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Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I have received several inquiries about building retaining walls. While there is alot of information out there, some of it is contradictory, so I will tell you what I find works best for me.
  •   Foundation Trench: The foundation trench should be dug deep enough to remove all organic matter or black soil. Once this is done another consideration for foundation trench depth is the eventual height of the wall, the guide that I use is.
  • Trench Depth: The depth of the trench should be between a third and a half of the height of the wall. Therefore if the wall is to be three feet high then the trench should be between twelve and twenty four inches deep. I use the same calculation for the width of the wall or the depth you need to dig back into the bank, plus at least a further twelve inches to allow room to back fill with clean crushed stone between the finished wall and the soil embankment.  I use three quarter inch clean crushed stone for the backfill and for filling the foundation trench.
  • Trench Width: The trench should also be three to six inches wider than the wall, this allows the foundation stones to be set in from the edge of the trench. When the trench is dug, fill to within six inches of grade with clean crushed stone then commence building the wall. I like to build a wall with two faces similar to a free standing wall but I reserve the poor quality stone for the side facing the embankment as this will not be seen when the wall is backfilled.
  • Batter/Slope of Wall: The batter or the amount the wall should slope into the bank is a personal choice, I use a batter of six to one, so every six inches of vertical wall building you should slope the wall toward the soil embankment one inch. If the wall is three feet high then the top will be six inches in from the vertical.To achieve this, set a frame at the correct angle at either end of your trench and string a taut line between the frames. Starting near the bottom and lifting the line as the wall rises, making sure the stones placed on the wall never rest against the line. This will give you a nice straight wall with a uniform slope.
  • Curved Walls: If the wall is to be curved, then I use lengths of rebar set at the correct angle every three to six feet depending on the severity of the curve.
  • Soil Considerations: If your soil is clay and if it is feasible I would advise laying a drain pipe from the base of the trench so the trench never fills with water which could be a problem in areas with freezing winters.   

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Craven Herald; my hometown paper

Wow, from the NY Times to the Craven Herald & Pioneer, now I'm really hitting the dizzying heights.
I just learned that my hometown newspaper, The Craven Herald, from Skipton, UK has done a piece on me. It was very nice of them, even if they did get a couple things wrong. (I live in Killingworth, not Greenwich).And, taken out of context, I'm not so sure my wife is going to like the part that says "he came never intending to stay..."  It is very kind of them to do a piece on me and so I share the link with you here:
Stay tuned!

Poults and Quail

Sometimes I can't help myself and last week I succumbed to the call of a box of little peeping poults at the Middlesex Livestock Auction. These were identified as Heritage turkeys but no further information was provided, so, in a few months time, I'll have to post pictures of these guys in their adulthood and we can all have some fun trying to identify the breed. At the moment, the young quail, which we hatched in two batches in an incubator that we borrowed from a friend, seem to enjoy the company of the young poults, but we'll see how this goes when the size differential begins to become obvious.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

AtHome Magazine Article Serving Fairfield County

A writer from AtHome, a Fairfield County, CT publication contacted me with a request to include me and my friend Dan Snow in a piece on the top 50 services in Fairfield County. We made it to #15. The original link is listed below:

Rock On

You might commission a stone wall to keep prying eyes off your property, but if famed stone artisans Andrew Pighills and Dan Snow are the geniuses behind it, you’ll have more oglers than before. The master craftsmen work individually and in collaboration for those who favor rustic elegance and graceful geometry over a chipped-to-perfection look. So how do you decide if a dry stone wall is right for you? While the initial cost can be as heavy as the rocks they use, Pighills maintains, “you get a lifetime from a stone wall...and 12 to 15 years from a wood fence.”, 
in the company of stone

Monday, July 11, 2011

Moss Garden

Completed last week, this garden area is in a shady, woodland setting with views to a river and a dam, just the sort of place one wants to be in oppressive weather like this.The stone was hand picked and came from my friends over at Getty Granite, who have a nice selection of building stone.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New York Times Update - July 7th, 2011

I've just heard from Sara Barrett, the writer of the long-awaited article on my project in Greenwich, that it will be in the July 7, 2011 issue; that's tomorrow's New York Times in the Home & Garden section. If there's a link for an on-line version I'll post it tomorrow.
Stay tuned for more updates on active projects.