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. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

April 2017 Freestanding Wall Workshop w/ Neil Rippingale

April 1-2 2017, 2 day Freestanding Wall Workshop.  Rockin Walls Training Center hosted the first visiting instructor Mastercraftsman Neil Rippingale, DSWA-GB, DSC-US, from Scotland. We had a full group of eager men and women ready to learn the craft of dry laid stone. After a quick slideshow presentation of proper building techniques from Neil, the group hit the ground running. The task was to build a traditional freestanding dry laid stone wall. The stone of choice would be a flat bedded sandstone mixed with blue stone ties. 

With the threat of rain from the day before a nice shade canopy was set up. Just incase! Thankfully no rain came but the sun did. The added shade kept everyone moving and focused. As they learned to make good choices. Along with understanding some of the bad ones too. Mark and Neil worked both sides to help give each and everyone the best walling experience. 

With arms length sections the group of 9 were split on each side producing a 22' Long x 4' High section of new wall. 

Besides the overwhelming volume of tools to try, clients also had the opportunity to try day to day equipment used on any jobsite. The Dingo shown here is just one of those many machines. With the confidence of operations and understanding of how to work smarter not harder. With this added experience one is more inclined to rent such equipment for their projects. 

Periodically the group was stopped to offer those words of walling wisdom from Neil and Mark. Along with stepping back to look at the wall and just take a water break. Often tasks not taken enough by excited to learn students. 

Banker tables were set up on the each end for participants to try their hands with "Try Before You Buy" Tools from our sponsors. Another one of the many exclusive offering which sets Rockin Walls Training Center from others.

Neil R. takes some time to explain how and when many of these "Try Before You Buy" Tools, Hammers and Chisels should be used properly. What application is best fitting for each with what time of situation or stone. Tool safety, names, handling and maintenance for sharpening carbide tools was also covered. While no one tool will make you a great waller. Understanding Dry Stone Principals and Fundamentals will. Learning when and how the tools will work will assist you on your journey with stone. 

Mark explains and shows one of the building methods for foundation course. A below grade protruding foundation. The team sets there first stones to the string line and below/to grade. Much of the new wall section for this 2 day workshop had been built by previous 1 Day Foundation Building Skills/Practice workshops. During this task students tried out the Rapid digger and Pave Tech's paver hammers to set each and every stone in earth. A good solid foundation is the success for a long lasting structure, dry laid wall, a home or even a relationship. Everything starts from the ground up. 

Neil showing half of the group how to set the vertical copes on the contractor wall from the day before. While the others half of the group tries their hand at building foundation.

At knee height 18" +/- the tie stones go in set on 3' center stone to stone. The ties protrude 2"-3" from the wall these are about 27" total length blue stone. 

After 2 full days the group of 9 finished out the 22' of new dry laid stone wall. Well done team. 

Are you ready to come learn
 Proper Dry Laid Stone Construction Fundamentals?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017 Spring / Summer - Projects Pics

Stone Projects of Spring - Summer 2017

The year has been full of all kinds of fun unique projects keeping me on my toes. So much I haven't taken the time to share with everyone what I've been up too. I felt one blog would be a great start to show how the year has been going. Some of my high lights for me were working with the DEWA National Park Service again on a historic wall rebuild in Delaware Water Gap PA. Along with the first chance to build with a new Mountain stone from my Amish buddy Mark P. from PA. The Tuscarora Mountain Stone has a very rustic look giving a beautiful weathered appearance. I'm excited to have this exclusive product to build with. This type of product is the highest sold patter for thin veneer on new home builds in our area. 

July/August 2017, Sparks - Glencoe, Blue Stone path makeover / resetting, New Blue stone steps to doors with patio landing and granite cobble stones. 

Before Makeover

Before Makeover, Blue stone filled with river gravel. Note to self never do this! What a pain to rake out of dirt.

New Blue Stone Steps with repurposed blue stone steppers and cobbles to make a beautiful new landing to enter the side door used as the primary door. 

Before Makeover

June/July 2017, Mount Airy  - Tuscarora Mountain Stone PA(exclusive) New Retaining Wall


June/July 2017, Delaware Water Gap  PA - Childs Park, Retaining Wall Rebuild, Training - National Park Service


May/June 2017,  Falls Rd - Cockeysville MD, Prettyboy Schist with local stone, Retaining Wall, Blue Mount #57 gravel walkway

Before makeover


March/April 2017, Woodbine MD, Makeover calibration w/Andy McEvoy.  Butler - Merrittville Stone, w/ PA Bluestone Flagstone, Bluestone steppers and edging, repurposed brick edging, Patio, Steps, Retaining Wall

After makeover

Before makeover