What pulls it all together is that network of clean well-cultivated lawns and paths that make you feel like you’re somebody special.

Why not bring that home?

My Home Outdoors took a stroll around historic Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to show how you can bring home the classic collegiate look with a new patio that looks timeless and will last for centuries.

Salem College, founded in 1772, is the oldest all female institution in the Southeast. The campus adjoins the Old Salem historic district of Winston-Salem, a Moravian settlement whose citizens founded the college.  It’s hard to tell when you leave Old Salem and enter the campus, because the 18th century cobblestones and buildings meld so well with modern brick and pavers.

A campus may be a cozy refuge, but there’s really no place like home. You can have the best of both worlds and create the kind of magical space that elevates your thinking.

With affordable landscaping using clay pavers you can extend your home’s living space with pathways and outdoor rooms for relaxing with the morning newspaper or entertaining guests into the night.

If you have a brick home, paver hardscapes around the yard can match your home’s façade like nothing else. And any home can increase its value and curb appeal with low-maintenance clay paver walkways, drives and patios.

Pavers give you a tidy, easy-to-clean floor outdoors that you can accessorize with outdoor furniture made more comfortable and cozy with throws, pillows and indoor accouterments.

    

As with interior design, exteriors built with clay pavers have a lot of color options. Depending on the season, you can have plenty of fun decorating your hardscapes with fabrics and ornaments, just like inside. In much of the United States, a patio can be enjoyed year-round. Add a fire pit and a crisp stack of comforters as temperatures gradually drop.

Just like college, it’s a smart investment that’s fun and rewarding.

Create cozy outdoor spaces that make you want to loll around and read a good classic novel. Lie back in your rocker and have a mid-summer night’s dream.

Or take a twilight walk down your own garden path to contemplate how good your life is in your amazing home outdoors.

In short, have the time of your life in your own backyard. And there will be no paper due on it Monday.

Take that nap you always wanted to take in school while you’re reading a book!

All pavers shown in this story are Pathway Full Range.

08/04/16
Planning a home? Take a look at white brick!

 

“Take a real close look,
you begin to see why
there is much more to white
—much more—
than can ever meet the eye.”

—Ken Nordine, jazz poet

 

Chesapeake Pearl is one of Pine Hall Brick white bricks, shown here with gray stone, gray roof and brown accents.

White has long been a popular choice for interiors and exteriors, but when people think of brick color options, it’s not always the first color they think of.

Think again.

White brick is a little different than just plain old “white” because with brick varieties and mortar choices, there’s a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle color variation to build a beautiful home that captures your personality. White brick gives lots of latitude for design choices in trim, accessories, patios, walkways and landscaping.

Detail of Chesapeake Pearl home, showing brown accents.

Oyster Pearl with brown accents takes white in another direction.

 

Here are close ups of Oyster Pearl (left) and Chesapeake Pearl illustrating how different white brick can be.

 

White brick is anything but sterile. The manufacturing and firing process give brick plenty of character and richness. Paired with a carefully chosen mortar color (remember, mortar makes up about 20% of a brick wall’s surface area), you can home in on the perfect tone from a very broad palette. You can even specify the mortar application—flat or recessed—to make a difference in the aesthetic effect of white brick.

 

And for even more color variations, consider the texture of brick. Here's Oyster Pearl Tumbled to give it an aged, legacy look.

 

Chesapeake Pearl and Oyster Pearl, two of our most popular white brick lines, give you a stately appearance, each with its own unique texture and tone. Both lines also pair well with Pine Hall Brick clay pavers for landscaping features. Pine Hall Brick Rumbled® Cocoa goes especially well with Chesapeake Pearl and Oyster Pearl.

 

For a beautiful contrast to white brick, consider a patio or walkway in Rumbled Cocoa clay pavers.

 

There are a total six white brick options from Pine Hall Brick, that you can see here on our website. You can also pick up sample cards at a Pine Hall Brick showroom for designing your brick home.

 

 

If you’re planning a home and you want to really express yourself with color, don’t overlook white brick as the starting point for a beautiful composition.

 

Since mortar is so important to the overall color of your home, you'll want to take some time to choose exactly what you want from a sample tray like this.

 

07/13/16
Garden wall built in March looks great in July!

A fresh front yard vegetable garden in historic Fisher Park near downtown Greensboro, NC, looks like its been part of the neighborhood for decades. But the nifty brick retaining wall was only installed in late March.

Pine Hall Brick distributor sales manager Rick Leonard undertook the project at his son’s and daughter-in-law’s home.

Rick chose Old Hampton Oversized Tumbled brick that was perfect for the neighborhood of 100-year-old homes. It’s part of the Pine Hall Brick Tidewater Series, designed to resemble the texture of colonial wood-mold and handmade brick.

The aged look and patina of the brick blends beautifully as the garden matures. It’s inviting and tidy with flowers and tasty edibles. And there’s no mowing necessary.

The design is simple. It’s not an especially high wall, but following some standard landscaping principles of retaining walls ensures that the garden has a nice foundation—including a sturdy entry step—that will last many growing seasons. It’s all done without mortar.

Rick is modest about the task, but it looks great.

“The garden retaining wall was a pretty simple design, requiring little ingenuity, but mostly brawn…right up my alley!” says Rick.



Grandson James delights in showing off the garden to our photographer.

Here are some detail photos of the project:

If you want to take on a retaining wall of any size, FamilyHandyman.com offers these tips:

  • Bury the bottom course, or courses, of the retaining wall one tenth the height of the wall to prevent the soil behind from pushing the bottom out (Fig. B).
  • Step back the blocks, rocks or timbers to get gravity working in your favor (Fig. B). This lets the walls lean and push against the fill. Walls built perfectly vertical (Fig. C) get gravity working against them the second they start leaning outward even just a bit. Most concrete retaining wall block systems have some kind of built-in lip (Fig. D) or pin system (Fig. F) that automatically creates the step back as you build.
  • Install a base of solidly compacted material (Fig. B) so your wall stays flat. A level wall provides modular blocks, stone and timbers with more surface contact with the courses above and below them. They fit together more tightly. The more contact, the more friction and the stronger the wall. Apply these three rules, and you’ll create a strong wall. But even a well built wall won’t survive unless you take care of two troublemakers: water and uncompacted soil.

Read the whole article here.

You can have a lot of fun with easy brick and paver projects. Check out our Pinterest page for ideas that will inspire your imagination and make your home outdoors a little more special, a little bit at a time.

James plays on the sidewalk bound by lush gardens.

Early tomatoes look delicious on the brick steps into the garden.

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