Sunday, September 9, 2018

Video: Pro Series - Tools For Setting Natural Stone Pattern Patios & Walks

Pro tips on helpful tools for setting dry laid naturals stone patios and walks
Many thanks to just a few of Rockin Walls Training Center Sponsors.
• Pave Tech - Larger Pave Tech Hammer: WALL MALLET 80mm Wht/Blk - Smaller Pave Tech Hammer: PAVER MALLET 60mm Red/Blk
• Swanson Levels:

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

2018 Ellicott City MD, 680+ Sq Ft Bluestone Patio w/ 3 beautiful tiered steps - Backyard

5 Years ago I had the great opportunity to build a beautiful retaining wall in this same backyard for Gary and Michelle. Now it was time for part 2 - backyard usable flat space along with some new steps. A big upgrade from the temporary 2x4 steps Gary built. Michelle spent many hours looking and thinking just about what would fit her design style. The basic tread on tread was just to simple without making any statement. Now with the some limitations of dry laid we would have to come together with her findings on the internet. The parameters needed to allow me to work with large stones with weight to avoid movement, matching similar stone colors on the home and in the wall. The choice was to go with Bluestone treads along with Laurel Mountain stone for under the treads. More of the construction details further in the blog. 

680 Sq Ft Patio construction. Colonial Bluestone squares and rectangles, natural cleft - full color. We went with the full color to gain some of the copper and tans to blend with the copper colored stones in the retaining wall. Michelle also choose the Yellow cobbles to match the Laurel mountain stones on the steps. When building flatwork I choose to use a large cobble granite stone called "Jumbo". The Jumbo creates a good strong edging. Helping to hold in all the base, bedding stone and bluestone. As I like to say your building a sandbox. You need an edging to hold everything underneath inside. Pretty simple when it comes to dry laid more is always better. 

A great deal of time was spent with Michelle to help maximize but minimize the turf between the patio and retaining wall. Enough but not too much.  In addition have a smooth complementing mirrored curves to the retaining wall.

Some of the challenges with this build were two different grades. Everything starts off the house steps I built first. Then comes around the corner here and now has to meet the window wells. So this might be a little confusing. From the house steps I come out both ways 1/8th fall. Now as I come around to this side of house I just have to drop to the widows which came out to 1/4th fall at the same time still falling 1/8th away from the home. 1/8th is the bare min. Preferable with the natural cleft it is best to go with 1/4th. The client felt the angle under the steps with the patio would visually look to drastic. 

Now working level from window to window well all the way across to basement steps. Now I could have dropped again but the height worked out well with the jumbo cobbles. I was able to place half of the cobble below against the concrete steps.  Now with the newly added 6 inch cobble step from the patio to the basement steps. (Note: Jumbo cobbles standing vertical length 10"+) A simple and easy solution without changing the grade on the patio with one more drop down. The clients were extremely happy with this upgrade. Since in the past they have had extreme flooding in the backyard. One more security to avoid excess water being able flood out there basement. 

Cobbles were grinded on the sides to create a tight side by side fit. More below regarding the bonus flashing added. 

Amazing transformation from old to new. Check out Gary's 2x4 temporary steps under the sliding glass door. 

Full color bluestone has so many amazing shades of colors for blues, coppers, tans, greens and so on.

Just a little bit on the construction of the steps (7.25"+/- rise). First (bottom) steps 10' L x 13" tread, Second step 8' L x 13" tread, Top landing 6'L x 20" wide. Built with natural blue stone treads ranging from 3" - 4" thick. I built up under with the Laurel Mountain (tan) stone spending countless hours with a 7" Diamond Cup. Grinding and grinding to get each stone level for the bluestones to sit on. When it comes to steps I prefer to build 16" treads. You will also notice they bluestone overhang by 2"+ so you actually do get more like a 15" tread with the overhang. On these I had to work up a compromise with the client to minimize the loss of patio space. You will also notice great detail went into avoiding any running joints on the step construction. The bluestone stone to stone are flush both on the sides and on the tops. Not easy to do with natural stone set dry laid. Getting this even only comes with the countless ours of shaping. 

More pics below on this construction. NOTE: in right corner of lower step grey piping. These are 1/2" plastic electrical piping under patio. In the event of adding low voltage lighting the pipes only will need wiring. The transformer can plug right into the wall outlet above. Green flags note the exit. 

You can now see the stone retaining wall in the background I constructed 5 years earlier. This section of patio comes out from the door 18' L + then from the left to right 15' wide + (300 Sq Ft)

A great deal was spent to adjust and clean up unsightly lines in the pattern.  Along with steps taken to thermal out industry standard chisel marks on high spots from the quarry. These are natural stone cut by man so they are not always square. Nor does mother earth make each stone flat and uniformed. Each has a personality and character. 

Right side patio in this image cut with a gas cut off saw.  Where the left has the CPVC 1/2" pipe set waiting approval by client.

Bluestone patio pattern extended past suggested areas to be cut for curve. 

You know how sometimes in the middle night you come up with the best ideas!? Well this is one of them. The day before when I started this process of grinding and setting the cobbles. The client Michelle asked how the cobbles would keep all the bedding/ base stone in? While my original plan was ramp up the road base called crush and run CR8 in our area against the backside of the cobbles. In the middle of the night I was thinking about this and come up with very simple solution. To minimize stone or dust washing threw the small gaps between the cobble - Aluminium Flashing.  The magic answer. I cut 6" high and set this to the bottom of the cobbles which are standing vertical compared to the edging which are set long. This allows for the 2"+ bluestone at the top. The flashing is overlapped in middle and wrapped around the corners back to the cement. This will will also help to slow any extra water from getting back down the basement steps. 

Very clean and simple solution giving a nice 6" step up to patio. 

Typically the gutter and sump pump drain would be under the patio. The client choose to have these stay above. At any point with the dry laid stone patio it would be very easy to come back and set PVC piping for drains under patio. 

Marking and cutting the bluestones with a gas powered cut off saw and water system minimizing dust. 

Often many clients have no true understanding of the equipment which is required to produce something such as this. I listed out the main tools I used and calculated realistic days needed for each. This is what I used and how much would have been spent if rented from up the street. 

In my region flatwork such as this ranges from $27-$35. Not including the cobble edging. There is a great deal just in the Bluestone along with equipment. Then you have all the hauling of the base, bedding, dirt, and topsoil. When you price out today's composite decks there a close match. Pavers yes are a bit cheaper.  BUT they don't do so well with UV light and fade, not to mention don't always like salt if used during winter. Concrete can be super clean and simple.  Just lacks an real personality and ends up with cracks over time. 

Setting an all curver patio can be difficult to come up with a pattern. I ball parked pasted the intended cut area by a foot. In this photo keep in mind everything started in the at the steps in the very right corner. I set a 2'x2' stone first to start my pattern. Working against the house foundation was not perfectly flat did make the pattern a bit challenging.  (Always check your corners are square with a square or measure out one way 3ft make a mark then the other way 4ft then mark. Connect the two you should have 5ft. If not your not square.) Then as I went you can see I built out from the steps along the house keeping the 1/8th slope. Next I would start to build away from the house out 1/8th slope. Then the my pattern would the have to go to the left of the house in hopes that everything would still be square. I made cuts closest to the house and along the window wells. I also did my best to build with larger stones on the outsides for strength. Minimizing the chance of a little stone which often have a tendency to shift. 

The Electric Evolution 12" ($212.00) saw comes in handy for quick markings or precision cuts. This saw having an inline motor doesn't do nose dives when giving it throttle. Allowing for more control. I use a dust collector which catches cutting dust along with a large fan to safely remove other dust from the cutting area.

All areas of the future patio I removed all organic topsoil. This section closest to the home had the best sub base which the bedding stone sat directly on. Only to the outer edges did I have to build up with a road base and compact. The majority of the construction would be Sub base - compacted earth, Base CR8 compacted in little wetted 2 inch lifts.  A total of 4" inches as needed in most areas. Then bedding stone 3/8th wash aggregate #8 ranging from 1"-3". The Bluestone was on average 2". Short version - all areas cleared topsoil and organic material ie grass. Then built up since everything was lower. 

Steps - each and every one of these stones had to be hand shaped to achieve this high level of fit and finish for a dry laid stone construction. Each bluestone was saw cut then chisel faced then thermaled with a rose bud torch using propane and oxygen. 

Each course just like walling was built up and packed as needed. 

Just a few tools and equipment. The Dewalt dust collector in yellow to right dingo helping to bring in the larger sheets of bluestone treads. Tent to keep the heat down. Hi-Vis paint marking for the suggested patio layout by client.

The bluestone is one of my favorites to thermal. Mainly since you get the result you're hoping for after hitting the wet areas with the torch. This removes the clean smooth saw cut face giving a sand blasted look.  A more aesthetically pleasing look to the stone face. 

7" Grinder with the dust collector hooked up to it. Grinding and grinding with the dewalt diamond cup wheel.

Course by course, step by step. All dry laid stone foundation set on earth. 

Now family and friends are able to enjoy this living space all year round. Natural stone never goes out of style like man made "stones". A flexible and permeable system putting water back into the earth and not into stormwater systems. Less runoff as Ellicott City has seen time and time again in the last few years. Easily maintained with minimal adjustments that are typically needed in our region. Far more visual appeal than any other choice on the market today! 

Why spend money to have a backyard that looks like everyone else in the neighborhood. Let Rockin Walls create functional art that can be shared for generations. 

Quality not Quantity - One project at a time. Book now 443-291-9388 to transform your dreams into a functional living space. 

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