Advice and Questions forum: Building a Column with Concrete Blocks

Views: 32, Replies: 19 » Jump to the end
Imagercn48
Apr 1, 2010 3:21 AM CST
Name: Debbie
Lexington, VA
Ric, I hope I'm posting this in the right Forum - I definitely need advice! Hilarious!
Hoping that someone more familiar working with concrete will be able to help me with the process of getting my project completed successfully!

History: Last summer I started thinking about creating a post to display our address numbers since we don't have a mailbox with our numbers on it. We've had a cheap address plaque for years but was it just propped up on the ground and the numbers kept sliding off every year from the summer heat. Initial plan was to construct a post with concrete blocks, use mortar to face it with stones and attach the numbers. My original plan became a little more complicated when I decided to design a stone plaque to display the numbers and now I need a larger "column" instead of a narrow post! I finished the plaque several weeks ago, constructed of Hardiebacker Cement Board with stones attached with a waterproof construction adhesive. Now I need to figure out how to build the column and get the plaque attached!

Thumbnail by rcn48

Imagercn48
Apr 1, 2010 3:22 AM CST
Name: Debbie
Lexington, VA
The plaque is approx. 20" x 26" and I'm planning to use four layers of blocks (one regular size and one half block) to create a column approx. 30" tall. The blocks will be mortared and I'm planning to lay half a dozen short pieces of rebar or something similar along the bottom to give a little additional support for the plaque. After the column is faced with stone I'll be capping the top of the column with either narrow pieces of flagstone or concrete sills to create an overhang.

Thumbnail by rcn48

Imagercn48
Apr 1, 2010 3:28 AM CST
Name: Debbie
Lexington, VA
I'll be planting the top of the cell on the left and attaching a decorative lantern on the right (non electrical). The photo is the original design I worked up before completing the plaque.

I did some research before starting to construct the column and have received some advice from contractors in a DIY chatroom. I have received some helpful suggestions, things I hadn't considered, but I'm beginning to think their advice is "overkill". Everything from pouring a footing to filling the cells with concrete, thoughts about wind, heaving, etc. and making sure I had "weep holes"? It's not like I'm building a foundation or a "tall" wall, it's only going to be 30" tall! Confused

My current plan of attack is dig a hole twice the actual size of the column, pound rebar or vertical pipes into the area the cells of each block will cover, fill the hole with crushed rock and start laying the block. Once the blocks are all mortared in place and the plaque is successfully attached, I'll fill the cells with crushed rock and begin applying the stone veneer. The cell which will be planted will only be partially filled with rock and then covered with landscape fabric before filling with soil for planting.

I'm hoping to tackle this project within the next week and if anyone has any advice or suggestions I sure would appreciate it! I certainly don't want to build something that will end up as a pile of rubble after a few years. Sticking tongue out

Thumbnail by rcn48

Imagedarius
Apr 1, 2010 3:47 AM CST
Name: darius
SW VA Blue Ridge Mountains
What is your soil composition like? What's the frost line? Are you in a wind tunnel?

It appears you have a solid, workable plan, depending on the above questions.

Plaque looks great~
Do Not Meddle in the Affairs of Dragons, for You are Crunchy and Good with Ketchup

ComeVisit my Blog!
ImageUniQueTreasures
Apr 1, 2010 6:10 AM CST
Name: Janet Colvin
Z8~Beaumont~Southeast Texas
Proud member of Cubits.org
Debbie,

Your plaque is gorgeous! Great job! I like this idea and will be watching this thread to see the final idea come to fruition.

Have you thought about a solar panel some where for the light?
ImageRidesredmule
Apr 1, 2010 7:26 AM CST
Name: Charleen
Barnesville, Ga. Zone 7b-8
Walk in Peace / I'm Charley's Mom.
It is Gorgeous. It will be beautiful when you get it finished.
ImageHenryr10
Apr 1, 2010 7:27 AM CST
Name: Ric
Cincinnati, Oh
Love the idea!
Love the solar light suggestion.
In fact we have a solar address plaque.

The only problems I can see are yes it's over kill.... by a huge degree.

And how far is it from the road?
Around here that would be highly illegal if too close.
Anything a certain distance from the road, in many areas, has to be breakaway.
That in case a car slams into it.
Even metal light poles are designed to break.

There are other legal constraints for your safety.
House numbers here have to be reflective and a certain size.
This for the Police or Fire Dept to find in case of an emergency.
The size issue you've covered.
May not be the case where you are.

I'd think you could pour a pad.... to the depth of whatever your frost heave is....
Dry lay the cinder blocks. No Mortar. No rebar.
Clad the unit w/ your plaque, which is KILLER BTW, and 3 other panels done the same way.
Cap the top w/ overhang.
If you'd like you could run 12 Volt wiring out and hook up a lantern or go solar.
Solar I'd use a remote collector for maximum light.
A 3 LED collector would easily power one for the night.

Ric
“The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal.”
C.S. Lewis
Image1AnjL
Apr 1, 2010 9:57 AM CST
Name: AnjL/Annmarie
CA Sierra Mts
I love the plaque!

also I agree with Ric. We have a cinder block raised garden bed. Ours is mortared in, and on a footing so that it doesnt sink into the ground over years of rain. It will be filled with cement and capped, but right now its only partially filled. It holds a LOT of soil and we've had no problems yet...even without the cement filling. So I think for your sign you could dry lay on a pad and it would last for years.

Also on the plant, maybe find a pot that fits into the cinder block hole?

excuse the mess...but here's our veggie garden

Thumbnail by 1AnjL

All Things Hobby
All the coffee in Columbia will never make me a morning person!
ImageHenryr10
Apr 1, 2010 7:57 PM CST
Name: Ric
Cincinnati, Oh
You could raise carrots in sand in the cinder block holes.....
“The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal.”
C.S. Lewis
Image1AnjL
Apr 1, 2010 7:58 PM CST
Name: AnjL/Annmarie
CA Sierra Mts
really?! I was thinking of strawberries .... but what about potatoes? in straw maybe?
All Things Hobby
All the coffee in Columbia will never make me a morning person!
ImageHenryr10
Apr 1, 2010 9:46 PM CST
Name: Ric
Cincinnati, Oh
Strawberries would be great too!
“The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal.”
C.S. Lewis
Imagercn48
Apr 2, 2010 3:42 AM CST
Name: Debbie
Lexington, VA
Arghhhh! I had almost finished a lengthy post, hit the wrong key and lost everything - let's try this again. Grumbling

Thanks everyone! DH says I'm "overthinking" this but because it took me two attempts to make the plaque I want to make sure I get the second part of the project right the first time! I had been thinking about how I was going to get started on the plaque and saw this terrific Creative Idea from Lowes - a stone bath mat,
http://www.lowes.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ContentDispla... Thought it would be the perfect solution...NOT! Once I had all the stones placed for the design I realized the clear window/door sealant wasn't going to work. A mad dash to Lowes and the local craft shop hoping to find a weatherproof Epoxy product which I could just pour over the stones was unsuccessful. A second trip to Lowes to purchase the backerboard and construction adhesive and I began the long process of applying small areas of the adhesive and transferring every single stone from the original design. It worked but my second design wasn't quite as nice as the first. Angry

Darius, we're a little north of you but probably have the same soil - nasty red clay! Wind shouldn't be a problem in this location because it's somewhat protected. The frost line is supposedly 20" but I'm probably going to have difficulty digging any deeper than 12". This area is next to the driveway and is hard packed soil. Plus, there's a tree about 3' behind where the column will be constructed and I suspect the roots are probably going to cause some problems.

Ric, I'm actually planning to use a solar spotlight once the column is up. A light for the lantern was more difficult because I didn't want the task of running electricity to it but found a battery operated flameless candle. It's weatherproof and turns on automatically every night and stays lit for 5 hours. Smiling We've actually moved the original location of the column closer to our driveway because I was paranoid about someone hitting it! We're on a narrow county road and even though passing cars aren't going very fast I didn't want to take any chances. No legal constraints or restrictions here so no problems there. I guess my first plan of attack should be to actually start digging the hole to see how deep I can go before I run into problems. The contractors' advice about "weep holes" just got me thinking - where WILL the water go in the cells that aren't capped off? I figured if I could get away with a crushed stone base at least the water should be able to drain properly.

Annmarie, cool vegetable garden - strawberries would be great! I used to have strawberries, mulched with straw but we still had problems with weeds. If yours were planted in the cells they would probably be a lot easier to weed! I thought about using a pot which would fit in the left cell but I'm afraid it would dry out too fast. The Carex I'm thinking about using is pretty drought tolerant but I still think it would be happier "out" of the pot. Definitely would look much nicer planted with a flowering plant but the Carex is evergreen here so I figured at least it would look good year round.

I'm dragging my heels getting this project underway but I've got plenty of other projects to keep me busy in the meantime. The gardens are begging for attention but it's almost too hot by the afternoon so I'm painting the siding under the deck and keeping out of the sun. We need one of those smilies with shades on! Big Grin
Imagedarius
Apr 2, 2010 9:56 AM CST
Name: darius
SW VA Blue Ridge Mountains
I'd dig a cavity at least 4" wider on all sides than your column, and as deep as you can. Fill it with coarse gravel... my view is essentially what you first planned!

You could place 1-2 large cement tiles over the gravel, level them well, and build the column on top of that, but you'd have a weak joint at the pad.

OR, you could place the first layer of block, drive some 2-3' rebar down through the cavities, through the stone, and into the clay. (Placing the rebar before the gravel would be easier if you can accurately locate the placement so the block lines up.) I'd fill the first layer holes where the rebar is with concrete (doesn't need to be in many holes, you just want some kind of anchor).

If you make the gravel area large enough, you can mortar a masonry band of some sort around the base of the column, like an apron, to both dress it up and give a visual balance.

So, that's exactly (more or less) your original plan of action, and it will work just fine.

Frank LLoyd Wright built a wonderful hotel in Japan where the foundation 'floated' on gravel. It was almost the only structure that survived a strong earthquake. (I think it was The Imperial Hotel, now long gone.)
Do Not Meddle in the Affairs of Dragons, for You are Crunchy and Good with Ketchup

ComeVisit my Blog!
Imagercn48
Apr 3, 2010 4:32 AM CST
Name: Debbie
Lexington, VA
Great advice, thanks Darius! Your "apron" idea sounds like a plan! Thumbs up I'm still skeptical about filling any of the cells with concrete because it might not drain properly. Of course since the right side of the column will be capped off with the lantern, maybe I could just fill that side? Once the column is up I'll be facing it with stones from the creek so I won't have to worry about "dressing it up". Big Grin

Thankfully, I won't have to tackle anything this weekend because I'm still busy trying to get the siding painted and laying pavers where our hoses are attached to the wall. It's always been a soggy mess there from the hoses dripping but I'm going to fix that! Smiling
Imagedarius
Apr 3, 2010 1:38 PM CST
Name: darius
SW VA Blue Ridge Mountains
I don't really see any need to fill the cavities, except maybe the lowest layer with gravel.
Do Not Meddle in the Affairs of Dragons, for You are Crunchy and Good with Ketchup

ComeVisit my Blog!
Image1AnjL
Apr 3, 2010 3:54 PM CST
Name: AnjL/Annmarie
CA Sierra Mts
darius wrote:I don't really see any need to fill the cavities, except maybe the lowest layer with gravel.


I agree.

Just wondering on filling the cell with the lantern though. The blocks we used are designed to flow over to fill all the blocks. I dont think its possible to fill just one cell, and a top cell at that...
All Things Hobby
All the coffee in Columbia will never make me a morning person!
ImageHenryr10
Apr 3, 2010 7:47 PM CST
Name: Ric
Cincinnati, Oh
I'd definitely run a conduit down the cell for the lantern.
Never know when you might need it.... and it's cheap.
“The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal.”
C.S. Lewis
Imagedarius
Apr 4, 2010 8:30 AM CST
Name: darius
SW VA Blue Ridge Mountains
Good idea, Ric!
Do Not Meddle in the Affairs of Dragons, for You are Crunchy and Good with Ketchup

ComeVisit my Blog!
ImageHenryr10
Apr 4, 2010 7:59 PM CST
Name: Ric
Cincinnati, Oh
Too many 'should have done that's' in my past....lol!

We're running speaker wire....errrrrrr!
“The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal.”
C.S. Lewis
Imagercn48
Apr 6, 2010 10:33 AM CST
Name: Debbie
Lexington, VA
I'm not ignoring all of you. I really appreciate the help but I'm procrastinating - the heat has been unbearable and there's no way I'll be working in the area of the column until it cools off a little :( Looks like pleasant weather next week but unfortunately we start traveling this weekend and next week we only have three days at home. If the weather holds out for another week I'm going to attempt to get this project underway when we return on the 18th. I'll keep you posted on my progress!

« Back to the top
« Cubits.org homepage
« DIY on a Shoestring Budget cubit homepage
« Advice and Questions forum

You must first create a username and login before you can reply to this thread.

DIY on a Shoestring Budget

A place to discuss and trade tips on DIY on a small budget. When to DIY and when to call in the Pro's.

» Home
» Forums

Cubit owner: Henryr10

» Contact Admin: Henryr10