The last previous project post that I’m planning on writing for awhile covers one of the first, and still most ambitious, projects that I took on at my current house (the basement remodel at my first house could be a series for another day). This project involved the construction of a 100 yard long wall along the tree line next to my private drive, with two large stone veneer pillars on either side of the driveway and a steel gate that closes across the entrance to the driveway. This involved hauling a huge amount of concrete, which took a lot of trips since at that point I had a white F150 instead of my current red F250.
I started planning the wall during the winter of 2013/2014, and also started stockpiling concrete and cinder blocks in the garage to use in the spring when the ground thawed enough to dig. I purchased the cinder blocks by the palette, and I purchased Quikrete 5000 concrete mix for the footings of the pillars.
The last thing that I purchased towards the end of the winter was the stone veneer that would go on the outside of the columns. Similar to the Fire Pit and Stone Seating Area project discussed in a previous post, I used Quarry Ridge Bella Stone Veneer Ledgestones, purchased from Madison Block and Stone.
As soon as the weather got warmer, I started digging the holes for the concrete footing for the pillars. I had to dig four feet below the ground, to make sure that the concrete went below the frostline. I did most of the digging by hand, and used my truck as a makeshift dump truck to haul away the dirt.
After I returned from the 2014 Masters, I scheduled a day with a handyman to help me pour the footings and set the metal posts for the gate. It was a two-person job, because both posts had to be leveled and had to be spaced correctly so the gate would fit correctly. I built wood molds so that we could just pour concrete directly around the posts without having to pour the entire footing:
We leveled the pillars using a water level and a set of post levels. Water levels are an extremely useful tool for making sure that two objects that are far apart are at the exact same level, which was a requirement for the posts, which were on a non-level surface.
After the posts were set, I installed rebar in the holes and then poured the rest of the concrete footings:
I bought a small ProForce Cement Mixer to mix the cement before pouring, which saved a tremendous amount of time given how many tons of concrete were required to fill the four foot by four foot cubes. It was not particularly durable and was more or less destroyed by the end of the wall project, but it was well worth the $250.
I built the structure of the pillars using cinder blocks, including a rebar and concrete core with PVC pipes for the electric cables that would pour the lights, and also hung the gate on the steel posts that were set earlier in the project:
I covered the exterior of the cinder block cores with Type-S structural mortar, and started applying the stone veneer:
I finished stone veneering both columns, and then had electricians from Krantz Electric in Verona come and wire the gate motors, as well as some beautiful pillar lighting on each of the columns:
I had three foot by three foot limestone caps cut by Madison Block and Stone, and with the help of some of the programmers from Hardin DD (paid in beer), lifted the caps onto the pillars.
After the pillars were finished, the next step was to build the rest of the wall. To build it, I used EcoStone brown composite panels from SimTek. The panels come in six foot by six foot sections, and require posts to be anchored into the ground via concrete footings, spaced six feet a part. The posts have a cap added on top after the panels are inserted, to complete the look of the wall. Every six foot section, when factoring in the posts and caps, cost $220. I ordered them in batches of ten, and they were shipped directly to the job site on palettes.
In order to start setting the posts, I purchased a gas powered auger, which would enable me to dig deep enough for each post. Some post holes were easier to dig than others, depending on how many rocks, roots, and other things were in the way. The auger would jam on a rock, and I would use a shovel or pickaxe to clear the obstruction. I would also use my lawn mower to clear the brush out the of way before starting to dig for a given section of wall.
For each post, I use a post level, as well as 2×4’s with clamps, before pouring in fast-setting Qikrete post concrete that didn’t require mixing before pouring, which was ideal for the small spaces that it needed to be poured into.
After setting a few posts, the wall began to take shape. I repeated this process for 100 yards of wall over several months, to complete the wall:
Certain sections of the wall required removing a significant amount of underbrush and branches:
After all of the posts and sections were set, the final step was to add bark along the base of the wall, and to allow some of the plants that were hacked away to grow back and make the wall look more at home in its surroundings. After a year, the wall had withstood a Wisconsin winter and did a phenomenal job of defining the look of our house as you enter the property through the gate.