Sunday, February 4, 2018

11/2017 Cockeysville Retaining Wall, Happy Hollow

11/2017 Happy Hollow Road, Cockeysville Maryland. 28' l x from 2'-5' h retaining wall built with West Mountain Stone.  Flat caps built to the grade going up hill. Protruding foundation below grade. Tie stones set halfway up the wall set around every 3 ft.  mainly in the taller sections. The steps with walk I rebuilt with Colonial Blue Stone. This project had some very interesting turns along the way. 

The start was the timber retaining wall. I underestimated the amount of work it would take to disassemble this. I figure I'll come in with my mini excavated and thumb and just pick these 20 year old wood right apart.  I was so WRONG!

TIP 1. So if you need to know the tool of choice I would suggest a reciprocating saw along with a 9" carbide blade in order to cut either the nails, rebar or bolts which hold the timbers together. TIP 2 A few pry bars, crowbars and large hammer. Now the other thing I didn't pay much attention to since I don't build timber walls are all the corners they are extremely tight. They are the hardest things to dissemble when they lock to each other. Really no different than any other structure. The only issue with these were every other timber stat on time running the opposite directions. So you had to work your way down one at a time. 

One note regarding the steps with the wall. Typically I build my walls around my steps. In these situation I wanted to keep them separated. The main reason for this is so if either one ever needed to be repaired they could.  

The next thing I had to consider was the new wall would have below grade foundation and1:6 batter for the wall angle. Why I'm I bring this point up? Well notice the wall comes to the house corner there for I have a vertical section I need to build into. I kept some room in order for me to build a corner/column which was the simplest solution for the wall. 

Now the challenge with a corner is that you have to go long with every other stone. Plus stay on courses. While it solves the solution it does require a little more technical work.  I always love challenge. 

This was the start of the wall and steps removal. 

Timber by timber with a little help from the reciprocating saw.

One thing I didn't take into consideration since I didn't know. Was the driveway was installed after the wall was built. Now if you asking again why I'm bring up such a key point? When they paved the driveway they can only install so much blacktop. So the edges of the driveway was very thin like 2 inches. Normally I believe a good strong blacktop driveway should be about 4-5" thick. In the process of removing the timbers below the driveway areas of the black top caused some areas to lift. Take great consideration when stripping out existing structures. You just know what the other guy/gal did before you.

Now everything was removed and cleaned up. It was time to start working on the walkway. The wall build would be built after the steps /walk were set. The reason for this is the steps dictate the location of the wall along with the wall height. Most projects which would involve steps you start there first. Steps set the tone for the remainder of the construction. 

The one tool I love for digging out my foundations is the rapid hand digger. This is the tool sitting on the green turf. A few of the other issues I ran into was the space to place all the extra dirt which I had to removed. One thing which was changed in the design was the removal of the steps which had been built in the timber wall. Luckily this was a great place to store some of that extra dirt while I worked. You always should keep your materials close at hand. Extra steps create more work which is labor, and wear and tear on equipment. You have to think about every movement even the smallest steps add up over time.  Understanding staging is a key ingredient to one's success of job management. 

Related Blog: Tool - Rapid Digger

A few frames have been set as I start my build into the steps and then around the corner. Starting at the lowest point as I head toward the tallest section by the house. One other thing I use lot on driveways are rubber stall mats along with green turf. Both do a great job to protect surfaces. In addition make for easy clean ups.

One great thing in this image to show is the string line which sits on top of the last cap stones then goes to the house. This is the angle in which I'm building to as I stay on my courses. There are several different methods of setting caps or cope stones. I don't use this method much. I love this style of copes when they site on the top of a wall. 

This is the last section of timbers being removed. Making room for the last part of the wall. You might not have noticed but if you go back up in the images you will see many of the photos show the last section was kept in place. The reason for this is to minimize or reduce the failure of the bank falling down in the work area. Plus it just happens to be over 60" of retaining wall. A few other wonderful surprises I found when removing this last section by the corner of the house was the bug damage. Whatever was in the timbers eating decided to move to the house for dinner.  Moral of the story constructing with any material ie, natural stone, pavers, concrete, masonry.....other than wood for a retaining wall could save you alot in repair bills later. No one likes bugs eating there home. Do you?

I've included this example of a timber retaining wall that leaning forward.  This is too often the case with this style of construction. Unless it's new construction. This image even showing the rotten timber on the top.  This structure has the deadman but still is lean forward due to hydraulic pressure behind it. Deadman are what ties the timber walls back into the bank.  See the short squares in the wall? Those are the deadman. Timber walls may have a max life of 20 years typically more like 10-15 years is safe. Most railroad ties are in the same time frame. If you have a railroad tie wall you should remove it NOW! Why because railroad timbers have become increasingly hard to dispose of due to hazardous waste guidelines. Only a handful of place still will dispose of them at this time. I believe we may see the same situation with older treated timbers in the years to come. Just don't build with wood. It will be cheaper and quick and easy solution but your only asking for problems down the road. 

The other thing I encountered when disassembling the timbers from the house was the stucco on the house accidently came off when removing. The aged home of 20 years was week. The stucco process is over a styrofoam insulation. So one more thing to consider if your working with a home with this style of finish. It was a great accident since the homeowner need to patch other failed areas. Since he had a full blown wood working shop he also went ahead and fixed up all the damaged areas of wood at the corner of the home. 

On this jobsite image you can see a few pieces of equipment which help me out on the job. The one would be the Dewalt Hepa Vac for dust extraction. Time to time I'll use a diamond cup wheel on a grinder.  This helps when I have a few lumps and bumps - High spots which I can quickly remove. Minimizing wear and tear on my body and lungs. The dingo helps me with my digout along with moving the stone as I need more or less. 

In this photo one thing I didn't talk about was this retaining wall has double staggered tie stones. The tie stones are set about every 18" up the wall. So in the tallest section closest to the house I have my second group of ties. Tie stones which are also referred to as throw stones. Tie the two walls together. As the wall settles this acts as a floor to keep them supported above. The ties are protruding for a few reasons. The first is structural if the upper courses begin to settle the ties when sticking out act as a hand ready to catch them giving them that extra support. The second is to allow anyone who is a professional waller to quickly identify that this was built by a trainer waller. This wall will out last the life of this home.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Nov 2017 Bluestone Walkway w/Steps, Cockeysville MD

November 2017 Cockeysville Maryland.  Part 1 - Makeover of 36' long of lower dry laid natural stone walkway to house with seven steps. The stone of choice being native to our region Balducci Colonial Bluestone. Details: Steps 5' long 18" tread with 7" rise natural cleft tops with thermal faces. The 5' wide walkway was mixed with some of the old thicker Western Maryland Red and newly added Colonial Bluestone sheet stock (3" average for thickness and overall size). All walk stones custom cut to size and shape for a one of a kind mosaic pattern. Setting this walk above traditional cookie cutter squares and rectangles patterns. Typically used my landscape companies for easy. While natural stone can cost a more than pavers it will never be dated, nor will you have the undesirable UV fade of color. 

Other contractor's pricing came in for replacement of wet laid stone from $8000-$13,000. The clients choice me based on my ability to create a lasting walk that made a statement. With a BFA degree in Visual Communication in Graphic Design from Maryland Institute College of Art - MICA. I'm able to  bring my years of training both in the arts and in the craft of dry laid stone.  Traditional contractors can't always seeing the whole project. They just don't have proper visual training. It's not just about the services I can provide but really how it works with the setting it's in. I love bring life to a space.  Stone helps me create that beauty for others to enjoy. This is my medium to painting. As seen in the many photos below. Enjoy.

I'm always amazed to see what others sometimes think are good ideas?! This by far was different. It was a nice attempt for a great concept of a walkway. The steps except the last few are all dry laid. There are several issue with this walkway, 1) thin stone 1 inch average, 2) size of stone over all 8" average, 3) Bedded on only stone dust, 4) Gator Dust - to attempt to keep everything together. All of which makes for a very crappy walk which didn't last. Stone over time began to lift and float causing trip hazards. How can you have a walk if you have to watch every step you take. Is that a POLICE SONG?.... "Every breath you take - Every move you make - Every bond you break - Every step you take - I'll be watching you..."
Anyway as I was saying...... The last thing that got me scratching my head was the vertical stone for each of the steps. You can't make an edge to hold back material ( ie think of a sand box you have to have walls to keep the sand in) with something so thin! It doesn't work.  I Yeah Yeah Contractor's?

Two contactor had been hired to make this. The first to build it. The second to ill attempt to add a  well needed step and patch up the first guys shoddy work. Then the second fellow who came out added some steps using Stone Tiles?! OK whats next. The bedding for this old walkway was made up of stone dust about 6+ inches way too much. Normally a good base is solid soil possible or 4 inches of crush and run compacted than about 1-2" adjusting material. I prefer 3/8 stone called #8's in my area. Coarse sand for concrete can also work well depending on your stone you've picked. For example stone like squares and rectangles bed nicely on coarse sand. WAIT WAIT I'm I speaking English? Let me explain further below.

Teachable moment: 
Figuring it all out.  Start at the top going down into the earth.

1) Stone for walkway ? Thickest stone?  (Say 2" - 3")
2) Bedding or Adjusting material 3/8ths washed stone prefered / Coarse sand / some use stone dust - not on my top 10 list!  ( 1"- 2") 
3) Base - Crush and Run compacted on average around (4") note this can be earth in some areas base on the soil type. 
4) Sub Base - IS YOUR Earth compacted
Add up all the inches you get 9" you must dig out in theory.

Good solid soil? Alternative method on earth no Base. 
1) Stone 
2) Bedding 3" - 4" of 3/8ths Washed! aggregate. Why washed? In aggregate or stone dust you have what is called Fines. This is the stuff that looks like stone powder or fine sand. This can hold water. In winter when you have frost heaves it is likely the moisture in the sand or stone dust to cause your stones to lift. 
3 Sub Base -earth

I'm not going to bore you with all the project pictures since it's really self explanatory. I started with the strip out and palletizing of all walk stones. Demoed the steps and got my grade to good solid soil with no stone dust Amen. Compacted the soil where needed with a gas powered plate compactor.

Next I set all seven steps with my Mini Excavator. I was tring to complement the existing walkway with the river feeling. Keeping in mind if you didn't notice the Large tree. Which always has large roots. Which means you need to work with mother nature. This was a big concern early on since the client told me the last contractor had to cut some of roots. Best to work around things. I had every intention to make my design flex around the out come of where the roots were. 

Next it was time to build with Colonial Sheet stock. My dingo machine was very handy to help me move these. Some weight as much as 200 pounds. Ya they are not moving any time soon. Each stone had a pattern (Angler - NO Curves) made prior to cut. Then cut with a large gas saw giving a nice tight fit to each neighbor. Next hand chiseled edges for a more finished look.  You might notice a few tools let me give you a quick run down. The PVC pipes are for rolling stones around. Contract buckets with extra bedding 3/8th washed stone, levels, pool trowel, tape measure, sharpy, scissors, clear plastic, Trow and Holden trimming hammer, Spartan Tracer, 2 pound hammer, work gloves, 3 & 8 Pound Wall Mallet from Pave Tech, rapid digger. These are just a few of the most used. 

Related Blogs:

Plastic Conduit was fitting behind every other step in order to fit low voltage path lights. You will also notice I used a very simply West Mountain stone for cobble edging. 

As you can see each section has there own personality.

At the top I blended back into the old walk which was not part of the makeover. The main reason for this was part 2 a new upgrade to the timber retaining wall. Not to mention this section except a few stones was not too bad in comparison to the section replaced.  

This upper section had the thickest of my stones which was 4" as you can see knowing the step is 5' long.  You get a good idea just how large in overall size this was. Now imagine having to set it - then lift it to add or remove bedding stone under it. Then do this again and again to get it just right. Did I mention I work alone? Yes naturel stone can me costly in labor too since each has to be handled differently than the last. You also may not have noticed  I placed large stone in each of the areas of travel to help limit the chance of lifting over time due to frost heaves. 

Part 2 New dry laid stone retaining wall missing in photo old timber retaining wall to right of steps. 

The conclusion. While there are many pro's and con's when choosing a Dry Laid or Wet Laid walk. I prefer a Dry Laid since it is is a flexible free draining and easy to repair, replace or make adjustments. Without the likelihood of a complete demo of the site going to a landfill. 

Do you have a old dry laid stone walk or patio in need of stone adjusting and setting. Let me help you put it back into shape. Most Bluestone Patios typically need adjustments every 10 years when bedded on sand in our area. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pics Oct 14th 2017 Fundamental Workshop

Octobers 14th 2017 1 day Fundamental Workshop was a huge success with women and men from PA, VA and Maryland attending. The course covered:

Walling terminology, definitions, examples of walls on site along with the stone materials used to build them.  

A Frames were also a big hit. Some had read in books about wall frames and how to build them. Instead they truly walked away with a better understanding of how to design them and build them. Sometimes hands on is the best way to help connect the dots.  Workshops are always a great way to start this process. Along with the different methods including line pines tools. 

Sorting stone was a great way for everyone to hands on.  Understand how from a pallet or bulk one should learn to read the stone before picking up just any stone. This takes years and years of practice. With the earlier day of walling ingredients the participants set out to make good choices. That they did with a palette set aside for different stone. Small, Med, Large Face stones Or as I like to call them "Sexy Faces"  Back wall stone, Cap stones are what we mainly had to choose from. With the pile of West mountain sandstone. 

Practicing how to set tie strings, spring clips, types of string and Single vs double lines. Examples of different styles of wall frames such as Rebar, 1x4, 2x4 and how to design and build them. Of Course yes we talked about Batter such as the 1:6 and what that means. So if you missed this workshop you have a couple more steps to catch up to this group. I'm sure they all will be happy to share their new learned knowledge. That's what us wallers like to do. Nothing is top secret with us stone junkies. 

Understanding how the basic operations of a Mini Skid Steer works. Giving each participant the confidence to consider renting. Working smarter not harder is the key. Moving stone can be very labor intensive. Hand carts / wheelbarrow can also be a very handly but not as much as one of these. If you rent one - the weekend rate is 2 days for the price of one. Best way to go to save a few bucks and to say off the ibuprofen. 

These pallets got filled up fast once the participants under stone walling ingredients. Understand how to Read / Sort stone based on size and where each stone can be best used in a Dry Stone structure. While some will try to spend hours shaping a stone. Making good choices saves you time. No one likes tennis elbow. 

Setting Foundation Stones below grade on earth with the prefered tools to do so. 

We also covered the 2 different styles of foundations. Then a basic tool run down of hammers, chisels, levels... how they should or should not be used when and on what types of stone. Key not a $1000 hammer will not make you a better waller. Learning to See Shapes and Sizes will! - Reading a Stone. Then we wrapped up the course with understanding how to best Assess work space and planning for a project. We covered quantity of stone, tools, safety just to name a few you would have had to been here to hear about the rest...LOL .... Great group. 

The day went by so fast I was lonely when it came for saying my goodbyes. Till next time. Please come and join use in future workshops. The word is out that stone teaches one life lessons. NOVEMBER 4-5th 2 Day Workshop. Limited Space. 

Thank you Mark Jurus - Rockin Walls Training Center.