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Old 05-19-2017, 07:58 AM   #1
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How level do sonotubes have to be?


I'm getting ready to pour the piers for my deck posts this weekend. I'm doing anchored post bases with J bolts and was wondering how critical the levelness of the tops of the sonotubes needs to be? I'm using 12" sonotubes (11.5" actual) and my holes were drilled with a 12" auger. So they hole are perfect in regards that the tubes fit snug with enough drag that you have to rotate and push them into the holes. So my concern is that this will not leave me any adjustability to really fine tune the positioning of the tube to level the top. All the holes came out pretty straight, so we're not talking about any of them being way off. But as a first timer I figured I should ask if this should be a concern or not.

Two possible solutions I thought of were to use a belt sander to sand down the top of the tube to get it level? or after the concrete is dry use a dremel and sand out a level concrete pad where the post bases will rest?
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Old 05-19-2017, 09:43 AM   #2
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


You can always adjust the post lengths.
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Old 05-19-2017, 10:28 AM   #3
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


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You can always adjust the post lengths.
I think he's talking about the augered holes not being plumb so the tops of the tubes won't be level and short of using self leveling concrete the tops will not be level after the Crete sets. It sounds like he's close enough but I'm not there so I can't say for sure. He should absolutely drop a 4' level down the tube to verify the bubble is at a minimum between the black.
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Old 05-19-2017, 10:36 AM   #4
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


Your sonotubes need to be plumb. You check them with a string level, a plumb bob, or a builders level. You fill them to the appropriate grade, it doesn't make much difference if the top of the concrete is level, what is important is that you insert the steel bracket in the correct location, and level the top of the bracket. This is easy to do, since the bracket support is typically buried at least three inches in the concrete, and the bracket is not going to settle in the concrete. You just set the bracket in the wet concrete, adjust the bracket to level both ways, and support the bracket if you used really soupy concrete (if you mix your concrete correctly, it will be stiff enough that the bracket will not settle).

Worst case the bracket is slightly out of level, no big deal, you shim the post when you install it.
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Old 05-19-2017, 11:17 AM   #5
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


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Your sonotubes need to be plumb. You check them with a string level, a plumb bob, or a builders level. You fill them to the appropriate grade, it doesn't make much difference if the top of the concrete is level, what is important is that you insert the steel bracket in the correct location, and level the top of the bracket. This is easy to do, since the bracket support is typically buried at least three inches in the concrete, and the bracket is not going to settle in the concrete. You just set the bracket in the wet concrete, adjust the bracket to level both ways, and support the bracket if you used really soupy concrete (if you mix your concrete correctly, it will be stiff enough that the bracket will not settle).

Worst case the bracket is slightly out of level, no big deal, you shim the post when you install it.
I'm not using the kind of post bases where the saddle and the anchor are one piece though. I'm using J bolts and then the saddle is placed after the concrete and bolt is set.
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Old 05-19-2017, 11:24 AM   #6
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


Once the concrete is in the sonotube, jiggle it or tap it with a hammer and most concrete will self level to an acceptable degree. Strike it off with a trowel and then place the bolts after it has set up a little bit. Wiggle them into place and then trowel around them to flatten. You will be fine.
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Old 05-19-2017, 12:10 PM   #7
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


If I'm understanding the question, you are concerned with the top of each tube being level ?

If so I would be more concerned with the elevation or level of tube - to tube - to tube. If you sand one level that changes the elevation then all must be sanded to the elevation of the first one you sanded and hopefully that first one to be chosen was the shortest in height.
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Old 05-19-2017, 12:25 PM   #8
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


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If I'm understanding the question, you are concerned with the top of each tube being level ?

If so I would be more concerned with the elevation or level of tube - to tube - to tube. If you sand one level that changes the elevation then all must be sanded to the elevation of the first one you sanded and hopefully that first one to be chosen was the shortest in height.
These are for vertical posts, so the elevation from tube to tube shouldn't matter as its compensated for just by cutting the posts to length.
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Old 05-19-2017, 12:49 PM   #9
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


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Once the concrete is in the sonotube, jiggle it or tap it with a hammer and most concrete will self level to an acceptable degree. Strike it off with a trowel and then place the bolts after it has set up a little bit. Wiggle them into place and then trowel around them to flatten. You will be fine.
Good call. Makes perfect sense. To take it another step further, would it be smart to leave about an inch of unfilled tube to really give the concrete the ability to self level, and then trim the extra inch of tube off after the concrete sets?
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Old 05-19-2017, 02:13 PM   #10
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


That will work.

Although it might be tough to get a trowel into a 12 inch sonotube to work the mix.

Best to set the tubes to grade, IMHO. If they were larger, like 24 inch, then your idea would be better.
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Old 05-19-2017, 09:15 PM   #11
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


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Originally Posted by jlhaslip View Post
That will work.

Although it might be tough to get a trowel into a 12 inch sonotube to work the mix.

Best to set the tubes to grade, IMHO. If they were larger, like 24 inch, then your idea would be better.
Unless your local Code mandates a distance above grade (mine does).
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Old 05-19-2017, 09:32 PM   #12
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


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Unless your local Code mandates a distance above grade (mine does).
Agree that the top of the tube should be 6 or 8 inches above grade.
I guess I didn't phrase it correctly.
What I meant was: to set the top of the tube to a finish grade for the bottom of the post or beam assembly, and level, so there was no tube remaining above the pour height.
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Old 05-30-2017, 08:19 PM   #13
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


This is just one of the reasons why I only use a short piece of tube at the top of the hole.

Easy to control.
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Old 06-10-2017, 10:21 AM   #14
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


i'm assuming you are puting a post in the bracket, not beam direct? if post, the no real concern you can cut the post to be the length you want such that the beam is perfectly level.

if you putting a beam direct, which is what i did on my deck, then ya it totally matters the exacdt finished height of each saddle! i am also first time deck builder, so what i did was use the type of saddle that comes with the part that goes into the cement, all one piece. then i nailed the saddle to my beam and set the beam up on cribbing and leveled it. the beam was across 3 pre-dug holes with empty sonotubes of roughly the same height but not precision checked just eye-balled. then removed beam/saddle. filled the tubes. used flat of hammer to tap tap tap around the sonno tube part that was above grade. re-filled to top tap tap tap again.. re-filled. one more time, tap tap tap & refill. then i put my beam/saddle combo up on the cribbing and checked level.. and left it there for 48hours before touching it again. the saddle part did not sit exactly on the cement, in one it did, but the others it was up a bit (recall because i just eye-balled sono tube level).. that's OK. it was needed to get the perfect level.
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Old 06-10-2017, 12:00 PM   #15
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Re: How level do sonotubes have to be?


Am I the only one.... ?

But distinct from the top of the pier being level, I like to trowel (or shave next morning) a slight outside bevel to the top.... such that water does not collect around whatever anchoring system I'm using.
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