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Interlock: Cuts Count!

Tight Interlock Cuts Toronto

Other than gravel base preparation nothing can ruin a quality interlock project more than sloppy, uneven cuts. Most often sloppy cuts are the first sign of an uneducated or inexperienced landscape contractor. Almost all interlock projects require cuts. The trick is to make clean, tight cut joints so they are seamless with the rest of the interlock installation.

Curves and soldier course (border) cuts are some of the most visible areas where cuts are made. At Merlin Construction our craftsmen are held to the highest standards, trained and supervised by owners who care.

Advanced techniques such as cuts for uniform curved soldier courses, back cutting stone and scribing are essential to ensure a tight fitment of brick pavers. Tight fitment ensures less weed growth, elimination of trip hazards and stabilization of the pavement. Tight interlock fitment is especially vital when dealing with high traffic zones such as a driveway.

Part 2 coming soon! Tricks Merlin uses to ensure quality cuts.

Table Saw Safety Rules

Safety is one of those things that everybody rolls their eyes at and nobody wants to talk about. Taking the time for a weekly safety meeting is worth the time it takes to learn simple rules to keep everybody on the job site safe.

The table saw is at the heart of any workshop, and personally my favourite tool. It is also one of the most dangerous tools. Below is a rundown of some of the rules I constantly preach to my employees. The majority of mistakes are made before you even power up the table saw.

Check yourself:

  • Check that you are wear proper eye and ear protection, have short sleeves or have them rolled up and hair tied back.
  • Check that you have push sticks or pads within reach.
  • Check that you are standing out of the danger zone ( the area behind the blade).
  • When a piece of material “kicks back” and gets caught on the blade your material will come shooting out the back of the saw at a high speed.

Check the saw and setup:

  • Table saw safety setup

    Job site table saw with guards intact

    Check that you have an outfeed table to catch your work piece and prevent you from reaching over the blade.

  • Check that you have guards installed or a riving knife for kerf cuts.
  • Check blade for wobble, lost teeth and sharpness.
  • Check that the fence is parallel to the blade.
  • Check that the blade is adjusted so that only one tooth extends above the workpiece.
  • Check that if you are ripping anything 3” or less you are using a push stick. This also avoid reaching over the blade and extends your reach.
  • Check that the blade is not angled towards the fence.

When using a table saw:

  • Keep your fingers away from the blade!
  • Only push your workpiece between the fence and the blade.
  • Never cut a piece of wood smaller than the diameter of the blade, a miter gauge or table saw sled works much better.
  • Let the blade stop before you reach to retrieve your cut pieces.
  • Leave a comment with any more table saw safety rules!

Picture Framed Deck Designs

When building a deck little touches like a picture frame board running the perimeter can really set off a deck design. Even a basic pressure treated deck can be enhanced by a picture frame border and 45* decking.

Toronto Deck Designs

Picture Framed Deck w/ 45* decking

Creating this look is a simple process of installing wood blocking in the proper places to pick up the decking where it ends. Keeping the thickness of your fascia board and desired overhang in mind you can accurately place your blocking.

Alternatively you can experiment with double picture frames and running the deck boards on a angle like in the example. For double picture frames it is a simple process of installing further blocking to pick up the ends of the decking. When running deck boards on an angle I suggest spacing your joists 12” on centre as opposed to 16”. Deck boards placed on an angle will have a greater span and when using 5/4” decking I always space at 12” oc. Angled decking will also stiffen the deck frame and prevent racking.

Tip: Toronto guardrail codes are subjected to Building Code SB-7 and properly installed guardrails usually require some blocking themselves.I always like to install my railing posts before adding blocking for a picture frame to avoid having to tear out blocking to install a railing post, then re-block to pick up the picture frame.

A Basic Yet Attractive Seatwall

A small seat wall or garden wall can be a great addition to a landscape project. Whether it serves as seating or functions to define a specific area seat walls are an attractive component that really aren’t too complicated to construct. I’m going to quickly run over the materials and construction of one of the most common seat walls we build. Using Brussels Block Dimensional Stone as the wall stone and a natural stone coping of Banas Sandstone it is a great value and looks stunning. Picture Below

Toronto Landscaping Seat Wall

Bussels Block Dimensional (Mahogany Ash ) w/ Banas Coping (Kota Black)

Step 1

The first step to creating this seat wall is to decide exactly where it will go and excavate the ground to allow for a proper gravel base. To do this drive two stakes into the ground. One where the wall will start and the other where it will end. Tie a string between them making sure that the string is exactly level and at grade. To do this you might have to dig a little trench. You can use a line level, hold a 6′ level on the line or use a laser level to ensure level. For angles set a stake at each each corner being careful to take note that this string will be either the outside or inside of the wall.

Step 2

Step 2 is to excavate and add the gravel to your excavation. A Dimensional stone is 4″ deep and since burying one course and using 4″ of gravel is pretty much standard your final excavation depth is going to be 8″. So go ahead and dig your trench along your string line at a depth of 8″ from the line and a width of about 10″ to give you some working room. Once excavated use a hand tamper or jumping jack to compact the soil at the bottom of your tench. Now add 4″ of gravel along your tench compacting in 2″ lifts. Now you area almost ready to start stacking the stone.

Step 3

Now that you have your tench with compacted gravel it is time to set the first course. This is the most important course you will lay because it all builds off this course. To ensure that the wall is level and straight you are going to use your string line once again. Set the corner of the long side of the Dimensional Stone next to the string at the exact same height just beside the string. Use a bullet level to level front to back. Using a rubber mallet and having some extra gravel on hand is always a good idea at this point. Take your time with this. Once the first course is down it is just as simple as stacking the blocks ensuring they line up correctly and gluing them together with an adhesive such as PL Premium. Using a level as a straight edge and plumbing the stones is always a good idea. Stack the wall to a height of 18″ and then glue the Banas coping on the top of the wall to finish it off ensuring even overhangs on visible edges.

Guidelines For A Green Driveway

Your average driveway or parking pad is a large, hard landscaped surface created with concrete or asphalt to take the abuse of vehicle traffic. Along with the stability concrete or asphalt provides it also contributes to urban runoff and the heat island effect. Being that a driveway is often the largest hard landscaped surface on a Toronto property by being aware of these issues and designing landscapes with them in mind will lead to a driveway landscape with the least environmental impact.

Runoff is the movement of water along the surface created by soils that are saturated to full capacity or when rain falls on impervious surfaces such as a concrete driveway. When water flows along the land it causes a few environmental issues:

  •  First runoff has the chance to pick up contaminants such as car fluids, carwash runoff, de-icing salts, and fertilizers feeding them into our lakes and rivers.
  •  The high heat capacity of impervious concrete and asphalt driveways also contributes to higher runoff temperatures which when drained into local rivers can raise the temperature of the entire ecosystem.
  • The nature of our storm water runoff system is that is has been designed to quickly remove water from the surface and drain it into runoff sewers and back to the rivers and lakes. Doing this reduces groundwater recharge and increases the need for irrigation.

Permeable paving solutions for driveway landscapes are a great option. Designed to allow the infiltration of water and reduce runoff permeable paving is installed much like an interlock driveway. The main difference is the open graded aggregate used as the driveway base to allow for groundwater to percolate deep in the water table. Here are some guidelines to green your driveway landscape.

  • Implement a permeable paving solution such as Unilocks Eco-Optiloc with an open graded aggregate base
  • Low grade slopes (1.5%) encourage slower storm water flow and increases infiltration and groundwater recharge
  • The use of ’bio-retention’ areas such as absorption gardens reduces runoff
  • Plant trees to shade hard landscaping areas to reduce the increase of runoff temperature
  • Use trench drains, catch basins and drywells appropriately to control runoff
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