Sunday, August 31, 2014

10/2013 St John Road, Retaining Wall, Roland Park, Baltimore Maryland

10/2013 St John Road, Roland Park, Baltimore Maryland. 45' L x 28" H retaining walls same design as original. Built with old wall stone mixed with Butler Stone a little Laurel Mountain/PA Field stone mixed in. Wall has a 1:6 batter with protruding foundation and flat cap stones.

The start of the project always takes a little planning. The biggest issue on this job was the staging and handling of the all the material. I had to park in a alley to off load. Then us my dingo to haul every thing up the small trail with the dingo into the back yard. Seen below to left.

The space was completely over grown. I felt very claustrophobic in the space.

I did a job right next door to this home a year earlier "Beechdale Road Retaining Wall" and had stopped over a few times when I heard someone hitting stone. I found a gentleman working on building 2 other projects. He started this one I would be taking over.

This is all that was left after he walked off with not only a deposit but also the full payment. How could you not trust someone if you've already done 2 other projects with them? Well he never came back but to ask for more money after he already took a deposit and final payment. I'm always surprised how people like this can sleep at night. Its not that hard to simple treat others as you'd like to be treated. Last but least to always say "Thank You".

Knowing they had been clearly ripped off. I suggested time and material. This was the start of my new billing method. Everyone gets the fair end of the stick. No guessing no extra surprises...... win win for everyone. The main reason for me to take on the payment method was I didn't know how much material I had to work with or how long it would take to move new material on site and more importantly I wanted to be sure the client was being charged for only the work being done.

Notes: Remember before you dig you must call Miss Utility 811. It's the law!!

First steps removing all the old wall and clearing out the space. I made the suggestions to remove a great deal of the over grown plantings to help open the space. The client agreed and it was time to clean house!!.

This is the only other part of the wall that was original. I believe it had been rebuilt point. I know this because the building style is different then the first part of the wall. The wall was built level from one side to the other. So I stuck to the same design. I believe the wall might have been built dry but clearly was mortared over time.

In this photo you notice a old water feature with a cement pool. Built right in front of the wall. A pipe came out of the wall with running water to fill up the pool. Not sure where the extra water went. I'm also not sure what a pond this size would have had in it. But I guess it was a step above a bird bath. I'm thinking it was built in the 60-70's. The plan was to keep this and build my first small water fall. Using the cement formed pool with cracks with a new rubber liner. The wall would site back from this pool.

More stone coming in. 1 pallet means 4 smaller ones in order to move them off the truck and up the hill. Thank god for my little Ride on plat form my buddy Mark built for me.

Next it was time to build the foundation. Having more then enough stone to choose from helps stop my feeling "I'm using the best stone in the foundation". Kind of a mind game I have to fight every time I build a wall. I hate to bury good walling stone. A strong foundation makes for a strong lasting wall.

This is the staging area. All my pallets set off to the side so I could grab them when I needed them. The blue tarp covers the pile of dirt I moved out but would need to put back later once the wall is finished.

Foundation all set. Two walls using large stone on the out side and in the inside. Packing in the middle. Remember length in for strength. 

Related Blog: How-To-Foundation

Wall frames set - build time! Two PVC pipes set into the wall to run a water lines the other electric.

I can't say it was very easy working around this cement pool. Luckily I never made a wrong step.

This photo helps show the front wall and back wall being built. You can also see how I stage my pallets closer to pick off of when I'm working. The staging of a job site can be the hardest thing to learn. For example where I'll put the dirt so its not to far way when I need to put it back. Or where I place my pallets so I don't move them more then once until they are empty.

Time is everything. Being smart about how you use it is key!

Flat Caps start to go up.

Yes more stone.

I cut out a PA blue stone in order to attempt to make a water fall. But the water running back was an issue. Even if I had a liner I ran the cancel of under minding the wall along with the loss of water. So I felt it was better to scrap the idea and come up with something else. Clearly this one wasn't working very well. It was a nice thought.

Once I got the other end finished up I started capping the other side so I would be able to meet in the middle. Notice my handy brick with the string line wrapped up.  As I move forward I wrap it around the brick and set it on the next stone. As I get closer to both stones coming together I'll then use a long level to ensure I'm on track. Bubbles never lie.

I know this is natural stone but one should never use this as an excuse as to why the work shouldn't be perfect. That is perfect? A proper built wall using should always follow Basic Principles and Rules

Related Blog/Video: Dry Stone Principles

Finished Wall!!

New fill dirt being placed back behind wall.

I changed the hill grade to give a smoother flow to the space and wall. Four years at one of the best Art Colleges (MICA) in the USA, I learned skills that other masons can't begin to bring to the table. Color theory, negative space, compositions, focal points to name a few. 

I had to build a few lintels over drain pipes and a gas line. Above I placed two loose stones to hide the hole. As seen below both removed.

You can see the grade change in this photo. I took the hump down in the middle where it was high to smooth it out. Now visually as you look up the hill you see the home.

Wall was now done. Time to get working on what to do with the water feature. I contacted Maryland Aquatics. Who got me all set up with everything I would need to make this into something new.

I stated out with the water fall box setting it so the sound would travel up the hill and too the home. The clients kitchen over looks this space so they can enjoy the sound of the water fall.

Then I put down the felt -

 and liner.

Next comes the piping and pump. I added a extra relieve value at the pump end to act like a volume dial if the water pressure was to much at the water fall box. By doing so allows the opening of the valve to reduce the water flow out of the water fall box.

This was a nice score. A 3 in 1 cement, primer and cement spray PVC piping. No more mess or wasted cans of product after sitting for a month. I picked this up at Home Depot PipeWeld. One of the best products I've used to date. But nothing compares to PEX piping.

I also placed a valve on the water fall box with the ability to hook up a garden hose. This would help for clean outs. A simple system to allow for basic maintenance needed yearly.

Then it was TEST TIME!


My client told me his dog didn't like water. Funny how he just jumped right in. I set flat cap stones to hide the liner. This might not be as organic but it fit the bill and solved the need to hide the cement pool and liner.

Of course the weather was great for the full build then the last day I was busy playing in a mud puddle. Not to glamorous but it sure felt great to have finished up another wall for a very happy client. I finished things up with a few plantings I had from my home. Some hosta's, ground cover, and grasses to help finish up the space.

Last but least straw and grass seed to finish up the job.

Staging area was all cleaned up.

One wall and one water fall = Two very happy clients and one happy dog.

If you made it threw another length blog. Thank you. This is clearly the longest to date. I feel content is king and photos don't lie. When I see finished photos of projects I always wonder - How did they do that? Photos, copy, and water marks do take a lot of my time. If I can help one person to understand proper dry stone methods - this time was well spent.

Thank you for your time!