I am wanting to build a small pole barn garage myself. The area is near my blacktop turn around. I want to extend this turnaround with gravel. My idea is to "box in" a 24 x 24 area with stakes and 2x6's. To put the gravel in this for the pole barn floor. Then start building as I have time and money. (I will not have a 2x6 in the front so I can put gravel from my turnaround to the pole barn and use it for parking.
I worked the ground with a tiller last year and scraped with a tractor bucket. It is more level than it was but not perfect.
Any idea on how I can get this good and level before I start without buying expensive tools or spending a lot of money? (We just had a baby born two months ago).
Build the pole barn first. Get it square and plumb, and make the collar beams level. True the collar with a water level (below).
Then box in the bottom of the barn with pressure treated (ground contact) batter boards -- say, 2x8's, if they're wide enough to make up any uneveness on the ground. Just adjust the box to level all-round, ditching where necessary to keep the top at or below your desired finished level.
Back-fill around the outsides of the batter boards, then fill the box with gravel (or pre-fill with some compacted earth to a slightly higher "level" mark than the original grade, then finish up with 4" to 6" of gravel) and plate compact the whole mass.
Leveling can be done with a simple water level. In its basic incarnation, it's just a transparent plastic hose with a large bottle of water at one end, and you at the other. The volume of water in the bottle should be twenty or more times the total volume of the hose, if you want the level to be both accurate and easy to use. Make sure there are NO bubbles in the line; they'll disrupt the accuracy.
Don't worry about heaving the affair up a ladder to use it. Just set the bottle on the ground at a convenient "home" location right up against your "first" pole, and use the bottle's water level as the basis mark for everything else. Mark that water level on the "first" pole. Run the hose around to all the poles, and mark a reference line on each pole at the water level in the hose. (let it stablilize a few moments at each point -- the water forms a slow pendulum in the hose)
Then you're done with the level. Just drive a nail at each reference mark, and measure up or down from those marks with a tape to establish other higher or lower level points.
The most precise tool in the world, for leveling, is a transparent vinyl hose villed with water. Visualize holding this hose, shaped like letter U, the level of water in both vertical sides of the U would be same (provided that openings on both sides are unobstructed and there is no air in the line). Hold one end of the U on one side of what you want to level, and another end to another side. Mason's line is a string that is not stretching and that can be tightened to form a nearly straight line. Sounds like you may benefit from buying some carpenting book, I have a book like that at home and can give a reference if you are interested.
You can do a nice job with one of the el-cheapo laser levels. This one is $10 at Harbor Freight.
set it up somewhere convienient (inside or outside the building footprint) and start in. Best way to do things is to use a "story stick" (any old stick with a big black mark on the side that matches the laser level line) Dig a series of hole about 4' on center that are the exact depth of your finished excavation. Use some stakes to mark the top of the excavation on the areas you want to fill.
One note: As much as possible, try not to do any building on "disturbed earth" that has not been compacted with a tamper. Your building will tend to tilt after a while if you don't tamp it. Just dig down to the grade you want and leave it alone.
It's good practice to add at least 6" (12" is better) of good gravel between your excavated area and the bottom of the c> I am wanting to build a small pole barn garage myself. The area is near
Other suggestions have been pretty reasonable. However, if you'd like to get it level before the building goes up, here's the low tech, hard work, no particularly expensive tools to buy method. With slight modification this method can also be used to make precise slopes (around the building, usually, sloping away to carry water away).
Get a bunch of stakes. Pound them into the ground on a grid. Use some form of level to mark them all at a convenient height (perhaps 2-3 feet above your desired grade). A water level is cheap, a laser level is probably sitting aound some friend or relation's house not doing anything, though some of those are not that good, so the water level (dscussed in greater detail in other replies) may be the method of choice.
Now, run strings on the mark from post to post. Mark the handle of a steel landscape rake at the distance your string is above your desired grade. Set the rake on the ground, bend down, and look from the rake across the strings. With multiple strings, they form a plane, which you can reference your eye to and figure out if a particular spot (which need not be right next to a string) is low, high, or correct. Rake until all are correct.
Problem with a laser level, is you get a nice straight line, but your level is only as good as that bubble on that tiny level. For a few feet, you're probably right on. But, how much error in that bubble would it take to be off by an inch, at 50 feet? Not a hell of a lot. Water is much more dependable, can't be mis-calibrated, and has been in use as a level for laying out buildings, since the pyramids were built.
If you put a laser level in the center you are going out 12', it won't be out by much. Plus this is a rough excavation prior to filling with concrete or gravel. Do you REALLY need accuracy in the +/- .060" range? A water level is a pain to use in an excavation. Every time you move one end, you adjust the water level in the OTHER end. Requires setting up both ends, then remeasuring your reference end. Lots of chance for error.
whatever you do, don't depend on a box made of 2 X 6's to hold in your fill material. It won't. You don't say how much of a slope you are dealing with. If it's a foot or less, I'd agree with the post that says "build the building first". If it's 3 feet or more, you are probably going to have to fill and compact first. In my non-expert but somewhat experienced opinion (having done it both ways) I'd fill to level (after compacting) at least 26 X 26 for a 24 X 24 building (more if possible) with the ground sloping away at a 45 degree angle or less.
Please read the suggestion again. I never said to count on lumber to hold the fill. I suggested using lumber as a form, and using compacted back-fill for support. That works well, except on extreme slopes. In such a case, only a revettement or bulkhead anchored into the higher earth will serve.
I really hate to rain on the water hose level peoples parade, but there are some factors that need to be addressed. I once took a 30' piece of plastic hose to use as a level. I filled it full with no air whatsoever in it. I held both ends next to each other and was amazed to see the level was over an inch different. The problem was the temperature of the water was changing as I was filling the clear hose. I used a garden hose that was in the sun so the first water was warm followed by cooler water. It is very important the water is the same temp throughout the hose. This would even be something to be aware of if part of the hose level was in the sun and part in the shade. Dixon
I'd suggest using landscaping timbers and rebar to contain the gravel. The timbers are relatively attactive and rebar stakes through drilled holes in the timbers are all but invisible. As for spreading dirt or gravel, tractor with box blade or a Bobcat is probably the best way. You can move a lot of dirt with a Bobcat (but it will beat you to death). I'd recommend putting the poles for your barn in first and then build up the timbers and fill with dirt or gravel. Make sure the poles are rot-resistant.