Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tool - 3' x 4' x 5' / 90° Folding Layout A Square

 C.H. Hanson 3' x 4' x 5' / 90° Folding Layout A Square

When it came time to build a walk first of this year (pics below) my stone buddy Matt - Stone Soup Blog told me about this tool. As I waited on the cell phone as he went hunting in his hot shed to find the product name - C.H. Hanson 3 x 4 x 5. At first I didn't understand. But if he suggested it I figured he knows whats best for me! So I got on line and bought one that night!. Once I got it - it all made sense. All of my work up until now had been full of curves and or had square area's to get proper measurements. ie house or a cement patio...4 years of drafting can sure help a little but not as much as this tool does.

This is a very simple tool. For example above photo - I have taken the 3/4/5 A Square and put it up against the garage in order to determine my straight line away from the home. I set that line up then I came down to bottom end as seen in photo and place my square against the line to get my corner line set up. Now my build is square. Work made easy through friends and tools. Thanks Matt! Don't give up on me now and throw in the towel on that Blog of yours!!!

C.H. Hanson 3' x 4' x 5' / 90° Folding Layout A Square - Folded down.
What makes this tool so amazing is that you can easily fold it up. In return it takes up no room at all. Some of the features from C.H. Hanson's website are as followed:

  • Only true 3' x 4' x 5' square
  • Collapsing triangle guarantees precision layout
  • Easy to use, faster, more accurate, folds to store
  • Uses: Carpentry, layout, angle layout, squaring, framing timber, masonry, pavers and much more 
  • Accurate to within 1/32"
  • Made in USA 
C.H. Hanson 12" Polymer 45° Folding Layout A Square
What was even better I found this on Amazon when I did my first search. So of course I ordered it up from Amazon with seller C. H. Hanson for only $58  and it came with a bonus C.H. Hanson 12" Polymer 45° Folding Layout A Square. This was also a very handy tool to have when I was marking all my small filler bricks all being 45° cuts with the herringbone brick pattern. Thanks C. H. Hanson for the bonus gift!

With this job I set my string lines with the 3/4/5 A Square down (top photo) at porch Right side (cement pad). Because I knew this was build off the house and correct for square. The porch steps were not square. If you notice my stone step at the bottom and then look at the step above (bottom of photo with black phone sitting on it) Notice how off it is?! So in order to think about what a human see's as they walk down the steps having the walk go straight visually with the direction was the key goal. The path you walk needs to be straight. 

Getting back to  the set up of the strings. I started with the square down at the bottom to determine the right string line. Once I did that I was able to come to the on other end (bottom photo) To help set the string line for the step. I could either measure off this first line to get correct measurements for the left side or simply flip the square around down at the step line to determine my run going back to the cement porch. Either way you come up with the same solution. Key was getting the first line and then the step figured out. 

So if you do not have one of these in your tool box - you might want to think about it. I'm already finding it handy for so many other jobs now I have it. Just like my Mini excavator. The right tools for the right job makes it easy.

To check out all the product  C.H. Hason makes check them out on their website.

Related blogs to this link such as the walk:

BEHIND THE SCENES - Appaloosa Way Project

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mortar last for ever!? PART 2

Demo old leaning wall. 
This wall was built in 1969 with mortar and natural stone. The mason's did an amazing job with the design along with sealing the back cinder blocks with tar. They also took steps at the foundation to create a terracotta clay drainage pipe system. I would say this could be compared to todays plastic perforated drain pipes that many use. 

You can see in this photo the drain pipe which was placed at the bottom of the wall on the back side. They even used 3/8th's stone along with crush and run by the house. These pipes were in 1' sections - sitting one next to the other. At first when I hit these I thought to my self what is the brown stuff as I dug with my mini excavator. I got out then started hand digging with the pick axe. Boy o'boy what do we have here?. At first I was hoping to have hit a treasure. The client had told me that the government purchase Oxen for use in the civil war. Since the home was built in 1813. I was starting to get excited until I learned it was just clay pipe.

Non of the pipes were damaged unit I hit them with a machine or tryied to hand lift them out. The clay pipe had lost a bit of its stength over the years. I believe the biggest thing about finding these was I could never have planned it.  Come across something like this. Now had this been a grey water line (clean waste water from the sinks, tubes...) I would have had another issue on my hands with the rebuild. Since the wall was going to be laid dry I needed all the real-estate I could get for my foundation stones. I was happy when the client turned on a few sinks - nothing came out. Moral of this story- be sure to have a section in your contracts if your a builder about unexpected and un seen surprises under ground. Not only could you get stuck at a stand still you may need to replace something you  had no idea existed at your expense.  Surprise Surprise!!

Moving on to why the wall may have failed. When digging this out with my mini I hit this sewage (rain ) pipe which was barred under ground. (Large long white pipe above) As you can see from the pictures that it comes from the house and goes out to the top left of the photo. Marker paint can be found on the pipe. Now of course since I busted the pipe I went ahead and replaced it. What I found I believe caused the wall to FAIL! The pipe had been put in backwards. 

This section of new pipe is now fitted closest to the home. Notice how this section slides over top the old one. Now the pipe I busted this section was on the down hill side - I believe causing water to leak out over years and years. 

This is the down hill side which I used the old coupler from the up hill side now on the bottom side. This now creates a better seal. If a PVC style pipe was put in some one could drive over the earth minimal chance of causing the pipe to bust. Sewage style pipes work great for the price you pay. This area would never see a machine driving over it. 

When you look at the old wall you can see the majority of the wall is falling over at the end for two reasons. One it has no support tying it back into the back. A corner could have really helped with strength. But more importantly had the contractor who put the pipe in with the flared end on the up hill side. I don't believe the wall would have failed. 

Keep in mind this is all just a theory. But when you think about the direction water flows, the fact that a pipe clearly should not have been installed in the direction it was. A wall of this size with stone and cinder blocks 19' long and 4' at house to 3' at corner Should NOT Looked Like This!

If you think of a dam it needs to hold water back. This wall should be doing just that with the dirt. Retaining wall! Now had the wall been designed with weep holes included it may be standing today. But since some contractor many many years later put at pipe in backwards Causing water to leak out into the soil- notice the middle of the all in the second photo up. With the crack in the wall and the stone on the ground. Now look again at the top 4th photo down with the full pipe. This was where the pipe was backwards. It could be something completely different. But I believe my theory is a good one. Now the wall has been built dry - the wall can now be a free draining system. No need to worry about this problem unless we get 1 week of solid rain then just about any thing would giveaway. You can't play with mother nature. You can only try to work with her. 

Related blogs:

Mortar last for ever!? With out hydraulic pressure

Notes: I'm not a trained plumber nor drainage expert. My opinion is only based on visual clues which lead to common sense. THE WALL IS LEANING OVER.....Water caused this action, which in turned causes a reaction - the wall to lean out away from the bank.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Glenville PA Project Trailer

After 13 days in the last month I have finished a 22 ft retaining wall with a 90 degree corner including 6 steps. This project had some very interesting problems and challenges. 

Finished Project - Coming Soon To A Blog Near You!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mortar last for ever!? With out hydraulic pressure

OOPSIE,  whats that crack in the middle of the wall?  O' is that a bonus stone which has broken away from the pack. The needed to go to the other side is written all over it's face. Go to the smart side - dry laid stone. A flexible and free draining system. Non of which can be said about this wall. To bad! 

As you can see this beautiful wall may have a big problem (leaning over). One  the builder never could have expected or planned. Simply human error on a hired contractor - over 36 +/- years later. ( estimated ) Yes this wall should or would still be standing tall - MOST LIKELY. Can you guess what went wrong. HINT- Water from the roof. 

Current project Glenville, PA underway. More tales to tell coming up.
Built in 1969, with field stone from this historic site. 
* True cause of failure only speculated. Water 100% the catalyst. Known as Hydraulic pressure. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

BEHIND THE SCENES - Appaloosa Way Project

Behind the scenes are just like it sounds. I have always love to see pictures of others jobs site. This gives me a lot of insight to how others handle a build. Such as what problems they had or what went into the thought process. Looking at a pretty pictures never tell me any thing. Content is KEY! The more I can get - the more I pick up - only helps me to be better at my craft.  

I remember going to one of my first workshops hosted by Dan Snow with Andrew Pighills. I asked more questions at lunch break then they both bargained for. I'm not sure either had enough time to start there lunch. Ha ha true craftsmen helping a eager learner. Good thing I'm still at it. Other wise I might owe them both a lunch wagon. Thank you both for answering all my questions. 

The Appaloosa Way Project had a great deal of issues I had to deal with on this build. I have listed a few of what I feel are some of the largest issues I had to work around and with..............Feel free to ask any questions on comments. 

1) The walk was built to matching the porch both for being square and with the grade pitch way from the house. (porch is pitched away from house) Higher on the right, lower on the left. Allowing for water to flow away from the home.

2) Porch cement posts. I decided to work my build off of both of these. Using them as my edge. At the time I was not sure how the granite edges would work out in the build. It was in my head as a plan. But I really didn't know how it would come out. I planned to have the cement columns dictate my edge of the brick walk.

3) The porch step shows that the porch/wood step is off and not built square. I know at some point the steps and porch will be rebuilt. The walk will out last wood any day! Building it squared up with the porch also looks visually correct when you look down or view the direction in which you travel. Your eye doesn't go right to the step since its the smallest focal point. Unless I point it out. 

4) Granite step needed to match the edge of the porch steps. But also site plus against #2 the column. 

5) Granite edging was built on out side of granite step and to the end of the step. At the #5 I needed to work around my last cement post. I was lucky enough to have the height of the column be the same level of the granite edge - LUCK!

6) The brick herringbone bone pattern needed to match the steps being 3' ft wide. 
Including the granite edges on both sides gives an additional 1' ft. Making the total walk 4' ft wide. A comfortable walk. 

7) Now the granite step needed to match the other steps and built #9 level to match. The walk is not built level in order for water run off away from the home.  Now the normal step the rise or the space between each step #13 is 7" inches. I had to think about how to best deal with this matter. The choice I went with was to split the difference. #7 side of the granite step I built the walk to hit 6 1/2" inch mark at #8 the stone is 8" inches which is the height of the granite step. (recap granite step 3' long x 8" high x 12" wide) The granite step has a 12" tread - a little larger then the wood steps. This makes for a nice landing step. The stone is 3' ft long to match the walk #11. 

When I came to the site with this granite stone I knew the walk was going to be 3' wide. I also knew I needed a 7" height in the stone step. I didn't know how every thing else would work. So I worked with the stone to help dictate more of my plan. The stone told me what to build. I find some times working with the materials they will help to guide you. As to what will work the best. If you try to tell stones what you want-you'll loose every time. A partnership is key to any relationship.

10) The granite step needed to match the wood steps on the outside edge. If it didn't it wouldn't look right. Just like a after thought. On such a small job like this one little thing can make every thing else look wrong. A harmony needs to be met with each and every part of the job.

11) You can really see how the walk pitches away from the house. I had several challenges to work with. Keeping the inside (left) higher (water flow away from home) but fitting the step in and working to have every thing flow down to the porch. When I built this I set my string lines up after the step was in place. The inside granite edges are where the strings were set. I worked to match the string lines by placing my granite edge to hit the line. See pic below.

12) The granite step needed to come to the edge of the cement pillar # 2 which was added later then the porch since the porch post was only sitting on soil. Yes can you say a home owner special. One to many home improvement shows. But the new home owners took the time to be sure to dig and put the cement pillars in. If you have ever done these yourself you know you can only wing getting them close. My point? My granite edge comes to the pillar and stops. The granite step had to be hand chiseled to knock of some of the high points in order to get a closer fit.

13) Shows the 7" step rise I needed to match to all the wood steps. Making a smooth transition from one step to the next. By splitting the walk to be #7   6 1/2" on left and 8" on right ends up making the middle 7". Once again making for a comfortable step up or down from the walk.

String lines set to step. The step is key to the build. If you look at the original (picture below) pre project picture you can see degree of grade that the walk goes down hill. This walk is crying out for one more step. 

Pre project picture.

This photo above is not # but take a moment to notice the red flags! RED FLAGS! To left of white poles. Yes this is a power line right in the middle of my build. Just so happens the line was just low enough to be out of my way on setting my granite edges and bricks. Just one more obstacle to work around. Remember before you dig - Call Miss Utility 811 Its free and its the law! 

### The last little detail on the job site was how far I had to walk or drive the skid loader to bring the material or tools to this project.  

This sketch shows some of the basics specs on the walk and granite step.

I'm sure some where in this mix I've missed some details. I feel these behind the scenes can help others when thinking throw projects. Or just allows someone to appreciate just how much goes into a small brick walkway like this project.

Additional links to this project:

Appaloosa Way Finksburg MD, Finished Project, Brick Walkway