Archive for the ‘Retaining wall’ Category

August-September 2013

February 28, 2014

After making my way back from my pilgrimage to Iowa, I decided it was time to convert my piles of interlocking bricks into a nice driveway. So I called in the dirt movers again to grade the driveway properly for drainage and level parking. I also had acquired some free fill from a neighbor building a house, which went into the low spot in the back of the yard where some water was still pooling when big rain or Spring thaw happened. I was on a fairly tight time-line, since I wanted to have the job done before we left for our big trip to Peru on Sept 16.


After the grading, landscaping fabric was laid down a truckload of sand dropped onto it and carefully spread and graded. This was the base for laying the interlocking bricks. By my calculations with the number of bricks in hand I could construct a driveway from garage front to street which was 14 ft wide. So I set about placing the bricks and driving them firmly in place with a 2 lb hammer and a wooden block to keep from cracking bricks. Started at the garage entrance and began to work my way toward the street. I used a brick pattern which although more complex, claims to be better at weight distribution and prevention of surface distortion/disturbance of the bricks. You did have to be thinking all the time to make sure you were following the pattern. When I had to make a bend in the driveway to finish perpendicular(or nearly so) to the street, there was a lot of creativity in cutting and fitting bricks to make the transition. This was a time and muscle/back intensive job, taking a couple weeks to accomplish and drawing lots of onlookers and comments.

In order to keep the bricks from “walking” outward with vehicle movement on the the surface, I decided to install a mini-retaining wall on the edges. I happened to have a pile of slightly damaged cement blocks from the primary construction of the house still setting back by my tool shed. So hauled them up with my lawn tractor and trailer and dug them down around the edges so the tops were just flush with bricks. The strategy then was to fill the cores and the tops of the blocks with vibrated concrete, giving a strong border extending 8 inches below brick tops. I also had enough bricks and blocks to install a brick walkway from edge of driveway to edge of breezeway.

Concrete work continued apace and before I knew it it was approaching travel time again, this time our adventure to Peru. Elena arrived from Newfoundland, had a day of recovery and then we did a lightning trip across the border to do some Bank business, allowing her to have an interac card to get Yankee dollars at ATMs when we were traveling. The driveway brick and retaining edge work was all complete cleanly before the run up to travel. Then the US excursion morning before flight to Peru, that evening we drove to Toronto, staying in an airport hotel, leaving the car in long-term parking and taking a shuttle to the airport. Just over 2 weeks of incredible adventure in Peru, Lima, Macchu Picchu, Cusco, Lake Titicaca, Arequipa and home.

June – July 2012

January 31, 2014

After Elena flew back to Newfoundland I settled down to some serious house completion issues.   First was laying the interlocking brick in the path from entry door under the breezeway to the entry door of the workshop.  I had acquired the bricks in early days of construction in trade for a case of Coors Light 🙂  Now they became my walkway.

I then set about completing work on my patio in front of the south-facing windows of the great room dining area. First I had a truck load of fill sand delivered, and when opportunity arose a fellow with a skid-steer working next door delivered the sand into the retaining wall. I then leveled and compacted it with my gandy dancer dirt tamper (You figure that out:) ) Filled the space up to about 1 1/2 inch of top of retaining wall, so the top of patio blocks would be flush with it.

I decided to manufacture my own patio blocks, since I had some portland cement and a pile of cement gravel and reinforcing mesh left from earlier cement work. I was able to borrow a concrete stamp and releasing liquid from my friend Craig Morley so the top of the block was to be stamped with an Italian Slate pattern. It turned out that the small stamp of his set, was 22 inches square, which coincidentally gave me a perfect fit for 4 blocks to reach from retaining wall to house edge. I built forms on sheets of plywood fastened to pallets which had been under concrete blocks delivered to my site. They were structured so I could remove the end piece, and insert a prybar under the edge to lift the block out of the form when it had cured for 24 hours.

In between batches of cement going into the forms, I kept at other bits that needed to be done. Working on getting the plywood liners into the window wells, and geting them stained and varnished. I also decided to run a pex line from my well pump near the edge of my property up to the edge of the house where I was more a more useful water outlet for lawn and garden and for cement mixing. This was another gift from the guys at CPE, left over from a job they did with a sort of non-standard pex size, 5/8″ instead of 1/2 or 3/4. Anyway I dug the trench, laid the pex and underground rated electrical cable and then covered again with dirt and sod about 8 inches below surface. Not deep enough to escape freezing in the winter but out of the way of lawn mower and other landscaping implements.

Supposedly the VW van in Newfoundland was to have the transplant done by a professional mechanic friend of my son-in-law Dean. Unfortunately this fellow lost one of his regular helpers in the shop, and was no longer able to schedule the job. Hence it was to be just Dean and me to do the honors in completing the transplant of manual transmission and accessories. Anyway on July 22, Kenn Cochrane one of my neighbors took me into London where I caught an airport shuttle to Toronto Pearson and flew from there to St John’s. With a bit of delay we were into it but it took while to get job done. Dean had a recurrence of major muscle spasms in his back when we were about 2/3s done so I had a significant bit where I was mostly on my own to get it finished up. I did feel the need put it together and drive it enough with short haul trips to be sure nothing was going to fall apart before hitting the road for the big jump back to Ontario. I am sorry now but did not take extensive pictures of the transplant operation only one set of the two vehicles sitting side by side in mid operation.


My stay in Newfoundland was prolonged by the freak accident my wife had in which her car was totaled. If it had not been for the airbag she would have been uninjured, but the slide up a guard rail triggered the side airbag which cracked two ribs. If not for that she and her cousin would have emerged shaken but with no physical injuries. So I was involved in helping her get a new car and doing the necessaries which the bad ribs made excruciatingly painful for her till she had healed enough to carry on alone. I finally headed back to Ontario on the last ferry of the season departing September 29 from Argentia to North Sydney which saved me from having to drive the 1000 km to the Port au Basque ferry. I did the trans-border route through Maine and on to New York to save gas money and skirted Montreal in the US crossing the Border from New York state at the Thousand Island bridge. Again dropped some stuff off in Toronto for step-daughter and then home to Newbury.

October 2011

September 24, 2012

October I had the focus on finishing the window trim and the Hardieboard paneling on the solar chimney. I set up a cutting area outside the garage with my trusty diamond blade in the skilsaw. Trim was cut and drilled for long tapcons which went into the stucco surrounding the windows. Actually went pretty quickly once I got into the routine.

The paneling on the solar chimney was a “horse of a different color”. The narrow sections on the south face were easy, and the East and West sides were harder but doable with one set of hands. However the North side was way too risky with just one person and I deferred that for while (see accomplishments for November).

I then started the prep work for the retaining wall planned for building a patio that runs from the outer edge of the screen porch to just past the door emerging from the great room. First step was to dig the trench for the footings and to put the forming boards in place, properly leveled for screeding the concrete when it was poured into the form. I as usual mixed my own concrete and wheel-barrowed to the forms as it was generated, and troweled the footing to give a smooth level base for the wall.

After a day or so of curing, I by now had moved many of my remaining partly damaged cement blocks to pallets adjacent to the footing and began the wall construction. First step as way back in building the main foundation walls, was to level the base layer of blocks, setting them in a mortar bed on the footing. Ater an overnight cure of the mortar, I then stacked the remaining two layers of blocks to get a wall that was 3 courses tall, e.g. 24 inches off the footing.

Now I started up my cement plant again and poured the stacked blocks full of concrete, vibrating it vigorously so no air voids in the wall. This gave me a resultant solid concrete wall. I raked the sand fill that had to be excavated to put in the footings to partially fill the enclosure provided by the retaining wall. Next Summer for the final effort on this. Pictures of the work done in October in the gallery below.