Monday, July 16, 2018

Hearting the Heart of the Wall

Hearting also referred to as packing are the heart of a proper dry laid stone construction. Hearting are the stone placed large to small to fill your voids. This keeps your structure nice and tight avoiding implosion or collapsing.
A few key notes: Pack as you go, packing should always be done by large to small stones PLACED, never use gravel it will never lock in, packing should never be taller then your front or back stone, frustrated and can't find that magic stone? Stop and pack let your mind unwind.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

2018 Balducci Bluestone Outdoor Living Space - Monkton MD

This project was Built for Nick Balducci who owns 2 Bluestone Quarries in NY. This Backyard makeover highlight all his stone except the granite cobbles and aggregated. Patio, Walkway, Seating walls, Fire pit area. 

Patio 14'L x 24' W bluestone sheet stock (2"-4" Thick) bedded on 4" -/+ of 3/8th single washed aggregate ( called #8 in our region) Seating walls 23"-24" H with flat caps ranging from 2"- 4"H, Front aggregate walkway and fire pit area 24' circle filled with 3/4" limestone aggregate (called #57 in our region) with Jumbo Granite Cobbles 7" H x 10" L x 3.5" W +/- for all the edging. The fire pit are also has a BRAND New Product Bluestone Edging ranging from 7"H x 24" -/+ with many more options coming. The treads are Natural Cleft tops with Thermal faces 6' L from house then 5' L going to upper grass landing. Specs: 18" W set at 16" +/- walk Tread, 7" +/- Rise.

All stone maybe purchased at Located at Maryland Line off I-83

The benefits of dry laid stone walks, patios, walls are flexible, free draining - Permeable! They can easily be repaired or rebuilt with minimal impact to our landfills. Natural stone never goes out of style! Typical Bluestone patios need stone adjustments every 15-20 years when bedded correctly.

Rockin Walls is ready to help you expand your living space to the great outdoors!  443-291-9388

Friday, April 20, 2018

FREE SEMINAR! Understanding Proper Dry Laid Stone Construction

Understanding Proper Dry Laid Stone Construction

This seminar is FREE to attend and is intended for professionals in the industry: (Landscape Architects, Landscape Designers, Landscape Companies and their Employees, Masons, Hardscape Installers, Students, Teachers/Instructors).

The seminar will be held on Saturday, April 28, 2018 from 9:30am-noon
@ the Rockin Walls Training Center in Hampstead, MD 21074
by Mark Jurus, Certified DSWA and DSC Instructor/Waller.

The seminar will cover:
·      Basic terminology,
·      Understanding key elements (What makes a solid proper dry laid stone construction),
·      Why single sided walls fail!
·      Understanding why clean stone along with landscape cloth can cause more harm than good,
·      What you should look for when hiring or designing a stone wall,
·      Clear understanding of the right stone for the job,
·      How and where to start the design process,
·      Sustainable green building, (why it is so important to create eco systems for wildlife).


Please feel free to share our seminar with your employees, students, colleagues, and professional members as well as through social media. 

Mark Jurus has been working with stone since 2007 and started his certification process in 2009. Currently dual certified both with Dry Stone Conservancy (​DSC)​US  Level 2 Journeyman and Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) ​of Great Britain Level 3A. Mark holds the highest certification in surrounding states. In addition Mar​k is also a certified instructor and ​in 2014 set up the Rockin Walls Training Center.
​Mark and the Rockin Walls Training Center are both d​edicated to training and DSWA certification. 

Mark has been certified by several of the leaders in our industry, which includes Neil Rippingale DSC/DSWA Master Examiner from Scotland, Dan Snow DSC/DSWA Master Examiner from Vermont, Chris Tanguay Master Craftsman/Examiner DSWA-GB, DSC-US, and Brian Post Master Craftsman/Examiner DSWA-GB, Executive Director The Stone Trust VT, Licensed Landscape Architect VT. Neil has worked extensively with National Park Service (NPS)​ in the US for over 15 years and Dan is widely known ​for​ his creative stone art as seen in his two books. Mark has also worked on projects in Canada with DSWA Master/Examiner Dean McL​ellan 2012 StoneWurx and 2014 Willowbank School building two of the newest ​and largest inhabited dry laid stone structures in North America.
​Mark has lead trainings for members of the staff at:
·      Historical Preservation Training Center - National Park Service (HPTC NPS)​
·      Gettysburg Battlefield NPS in ​2016
·      Hopewell Furnace PA NPS 2016
·      Delaware Water Gap PA NPS 2017

Questions? or to RSVP email
Or call 443.291.9388

Monday, April 16, 2018

PASS! DSWA Level 3A, DSC 2, 25 Degree Slope & Curved Wall

Pass! April 13 2018
Chris Tanguay (Maine) Master Craftsman (Level IV) DSWA-GB, DSC-US  Examiner / Instructor.
Brian Post (Vermont) Master Craftsman (Level IV) DSWA-GB,  Examiner / Instructor, Licensed Landscape Architect VT, Executive Director of The Stone Trust.

As many of you know, I've been working towards my higher certifications for walling.  DSWA Level 3 Advanced and finishing my DSC Level 2 Journeyman requirements. This past fall I began the process of building two features highly finished. I started off with the 25 Degree (20) Sloped Wall working through the winter.  Then moving onto the Curved Wall, just finished in the last month. 

Exhausting, body aching, restless nights of body pain, late night dinners, loss of income, as well as decreased time with family and friends, lots of stone, stone shaping and stone waste, mind games, finding the drive to push through all kinds of weather, rain, snow, cold, short days...

Was it worth it?   YES! 

I learned so much about myself, my work ethic, my skill level and my drive to succeed from this process. This is why I believe so strongly in the certification programs. Those who don't choose to pursue this will never understand. It is difficult to put into words. Those who are certified will understand. 

Many Thanks to my #1 Supporter - My Wife Teresa P! 

Wall Specs: West Mountain Stone PA
Curved wall:  Below Grade protruding 35" foundation set in earth, 14' radius curve total length 16' inside, 45" build height below copes, 9" Vertical dressed copes, Tie stones set halfway, set on center 36" inside 27" base of wall with 15.5 top of wall,  NO RUNNING JOINTS!

20 Degree Sloped Wall:  Built on 25 degree slope, 14' length, large vertical stepper and boulders for cheekend, Stepped protruding foundation set in earth, 40" build height below 17"+ cover bands with 9" +/-  x 14" vertical battered extremely dressed copes, Tie stones set at 20" on 36" center 10"-12" w x 5"-6" h x 27" l, 1:6 batter, 14" top of wall before covers, 54" +/- total build height above foundation.  NO RUNNING JOINTS!


25 (20) Degree Sloped Wall

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.