Monday, June 1, 2020

Day 19 - Westminster MD - "2 Steps - 7 To~Go"

The end of the day always comes so quickly when the sun is shining and I'm on a roll! I've completed 2 of the total of 9 steps to get to the upper landing. Each of the steps has rise of 7" +/- and a tread ranging from 15" - 22" on average I'm shooting for 17". I'm also doing me best to have them pitched out in order to have water run off them. The good news is they are all set in a 3/4" gravel so the will naturally drain. The step design is what I call a double stack. 2 stones to make the desired height. These stones are a called Blue stone sheet stock. I have them over hanging about 2"+. More or less I simply use my level to be my measuring device for each one. Each stone must be custom cut and grinded down in order to make such a tight fit. I'm also adding low voltage piping in the middle of each tread. This way I can either do a under light or several. The pipes will direct the wire to come out right between the joints under the overhang of each tread. Now on to my day pic by pic details. (if you're reading this and have not been following the daily updates on Facebook go there now to get caught up. At some point I'll be moving each day over to the blog)

I started off with the second step I had set on Saturday. The stone had a major bump in the middle. It would just sit there and spin in circles it was so bad. So I had to lift it up and grind it down. I like to use the Ditch Witch an a board to minimize the stone being lifted up from pushing out the lower stones. Never fun when that happens to you. ONLY has to happen once then you learn.

After getting the second step left completed. I then moved on to digging back the bank. More for the next step to the right. Along with the stone wall which would follow up the side of the steps. I only like to dig out as I go to minimize over excavating. It's wise to set all stones on good solid compacted soil. (with gravel as needed)

Then I picked out the next stone for the right side of the steps. I placed my pvc rollers in place under the stone setting. This allows me to move the stone around to see what it looks like. Now before I get to carried away this stone had 4x4 boards underneath it with the rollers on top of them. The reason for this is  so I could overlap it on the stone next to it. As seen in photo below. This allows me to line up the face on my marker line on lower steps. I make sure I have enough overlap then I cut it with the gas saw. When the saw cuts the top stone it then leaves the mark on the bottom stone. The bottom stone is really the left step. I then finish cutting to allow for a tight fit. 

Over lapped stone on right sitting over top stone on left. 14" gas saw with water ready to cut. 

You can see just how tight the cut was by doing this. I then had to grind of a another high spot on the bottom of this stone in order for it to sit lower and not rock. Of course that means lifting it up then setting it down to test it. Then repeat as needed. I'd guess these stone come in around 300 lbs. I'm using a 7" grinder with the 7" Dewalt Diamond double cup wheel. This works the best to really take down high spots. I'm also running a dust collector in order minimize airborne dust. You will also see in the photos several wood blocks. Left to right - 4x4 use 2 of these when setting down a stone, (middle) 6x6 with piece missing this is my digging bar block, (right) small door stops made out of 2x4 doubled up - used to make adjustments when setting caps or steps to be level or to just to get the rollers out without pinching my fingers. 

I did some grinding on the top of the back of this stone for the 3 step face to sit. I also put the board down in order to help when dig. This keeps the dirt from mixing into the gravel. The stone was longer then what I had excavated. 

Strapped in the next stone before calling it a day. 

Only issue with it was I had to dig out more of the back. So I placed it on the 1" PVC rollers to slide it around. I also used the digging bar to place it onto the line. This one is set 22" back on the left to help direct the steps to the right, as they go up the hill. The middle of this stone comes out to 17" for the tread.

Everything is now set and marked out. Next up the right side! To the left at bottom of white pole you can see my 4 rollers along with my collection of door stops. 

Next many of you have been seeing the Zip Level in many of my photos. I wanted to take a moment to explain how I'm using it with the steps. In this image the little square box is the digital readout. In the cord inside the carrying unit is fluid. This works a lot like a clear hose with water in it. Essentially its a water level. Where the box is sitting is the top of the patio. Next I ZERO IT OUT, I then can set it on any step or top of area by porch to see how I'm doing. I'm I on track with the sizes of each step. You don't want to get to the top only to find out you are to short or to tall. Hard to pull them all apart then start all over. 

ZERO - top of patio grade.

Second step at back

3rd under step 3, This means I need to find a stone which is -3" in order to be on target with a 7" rise per step. As you can see it really takes all the guesswork out. Easy to set up and easy to read. You can change the read out to multiple options, meters, feet,  etc....

Coming along 1 by 1. The space is really starting to look like something. One of the things I love about natural stone compared to pavers. They are not square. YOU have endless opportunities to create just about anything. I like to like to let the stone tell me what it wants. 

End of the day the empty oil tank with gravel now gets to go back to the farm for a refill. The tools head back to the job trailer. Everyone is happy.  

3 pallets and 1 oil tank off Richard's grass. Ready for road trip. 

Everything tucked in for the evening. 


  1. I like this format. I can follow your description and the photos simultaneously. Looking great!