PDA

View Full Version : New member, need tips for crosstie steps


Razorcut
07-15-2007, 05:00 PM
I just recently joined Lawnsite, but have been doing lawn work for the past seven years. I have a guy that needs some crosstie steps replaced. The existing steps are rotted and falling apart. There are two sets of steps with a patio in between them. Can I get some advice on drainage issues with crosstie steps? Do I need to put the ties on a gravel foundation? Any construction tips?
Thanks!

Razorcut
07-16-2007, 11:29 PM
I could really use some of you guys' knowledge and expertise. Any help would be appreciated

Mike33
07-16-2007, 11:38 PM
but have been doing lawn work for the past seven years. tips?
Thanks![/QUOTE]

Not a good question here.
Mike

tthomass
07-17-2007, 12:20 AM
Here is the best possible thing you can do. Find someone that knows what they are doing an hire them to work under you for the job. You will most likely pay them alot, make nothing but you will work together and you will learn so that next time you make $.

Razorcut
07-17-2007, 06:53 PM
Mike33, why is that not a good question here? Please explain. I am not looking for tips for lawn work, but for doing work with railroad ties.

I can't hire anyone else right now; do you guys think there is any enlightenment potential for me on this site?

Also, if someone thinks that this type of job needs more experiance than I have described that I have, I would really appreciate their thoughts. I have been doing carpentry, light construction, and remodeling with my Dad for years, if that makes any difference.

Thanks
Benjamin

tthomass
07-17-2007, 08:35 PM
You didn't understand me........I'm saying hire just for the job.

Go find 'guy' that does this stuff. Tell him hey, I've got a lead for you but these are the conditions......

Conditions: A) I get 10% + I am your labor
---------------------------------------------------
Just saying hey, I've got some steps tells us nothing. Two steps or twenty steps? Are the steps all timber or are they filled with stone? Pics? Are there current drainage issues? And so on......

Razorcut
07-17-2007, 11:03 PM
You didn't understand me........I'm saying hire just for the job.

Go find 'guy' that does this stuff. Tell him hey, I've got a lead for you but these are the conditions......

Conditions: A) I get 10% + I am your labor
---------------------------------------------------
Excellent idea. Now I understand what you meant. You see, I'm only 18 even though I;ve been working around this stuff and making good money at it for a good while, but I typically cannot afford to just hire someone. However, what you've suggested is a great thought, and I appreciate it.

...Just saying hey, I've got some steps tells us nothing. Two steps or twenty steps? Are the steps all timber or are they filled with stone? Pics? Are there current drainage issues? And so on......

Being new to Lawnsite, I'm also still learning the ins and outs of how to go about asking these kinds of questions. Thanks for the tip.

Anyway, 8 steps, then patio, then 4 steps. They're 3 feet wide and 1 to 2 crossties high for each step. Rather steep. All timber. Don't know if the extensive rot is due to age alone or if it's drainage related. I've never built steps from cross-ties before, even though I have built some small retaining walls with sandstone and know how to keep them from holding water by installing some drain holes at different heights.

I'm just not sure on this step job as to whether or not drainage would be required. The 8-step portion is about 5 feet in elevation change over about an 9 foot run, while the other is much less steep, only dropping about 2 feet total over a 4 foot run.

Anyway... thanks for the tips. I appreciate your insight.

tthomass
07-17-2007, 11:13 PM
Still missing, you're not hiring. You are giving someone else the job so that you may tag along for the experience. Think of it as investing, this is a company expense.

Are you lic & ins?

Have you taken a look at how the current steps are built, perhaps follow that.

What you will get a lot of on here is that if you are asking how to do a job as a whole you will told that perhaps you should not be doing the job if you do not know the answers, and its true. Now, if you have a question about a job.......hey blah blah blah, what if I do this instead or whatever, you'll get better response.

Again, get someone else to do the job if you are not up to it. BUT, work under them on the job. Next time you can do it yourself.

18 has nothing to do with it, I'm only 23. You've still got a lot of learning, as do I, but only you hold yourself back. Pay now, play later.

muddstopper
07-17-2007, 11:36 PM
Razor, I have a similar situation where I will be replacing 19 crosstie steps. Crossties, even used ones, will last a long time in the ground. Drainage concerns are more toward keeping water away from the house instead of protecting the ties. If care is taken in removing the exsisting tie steps, the new ones can simply be placed in the same place. If the dirt or gravel around the ties does fall out or down, simply shovel the loose material up and save for backfill of the new steps. A lot depends on how the old steps where installed in the first place. The ones I am dealing with where simply laid on top of the soil and held in place with re-bar, and backfilled and tamped with soil and will be replaced in the same manner. These steps where first installed in 1984, so the system worked.

Mike33
07-17-2007, 11:37 PM
I will try to explain with out being rude. Not all the time but most posts here are about jobs in progress or completed jobs we are doing and we compare and pick minor detail. We are hardscapers that means we dont build houses or do brain surgery nor ask how to do that. TThomas gave you some good advise, follow it. Your in the lawn business thats great, but you dont know the basics of srw's or step systems or you would not be asking about the basics of drainage. Think about what you are trying to take on, building a set of steps that some one could get hurt on if not built properly. Most guys on this forum is not going to give you instructions for this reason. Hope you have good ins. you might need it.
Mike

tthomass
07-18-2007, 12:34 AM
btw, this winter......take as many courses as you can....ICPI and NCMA are your friend. Ask local nurseries and stone yards about seminars. You will get more literature then you care for and if you pay attention I promise you will know 10 times more by next season just through education. After a few jobs you'll know another 10. Education THEN Practice is the only way to do it. Do that backwards and you will go out of business quickly. It takes time, its slow, it sucks but you will increase your odds of staying in business the following year. I don't know your area but in mine if you want to make even decent $ you don't mow grass, you do construction.

I don't know your company, if its yours or how much/days you work. An idea would be to work part/full time for a landscape construction company. You'll get your education and experience all in one. Not trying to change your future but an idea.

Overseer
07-18-2007, 06:45 PM
muddstopper, you provided the type of clear, non-judgemental advice that I'm used to seeing in another GREAT forum that I am heavily involved with. Kudos.

tthomas and Mike33... you guys oughta learn how to be more encouraging to some young buck like Razorcut, here. Now, before you get all huffy over what I just said, I understand the implications of what you've shared adn the truth in what you've stated... it just doesn't seem to come across in an encouraging manner. Who knows, maybe you were trying to dsicourage him a bit to keep him safe. Regardless, I don't think that it was the message of "his best interest" that was came across at first read.

Look at his situation. He's trying to learn, he's taking initiative, he seems to be working hard at doing a good job (at least at wanting to, anyway), he's trying to tap into his resources, etc. All of which are highly admirable for an 18 year old who wants to do good work. How many 18 year olds do you know who can demonstrate this kind of "heart" towards dirty, back-breaking work? He deserves our commendations for his efforts... not a list of patronizing comments that might just make him discouraged.

To be honest, I even know this kid personally. He is fairly new to where I live, but I've already seen his work ethic, diligence, and standard for quality outpace most adults I know (sometimes even outpaces me to boot). I've been encouraging him to log in here to get some sage advice from you guys. I've known about this site for a while, even though I haven't made the time to join up myself due to other forums I'm more committed to and involved with.

This kid's got real heart for hard work, and he's not going to do anything shoddy or haphazard by any means. He already understands a lot of the basics, and wants to pursue this type of work as a career, but just doesn't yet have "expertise" like you guys in here. All he needs is a few details and he can do virtually anything. It seems to be the way he was brought up, from what I can tell.

Anyway, once he mentioned that he had finally posted his questions here but wasn't finding a lot of warm receptivity, I had to check it out for myself. To be honest, he probably has missed some of the truths you were sharing because of the discouraging "tone" from some of your comments.

Even though I'm new and have no credibility with anyone in here, I think it would be good if you could take Razorcut a little more seriously... sort of like a protoge with whom you can have a big influence. after all, if you help this kid become a first class professional, you've helped the image of both Lawnsite and each other's companies.

Just my $0.02.

tthomass
07-18-2007, 08:34 PM
I too have a heart for hard work......it was first embedded into my head from growing up on a farm.

I am not being rude, I have not said anything rude. I am trying to give him advice. How do you think I learned? I worked with someone or attended classes and studied.

Its like my car. If I went onto a car forum posting up wanting someone to tell me how to build a turbo kit for $1,000 I would be strongly encouraged to come to the realization I do not know what I am doing. Does it matter that I can drive around a track at record times? No. Same 'industry' but different field. Someone like that is often told pick two of the following: FAST, RELIABLE, CHEAP........in his case it would have to do with experience that could cause a lot of hard work to go down hill and cost him a lot of money.

If the current steps held up, look at how they were built. If you're knowledgable, I mean common sense, you may notice ways to improve upon the current situation.

If he is serious about this profession as a career he will seek the help needed for him to succeed and make $ the #2 objective. Its very simple, if you are not 100% confident, do not do the job ALONE. I'm not saying don't do the job, I'm saying don't do it ALONE. Get someone to HELP. If that means giving them the job then so be it but work with them so that knowledge is gained. A website is not an outreaching of resources, contact someone with knowledge in your area to help you through the process. A lot of people are much more willing to help then you think, especially to us young'ns.

Is the business lic and ins?

I'm simply putting into words what most people are already thinking when reading this thread.

Overseer
07-18-2007, 10:29 PM
You know, tthomas, I never accused you of being outright rude. I obviously, though, managed to miscommunicate to some degree, for which I freely and openly apologize. The essence of what I shared is this.... this kid was discouraged and seriously considering not doing this job when he mentioned his thread to me (a job that I believe he can do well at), and it was largely because of the tone with which you and Mike sort of chastised him.

Now, I honestly don't believe that your intention was to discourage him, but it happened all the same. My post was meant for one thing only... and that is for you to consider this... when some new guy (or gal) comes along and asks a question like Razor's, you really know very, very little about their situation, who they are, what they are capable of, how critical it is that they even get an answer, etc... What works best for me in that situation is to ask more questions of them... clarify what they are really wanting and needing to know, then pull out the answers, recommendations, and suggestions. For all you know, Razor may have already installed 10 sets of crosstie steps over his 7 years experience, that they are all holding up well, and he is simply curious about whether the experts think drainage issues are valid concerns. See what I mean?

I also admitted freely in my original post that what both you and Mike shared had true wisdom and real-world knowledge and "right thinking" in terms of how to manage jobs on a generic basis.

In terms of his letting $$ be No.2 behind learning and doing a job well, he already has that perspective well in hand. I've even heard that he has done extra work for nothing and gone back and redone work to his own (high) standards, even when the owners were neither expecting nor asking for that extra effort.

Back to the original post... I believe, if I remember correctly, that his main concern was over the issue of whether or not the experts in here would address drainage issues with crosstie steps. muddstopper took the question straight on and simply answered it, and apparently did so without feeling the need to either correct Razorcut on the appropriateness of his question or read into his question regarding his level of knowledge and capability.

On the basis of what I just said, I'll also take issue with your example about building a turbo kit for your car. Perhaps in the forums where you have hung out, what you predicted as the likely response to a question like that may be true and valid, but not in the forums where I hang out.

In the ford-trucks.com forums, particularly in the diesel sub-forums, the experts are very happy to pitch in with anyone new coming along to help them accomplish almost whatever they want to try to accomplish. If there is error in the plans, plenty of folks chime in with sincere but polite and respectful suggestions based on their experience, and no one ever gets flamed for asking a "stupid question", or for not "getting it" the first time around, or for appearing to be ignorant to some degree just because they asked a question.

I guess from my experience there, I expected to see the same welcoming comradery here as well. Maybe it really is here and Razorcut just sort of stumbled into a bad start. I honestly don't know. I just have my impression.

tthomass
07-18-2007, 10:49 PM
If he had already built 10 stepper jobs then now is the wrong time to ask questions. Steps = grade = drainage

Rude/huffy......whatever, I don't care. I'm giving the guy advice and has nothing to do with a turbo kit. Its an example of looking at the situation at hand, being realistic and making a decision. I too am on diesel forums and do not encourage flaming. Just to clear that example: FAST + CHEAP = NOT RELIABLE, FAST + RELIABLE = NOT CHEAP, CHEAP + RELIABLE = NOT CHEAP...its all just a balance and this can be applied to things outside of a 'turbo'.

Is he capable? Perhaps so. But if you are not even sure how to correctly construct you'll never have a constructed product that needs any sort of drainage. Drainage is up in the air and different on ever single site. What feeds the area, can it be diverted prior, soil etc etc.

If he works as good as you say, give him a ticket to VA and I'll provide an internship to learn lots of things. Experience is what teaches. If this sounds negative then sorry, not intended. I'm just saying look at the job and seek the proper help. All we can do is point him in the right direction, as we have.......seek someone one on one and with experience for the best possible advice. I'm not on the site and cannot tell him how to build it differently or not then it is currently.

Mike33
07-18-2007, 11:24 PM
You know, tthomas, I never accused you of being outright rude. I obviously, though, managed to miscommunicate to some degree, for which I freely and openly apologize. The essence of what I shared is this.... this kid was discouraged and seriously considering not doing this job when he mentioned his thread to me (a job that I believe he can do well at), and it was largely because of the tone with which you and Mike sort of chastised him.

Now, I honestly don't believe that your intention was to discourage him, but it happened all the same. My post was meant for one thing only... and that is for you to consider this... when some new guy (or gal) comes along and asks a question like Razor's, you really know very, very little about their situation, who they are, what they are capable of, how critical it is that they even get an answer, etc... What works best for me in that situation is to ask more questions of them... clarify what they are really wanting and needing to know, then pull out the answers, recommendations, and suggestions. For all you know, Razor may have already installed 10 sets of crosstie steps over his 7 years experience, that they are all holding up well, and he is simply curious about whether the experts think drainage issues are valid concerns. See what I mean?

I also admitted freely in my original post that what both you and Mike shared had true wisdom and real-world knowledge and "right thinking" in terms of how to manage jobs on a generic basis.

In terms of his letting $$ be No.2 behind learning and doing a job well, he already has that perspective well in hand. I've even heard that he has done extra work for nothing and gone back and redone work to his own (high) standards, even when the owners were neither expecting nor asking for that extra effort.

Back to the original post... I believe, if I remember correctly, that his main concern was over the issue of whether or not the experts in here would address drainage issues with crosstie steps. muddstopper took the question straight on and simply answered it, and apparently did so without feeling the need to either correct Razorcut on the appropriateness of his question or read into his question regarding his level of knowledge and capability.

On the basis of what I just said, I'll also take issue with your example about building a turbo kit for your car. Perhaps in the forums where you have hung out, what you predicted as the likely response to a question like that may be true and valid, but not in the forums where I hang out.

In the ford-trucks.com forums, particularly in the diesel sub-forums, the experts are very happy to pitch in with anyone new coming along to help them accomplish almost whatever they want to try to accomplish. If there is error in the plans, plenty of folks chime in with sincere but polite and respectful suggestions based on their experience, and no one ever gets flamed for asking a "stupid question", or for not "getting it" the first time around, or for appearing to be ignorant to some degree just because they asked a question.

I guess from my experience there, I expected to see the same welcoming comradery here as well. Maybe it really is here and Razorcut just sort of stumbled into a bad start. I honestly don't know. I just have my impres sion.

Im not a rude person, yes here if someone draws swords i come back. I have helped many people young, old, black, and white dont matter. If you do many searchs here of someone posting how to do and what to charge it gets overwelming. I took this at a young kid taking on something that could bite him in the ass. I agree with tthomas of having or paying someone to work with him to get that experience. Im having a new home built at this time and i sure wouldnt want one of the subs coming in to do drywall and had to inquire the night before on the internet of how to do it more than you would. Im a very experienced srw builder, i started out by helping a friend for 3 days free to learn. Then i went too the block manuf. got lit. and went to a free seminar. I couldnt bring my self to contract my service with out knowledge. This was 10 years ago and now there is far more information training out there for the taking.
Mike

Razorcut
07-19-2007, 11:42 AM
Razor, I have a similar situation where I will be replacing 19 crosstie steps. Crossties, even used ones, will last a long time in the ground. Drainage concerns are more toward keeping water away from the house instead of protecting the ties. If care is taken in removing the exsisting tie steps, the new ones can simply be placed in the same place. If the dirt or gravel around the ties does fall out or down, simply shovel the loose material up and save for backfill of the new steps. A lot depends on how the old steps where installed in the first place. The ones I am dealing with where simply laid on top of the soil and held in place with re-bar, and backfilled and tamped with soil and will be replaced in the same manner. These steps where first installed in 1984, so the system worked.

muddstopper, thanks for the great input. Your response was exactly the kind of info that I needed. You have confirmed my previous expectations that this job was relatively straightforward. BTW, keep me posted about this job of yours. I'd like to compare estimates, job specs, and pics.

Mike 33 and tthomas, I appreciate your wisdom. I understand the implications of doing work without sufficient knowledge, but I think I may have miscommunicated my abilities. I mentioned earlier that I have been doing carpentry, light construction, and remodeling with my Dad for years. With the knowledge I have gained from this type of work, I have no problem whatsoever with constructing crosstie steps. No, I have not done it before, but I DO have the knowledge I need for the basic building process.

What I don't have is a lot of knowledge about drainage and runoff issues, which I recognized as POTENTIAL concerns when working with slopes and steps. The main reason I began this thread was to find out if there were any potential drainage issues, and if so, to get some advice about resolving them.

Please understand, I have not disregarded anyone's advice on this thread, some of it has just not been applicable to me and my situation.

Overseer, thanks for the kind words and praise. I'm really encouraged.

Thanks again to all you guys for your time. I'll post pics when I finish the steps.

zedosix
07-19-2007, 03:25 PM
Its kids like this that I would like to train in my company. Good attitude and didn't swear at anyone... yet. Good luck with your wall.

Overseer
07-19-2007, 03:49 PM
zedosix... you're darned right. You can also bet that he won't ever be swearing at anyone... his family raised him right and he's a good kid with a heart of gold. I would be proud to be able to call him MY son.

...Rude/huffy......whatever, I don't care.
I'm sorry about making you feel attacked, tthomas, but you said it yourself... it was those last three words that actually came through in your original post in terms of tone and manner of address, and that was what I was suggesting as an opportunity for you to improve on. It's the kind of thing that will eventually come out wherever you are and will hurt you professionally. I know this from my personal experiece and having to learn it the hard way myself. Trouble is, is easier and more productive to correct when you're your age than 10-15 years down the road. If i inspired any of this "huffiness" you refer to, accept my apologies, please, as I tried to communicate carefully and not harshly... I'm still learning how to do that myself, like I said.

If he works as good as you say, give him a ticket to VA and I'll provide an internship to learn lots of things. Experience is what teaches...
Excellent offer, and I'm sure that he would love to take you up on such an opportunity if his family could afford to send him (assuming he would want to go, that is). I believe, though, that he is having to work his way through college due to large (not luxurious) family expenses, or so I gather. He is already working part time at a local botanical garden, and the last word I heard from the lady overseeing him is that they are thrilled to have him there with them. They may not, in the grand scheme of things, be able to give him a "hands on" education in every aspect he wants to pursue, but it's still a great opportunity for him.

If this sounds negative then sorry, not intended...
I've already said that I believed that any dsicouragement was probably not intended that way.

Mike33, like I mentioned to tthomas, I didn't accuse you of being rude... just a little discouraging. I think what I've shared with tthomas in my response above this paragraph addresses some of the other issues you mentioned.

You guys are exactly right about hands on being the best teacher. I've encouraged Razor to pursue some of the other resources he has here locally for learning opportunities by working with people who do this stuff. I would offer him those opportunties myself if I could, but simply cannot manage that right now for various personal and family reasons that I won't burden anyone with in here. Best I can do with this young man right now is keep encouraging him to explore his options, use his resources, and take every job he can get (that he can realistically do on his own). On his behalf, I appreciate both of you chiming in with some good concepts and ideas for Razor.

I'll get out of your hair now.

DoetschOutdoor
07-19-2007, 04:37 PM
So this is your son or not Overseer???

PatriotLandscape
07-19-2007, 05:34 PM
got any pics of the job it would help out a lot.

Razorcut
07-20-2007, 10:49 AM
Its kids like this that I would like to train in my company. Good attitude and didn't swear at anyone... yet. Good luck with your wall.
Thanks zedosix, really encouraging.

got any pics of the job it would help out a lot.
I only have some really bad camera phone pics right now, but I will take some better ones with the digital camera when we go back to start work, before we start pulling up ties. I'll post them as soon as I get them, but that may be a week or two...not sure when I can schedule this job right now.