Lessons learned on my first alt.home.repair mortar & flagstone job! (thanks to all)

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It's a good thing I'm not getting paid by the hour - but at least I'm learning how to make mistakes in my first alt.home.repair sandstone tile & flagstone walkways:
First lesson learned was to wear better gloves! The tips of the middle & pointer fingers of both hands are worn through the skin already!

Another lesson learned was that 5-gallon buckets are just too small to mix mortar well! I will go to Home Depot tomorrow to buy a concrete pan! What I did learn was that buckets are still needed. Lots and lots of buckets!

Another lesson learned is that I made the mortar far too wet! And, I put far too little in the first, second, and third time I tried! And I didn't make enough. Given that, the sandstones were at first too low, and then they were sinking in the mud. There must be a fine line between lousy and just right - and I'm no where near it!

In addition, forms are MANDATORY! I tried doing it without a form, but, in the middle of laying the first two stones, I found myself hastily building a form just to hold the two inches of mortar back!

Along that vein, it's helpful to have two jobs going at once. The first job is the critical one. The second is simply a place to dump the extra mortar... perhaps to fill the bottom tier of a form. With a second job handy, I don't feel so badly making more mortar than I need.
Another thing I learned is that the location of the sandstone laid out as flagstone is vastly easier than choosing the flagstone to be then cut into tile to fit a defined space. Here's the flagstone, for example, that I very roughly laid out in a semicircle out of the waste products left over from the tiling job:

I'll leave it with those of my lessons, for now. I'm sure tomorrow will bring more!
The most painful of all the lessons was that these leather gloves, while fantastic for outside work, stink for working with wet concrete!

The only good news is that I now have no more fingerprints - so - I guess I can rob a bank and not get caught (as long as I don't bleed on the bank counter)! :)
Thanks for all your help. It looks sooooo easy in the videos. But they don't tell you all this stuff!
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clipped

Working as occupational health nurse, I once treated a guy for serious burns to both feet....mixing concrete sans boots. It is caustic stuff.
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On Sun, 05 Feb 2012 07:34:37 -0500, Norminn wrote:

Oh oh. I didn't realize it was 'that' caustic! I'm not mixing lime per se ... so I wonder if it's that caustic, for me?
Maybe I should wear rubber boots instead of sneakers?
Anyway, another lesson I hadn't mentioned was my jeans split all along the butt! My pants fit loosely. They are not tight at all. Yet, somehow, they STILL managed a foot-long split from all the bending & lifting!

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I'd say yes- especially because your hands don't look like mason hands yet.<g>

It all depends on how messy you are. 2 of my 2 brothers in law helped my lay block for 2 days. at the end of the day 1 looked like he just arrived on the job, and the other looked like he bathed in mortar.
Jim
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On 2/5/2012 11:22 AM, Jim Elbrecht wrote:

I'm glad this topic got mention....it is important because of the potential for really severe problems. A minor injury today can become a catastrophe if one gets infection from antibiotic-resistant bug. I worked in occupational health long enough to see that many safety measures were considered "sissy". Just a wood sliver can cause disability if infection reaches a tendon....NO injury is a laughing matter. I took care of a guy once who had a speck of welding stuff fly into the back of his boot....he had a small 3rd degree burn down to his Achilles tendon. A little larger or deeper burn might have caused a permanent disability. He refused to go to the company doc, so I redressed the burn every day, praying it didn't get infected; took a long time to heal.
So, here is a link to safety issues with concrete: http://www.cement.org/basics/concretebasics_working.asp
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-snip-

-snip-
Good time to re-inforce-- Wear glasses of some sort when working with masonry!!.
Messy brother-in-law has one eye that works. He was actually wearing safety glasses [those 'stylish' sunglasses] when a pressurized hose burst-- but the concrete was caustic enough to burn his cornea.
Jim
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On Sun, 05 Feb 2012 11:22:22 -0500, Jim Elbrecht wrote:

Here's me reaching for a cup of tea & home made pie by the wife while working yesterday before the game halted all construction.
Are my hands looking more like a mason's yet?

:)
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On Mon, 6 Feb 2012 19:32:44 +0000 (UTC), Chuck Banshee

A real mason never actually touches the mortar and they could be working in a white shirt and dress pants. That is the big difference between them and amateurs.
They manage to pick up the perfect amount of mortar, flip it off the tip of the trowel and it ends up right where it is supposed to go.
A big part of the trick is getting the mortar mixed right.
I usually end up with mortar in my ear ;-)
It sounds like you are on your way, now you just need some practice.
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On Mon, 06 Feb 2012 15:32:00 -0500, gfretwell wrote:

Someone else mentioned that a 'real mason' also doesn't need forms.
Having read that, I 'tried' (and failed) to do the first set of stones yesterday sans a wood form - but - hastily - I had to erect one as shown by this picture of my mistake: http://picturepush.com/public/7516639
From now on, it's forms ahead of time (even though they take a lot of time)!
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On Mon, 06 Feb 2012 16:14:25 -0800, Oren wrote:

As you intimate, there was concrete everywhere!
I finally resorted to throwing the tools into a bucket of water next to me instead of putting them down on the ground to keep the concrete from hardening (as shown by this picture): http://picturepush.com/public/7516723
It took 7 hours, from the first stone to the last, to complete the job. In hindsight, I did almost everything wrong.
For just one example, the chalk line was a joke!
Sure, it 'looked' great! At first. Like disappearing ink, it washed away, was brushed away, was covered by mortar, etc.
Only in hindsight can I say the chalk line (as shown in this picture) turned out to be almost useless the way I did it! http://picturepush.com/public/7516765
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On Mon, 06 Feb 2012 15:32:00 -0500, gfretwell wrote:

Yeah. Lots and lots of practice!
For example, here's a basic mistake in making the form higher than the stone. http://picturepush.com/public/7516952
Only when I realized that made it impossible to level the stones lengthwise, did I learn that the form must be below the top of the stone.
I tried using a bubble level (the small round one and the short one for strings) - but the stone is wavy so they were useless.
In the end, I didn't level the stones lengthwise at all. Lesson learned!
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If you make that same mistake with the forms again, just lay a straight sided block of wood shorter than the form width, and taller than the height of the form above the concrete, then put the level on top of the block.
--
There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat,
plausible, and wrong." (H L Mencken)
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Chuck Banshee wrote:

You don't need a form at all when you are setting the stone if you do things in order...
1. Form and pour a concrete base (a "foundation", with wire/rebar as needed)
2. Wait until concrete is no longer green (2-3 days)
3. Remove forms
4. Spread (and comb out?) a thin mortar bed
5. Lay stones
--

dadiOH
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On Sun, 05 Feb 2012 08:44:41 -0800, DD_BobK wrote:

Now that's interesting!
All my right-hand fingertips were bloody by the end of yesterday! http://picturepush.com/public/7516571
I 'thought' they were worn by the grit.
Is everyone saying they're actually bloody due to melting of the skin by a high (basic) pH?
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On 2/7/2012 2:24 PM, Chuck Banshee wrote:

Darn feller! You abraded and dissolved the skin off your fingers. I once bought something from W.W. Grainger called Liquid Glove. I don't recall which version or from which manufacturer but I think it was in a tube not a tub.
http://www.liquidgloves.co.za/index.html
http://preview.tinyurl.com/7dcqzjd
TDD
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Chuck Banshee wrote:

Right. The lime ate the skin.
--

dadiOH
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On Sun, 05 Feb 2012 08:57:08 -0800, Oren wrote:

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention I'm learning that snapping lines is critical.
So I bought a chalk line and started snapping away.
The edge against the wall is easy to get the runoff slope: http://picturepush.com/public/7508968
But how do you get the slope away from the wall lined up? (I snapped a line on the form but I'm positive that form will move as I jostle it about.)
Note: I used hard plastic tubing for a joint spacer (which I can pull away while the concrete is wet, I hope).
This should leave a tunnel for water to flow outward if more cracks form in the connection between the wall and the stone mortar.
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On 2/6/2012 1:17 PM, Chuck Banshee wrote:

the same way you slope a patio.
you pound in sticks in each corner, then connect them with string, making the string be the top level of the flagstone. you tie off the string so that it is your slope.
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On 2/6/2012 1:17 PM, Chuck Banshee wrote:

you know, you could just go to the library and check out a book on tiling and one on making stone/brick patios. they'd have answered every one of the questions you've asked here.
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I like the ugly blue ones- (Amazon.com product link shortened) [I haven't used *those*- It seems like I pay $5-6 each at the hardware store - I might get a dozen of those for $15] That style seems to wear pretty well and are just the right balance of easy to put on and still tight enough to let you feel what you're doing.

Get 2 they are worth their weight.
Keep your eyes open at garage sale for hoes with holes in them. You'll think you died and gone to heaven using a real mixing hoe.
I've considered altering a garden hoe-- but the steel is usually pretty tough stuff, and the hoe itself isn't as sturdy as the real thing.

Always. I'm always amazed when I see empty buckets lying around a jobsite. When my stack gets shorter than me I get nervous.

That is probably *the* most common mistake-- mortar or concrete-- keep it dry. -snip-

For us mere mortals, yes--- but you've got to watch a pro one day. slap-slice-butter-place. . . over and over. every so often god whispers in his ear and he'll go back and trim things up-- but overall it is an un-interrupted dance.
-snip-

the morning will bring you an anatomy lesson. How many new muscles did you discover you had? All that bending can kill you.

-snip-
You want to get some Cornhusker's Lotion for those hands. And some sturdy rubber gloves. The alkali in the mortar will eat your hands.
Jim
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