Laying Out with Stakes and Mason's Line
When builders lay out straight lines, they use stakes and string. Although stakes and strings are low-tech, they're almost fool proof: The shortest distance between any tow points is always a straight line, even if the points are stakes driven in the ground. Use 2x2 stakes-they're easier to drive than 2x4s yet large enough so they won't split. When you look for line at the home center, you'll probably find two kinds- the string used for chalk lines, and mason's line. Get mason's line, which is made of nylon and won't sag. A sagging line always creates a problem in layout work, especially when you try to get a reading from a line level hung from it.
LAY OUT A LINE
Drive a stake into the ground a foot or so beyond the space you’re laying out. Tie mason’s line to the stake, stretch it along the edge you want to lay out, and tie it to another stake. Drive the second stake into the ground a foot beyond the length you’re laying out. If the line is supposed to be a specific distance from a structure, measure several places along the line before you drive the stake.
LAY OUT A PERPENDICULAR LINE
Stretch a second line between stakes as you did for the first line. Before you drive the second of these stakes, square up the first and second lines with a framing square.
DOUBLE-CHECK FOR SQUARE
Double-check the layout with the 3-4-5 triangle method. Put pieces of tape 3 feet from the corner of one line and 4 feet from the corner of the other line. If the lines are square, the distance between the pieces of tape will be 5 feet.
If the distance between the pieces of tape is a measurement other than 5 feet, move a stake to make adjustments. Pull it out of the ground and wrap the line around it several times so you won't drive the stake near the first hole. Have a helper measure between the pieces of tape. Drive in the stake when the measurements confirm the lines are square.
MARK THE CORNER ON THE GROUND
Transfer the corner formed by the lines to the ground with the help of a plumb bob. Hang the plumb bob at the intersection of the lines. Mark the ground with a nail driven through a piece of paper. For a precise line between two points, snap a chalk line on the ground, choosing a color that's easy to see. For a general line, sprinkle chalk powder, flour, or lime along the mason's line.
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