Front Wall (Part 1)


Last year, as we were finishing up the Garage, we planned to build a wall around the front area between the lengthened garage entrance during the Driveway Relocation and the new Walkways. We bought all the rock, but with the extended time frame associated with the Driveway Relocation, it had to wait. This year, it had to wait for the Machinery Pad. And then it had to wait till the Drains were completed because it would be too hard to drain the courtyard after the walls were in. Sounds like I don't want to do it. Hmm . . .


  The lay of the land before the front wall (September 1, 2009). Garage on the left. House on the right. Note the sloping terrain, heading down hill in front - that's a wall-level challenge. Also note the sidwalks from the house to the driveway and to the garage. There are temporary wooden beams that act as the wall today. There are also some leaves on the trees as I start this "two weekend" project. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View Another "Before" shot. This time looking from downhill back up towards the garage and the front stairs.

  Almost finished, except for the lights. This is May 2, 2010, eight months after starting. Of course, we had 60+ inches of snow for several months as well as several Dump Truck modifications to perform. The observant will observe that there is no wall on the right side (west) side of the steps. That had to wait till Stone Wall Part 2. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View A view from the Garage door. Here you can see the flat area for access by heavy machinery and other wheeled vehicles.

  Here's how it started. First, I had to makes ome footer trenches. Since doing the drains, I've gotten better at this. I use the EF-3 Backhoe and its 18" bucket. Good width for normal, homeowner, landscaping footers. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View A close-up of the trench next to the mortared slate walk.

  View back to the front trench, now filled with gravel. The dam between the gravel and the non-graveled trench is the dirt next to the drain pipe. Like any good hoe-operator, I have my laborer hand dig this out (I get to be the laborer, too). Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View Trenching around the turn. This is a challenge for a backhoe operatoer - making a corner and keeping the trench only bucket width. Once again - sign of a good project? Getting to use all the machinery - EF-3 Backhoe, Dump Truck, and Tractor.

  The last trench. Clearly my best. I cleaned the bottom of this with the hoe - no laborer needed. I had to align the hoe at about a 45 degree angle to boot. But by taking small bites, I didn't jerk the hoe out of position. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View EF-3 dumping gravel into the footer trenches. I plan on using gravel to as footer instead of concrete. I'm cheap and its a dry laid wall (with some mortar to make up big gaps).

  The cornerstone is laid. Due to the drop (18" on diagonal from garage door (uphill) to top step (downhill)), the wall will have to step up three times, six inches each. The wall will be out of the ground at its lowest 6" (near the door) and at its highest (32" at the bottom step). Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View After a day's worth of activity. Not too productive. I finally decided to waste good rock on the back part of the wall. This is mostly old leftover riverwalk from the original walkways. Five pallets serve five different sizes of rocks.

  Here is the first course or two along the front. I'm struggling with the top corner rock. I have a good one but its a little too short to meet its brother. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View A few weeks later? I use the trusty Dump Truck to go get some Riprap (rubble in wall-speak), which I will use for back of wall purpose, keeping my good rock for the front. It only cost me two quarts of power steering fluid, a quart of brake fluid, and $50 for the rock.

  This is where the rubble is used. I line the back of the trench with big rubble and other crappy big rocks on the base. I stack more rubble on it and fill the whole thing with concrete. I'll keep doing this as I work my way up. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View This is as far as I've made it. Bad news is that it is getting cold and it rains on weekends now. Good news is that the mortar and concrete won't set up as fast as I walk around trying to find a rock that fits.

  This is the view I have most of the time - looking down in a field of rocks looking for the right one. "Just need one about 11 inches, about 4" inches tall on one side and 2 1/2" on the other, with a slight bulge on the bottom on the middle. Better if its not red." That shouldn't be too hard, right? That's why I'm on my sixth week. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View My buddy at work told me about these special rock chisels. That's it on top of the left half. All I have to do to cut rocks is to bang out a little line where I want the split. Then do it on the other side. Keep going and the rock eventually breaks on the line. Took about 10 minutes for that rock. The chisel is a Rebit HM25, made in Sweden. It costs about 10 times the cost of a cold chisel. See a close-up view on the Tools page.

  More results of the Rebit HM25. The place I bought it had several others, most over $100. This seemed to be the most versatie. I cut some pretty big rocks with it (about 8" thick). Just patience. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View Progress as of October 10, 2009. The top row is not glued.

  October 24 or so. Looking down on the glued in rocks that were just sitting in the picture above. This is nearing the expected finished height (thank anyone!). Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View This is the B-Side. Its not for show. This is where the rubble goes. Note that the grass and leaves are still green. Soon, fall will have fallen and the wind will blow the leaves off the trees and into the little trench between the dirt and the wall where I want to put gravel.

  Now, the gravel has been shoveled in. The EF helped get it close, but with all the little unused rocks and rock pallets and cones, and other stuff, I could only get it close enough to hand shovel. Better anyway cause I put in the black fabric to keep the mud away from the nice clean gravel. Also backfilled a little dirt to get it off the feet of the tree. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View This is November 8. Note how the little rubble pile is dwindling. Every time I stick my hand in that pile, one of the ten or twenty pound rocks crushes a fingernail, turning it black. The little board in the foreground is for the mortar (its a Mortar Board). The JetVac is a poor boy' way of blowing leaves around.

  Going around the turn and up the slant to the garage. The rise here is about 18". I'm glad to have this turn done as the combination of turn plus up hill is no fun. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View One thing that can make wall building fun (cause there isn't much else) - driving the GMC Dump Truck to go get concrete and mortar. I load 80lb bags on my own pallet outside and pay the teenagers inside. Then I ask them to help, suggesting use of a pallet truck. They say no need and go outside to help the old man, see the pallet stacked with 1000+ lbs of heavy, and go inside to get the pallet truck. Works great.

  Progress as of November 8 on the front corner. About the same as Oct 10, but this time, the final height is realized. The top two rows along the stairs aren't glued cause I'm waiting on lights to put in the side. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View Rounding a Bend. This is Nov 26, Thanksgiving, day 87. How thankful I am that I have finished all the stone finding (at least for everything but next to the sidewalk, where the light will go. I am scheduling December 24 for completion, assuming some decent weekends remain. Next spring, I hope to do the other side of the sidewalk. I figure about Compare the little rubble pile with the one four or five sections below.

  Recent progress on the finished top. The stones on top are called cap stones, like a "Cap" and Gown. I was only going to make them one stone wide, but my wall consultant suggested a mortared top (applied by putting wet Portland Cement/Sand on a Mortar Board) would be more like she had in mind. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View Still working as of December 5, 2009. Wall is still not complete. But I get to wait till the snow melts and the mud dries. Yep, just a few weekend project.

  December 12. Christmas decorations are going up. The GMC Dump Truck is back from the repair man. So it can sit here (without blowing a quart of power steering fluid and a pint of brake fluid on the gravel) while I dump about three or four Earthforce EF-3 buckets of nice, brown topsoil. The topsoic will fill over the red clay and the black landscape fabric, under which is lots of gravel. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View Post dump. Note that the top of the wall is finished. You can see the gravel between the landscape fabric and the wall. The fabric folds over the gravel and then dirt goes on top.

  Dec 15 - Playing Hookie. Here's my bucket of mud for gluing the rocks together the ones near the top have just been slopped into the mud goo. Then I depostited more mortar over the light fixture and on down the line. Note the conduit for the light sticking out the back of the wall. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View I love this - especially after dedicating every reasonably dry, non-freezing weekend and a couple of work days. Its cold and most likely freezing soon - not the best conditions for concrete and mortar. But I have a good 24 hours and a warm (50 degree) day to get as much done as I can. Its Christmas time.

  This is a rock that I shaped. In fact I did some to the other side as well. That tungsten carbide Rebit HM25 chisel works well. Troublesome rocks are sedimentary, which break in layers. Best rocks are metamophized ones. They break clean along the lines. Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View A little fill in March 2010. Still waiting for some warmer weather before finishing the last course on the sidewalk wall. Then I have the other side to do.

  May 2, 2010. I finished the top course of the walkway segment as well as the section over by the garage. You can see the little black cap for the light that will go into the side of the wall (just over the second step). Also you can just see the little conduit poking out of the corner for the light. Click for Larger View

  Click for Larger View A popular view, this time including a chicken. The grass has grown into the fill, making it look a bit less barren. I also backfilled some gravel next to the wall.

  This section is next to the garage. Note the little flat area for driving lawn mowers and fork lifts into the little courtyard. There is some debate as to whether it needs another layer on it, but I say it should be flush and only one rock deep, to account for the weight of any machines. Click for Larger View

  For those of you who want to have audio accompaniment and don't to wear out your mouse roller, arrow keys, or fingers, here is a YouTube version of the Front Entry Wall saga, from beginning to end

Don't Wall Me Off