Laying Out a Wall
Even the most complicated wall starts out as a few lengths of mason's line stretched between sets of stakes and crosspieces-what builders call batterboards. The ability to make adjustments is especially important when you're squaring up the layout using the 3-4-5 triangle. The wall you lay out can be as long as you like, but you're limited when it comes to height. If the wall stands more than 4 feet high, building codes require a professional engineer's design. If you're taking on a 6-foot hillside, however, you can avoid the cost of engineering work by terracing the hill with a pair of 3-foot-high retaining walls.
Start by cutting points on the bottoms of two 2x4s, creating stakes. Nail a crosspiece to the stakes about 2 inches from the top. Drive a batterboard into the ground 12 to 18 inches beyond each end of the planned wall. Drive the stakes so they sit firmly in the ground, then level the crosspiece by hammering the top of the higher stake.
RUN LINE BETWEEN THE BATTERBOARDS
Tie a mason's line to the crosspieces. Attach a line level to the line and, if necessary, tap the batterboard that is at the high end to level the line. Slide the line along the crosspieces until it marks an edge of the wall. Tape the line to mark the point you've decided on for each end of the wall. Drop a plumb bob from the taped points and use powdered chalk to mark where it meets the ground. Drive in 2x2 stakes at the chalked marks. Sprinkle chalk, sand, limestone, or flour along the mason's line to mark the edge of the wall. Before digging, mark where the line meets the batterboards and untie it. You'll put the line back in place later.
LAY OUT ONE WALL; DRIVE BATTERBOARDS FOR THE SECOND
Lay out the wall on one side of the corner with batterboards and mason's line, following the steps above. To lay out the second wall, drive in a second set of batterboards 12 to 18 inches beyond the corner and beyond the end of the second wall. Stretch a mason's line between the batterboards and position it by eye. Attach a line level and level the line.
SQUARE UP THE CORNER
Square up the corner using the 3-4-5 triangle. Mark one line 3 feet from the corner with a piece of tape. Mark the other line 4 feet from the corner. Measure between the two pieces of tape. Have the helper slide the line until the distance between the two pieces of tape is 5 feet. When it is, the corner is square. Drop a plumb bob where the lines cross and mark the ground with powdered chalk. Measure to find the end of the wall, drop a plumb bob, and mark that point on the ground with chalk as well. Drive 2x2 stakes into the ground to mark the corner and ends of the wall.
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Skill Level: Beginner
Time: 1 hour
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- 10d common nails