September 23, 2016

Rooftop Patio Ideas

As building owners continue to look for ways to create usable and compelling space within their existing properties, rooftops are becoming more and more desirable for common areas of entertainment.  Pools, grilling stations, fire pits, sunbathing sections, bocce ball courts are just a few items we have recently seen from designers in an effort to differentiate buildings. 

 Allan Block products are a perfect option to build dimension on a flat roof and/or to give that roof a little more character – whether it is a planting bed, fire pit or a simple seat wall we have products that will allow for excellent entertaining in almost any area. 
These final two look like they are at grade, but they are actually on top of the parking deck for the multi-family complex.


September 16, 2016

Tools Needed For Cutting Retaining Wall Caps

Cutting concrete caps can be as easy as cutting wood if you plan ahead and have the right tools.  Caps are commonly about 4 inches thick and using a 10 or 12 inch saw with a diamond blade should do the trick.  Saws can either be hand-held, gas or electric saws, or a table saw.  

Table saws can typically be rented and are typical a “wet” saw, meaning that you have a basin of water that the saw draws from to wet the blade for smooth cutting.  It will also have a sliding table you use to push the cap unit through the running blade.

Lastly for tool requirements are tape measure, straight edge and marking pencil. 

No project like this can be discussed without remembering safety first.  Always wear eye and ear protection and a dust mask.  My last hint in being prepared will be to let you know the dry saw will be very dusty so set up your cutting station in the wind direct or set up a fan on calm days to help move the dust away from you.

For instruction on cutting cap units go to

September 9, 2016

10 Step Guide to Installing a Paver Patio

Are you looking to create usable space outside but may not know the steps?  Check out this 10 step guide to installing a paver patio!

1.  Planning and Layout – First you want to layout the area you wish to put the patio taking into account distances, curves, corners, and future plantings.

2.  Calculating Pavers needed – Measure the width and length of the area you wish to pave to get a square footage.  You should add a 5% overage for any odd spaces or to fit curves.  If you know you will be cutting a lot of pavers due to the space, you should use a 10% overage instead.

3.  Excavation – Figure height that the pavers should reach.  Now you can calculate the depth of excavation needed by adding together the 4-6 inches of gravel base, 1 inch for bedding sand, and the height of the pavers.  Dig out the calculated depth and compact the ground with a compacting machine.

4.  Base Material – Next you want to lay the base material which is typically ¾” minus gravel.  You can use a layer of geogrid or geofabric between the base material and the soil below if you want to add additional stability.

5.  Edge Restraints – These keep your pavers from moving due to high traffic areas or harsh weather.  The edge restraints are essential for the long term of your pavers and can be made out of plastic, pre-cast concrete, metal, or wood.

6.  Sand Bedding – Lay down 1 inch diameter PVC pipe across the base material.  You may need to have multiple PVC pipe if your space is wider than your screed.  Spread the sand layer between 1 and 1.5 inches thick.  Using a 2 x 4 or other straight material, screed the material so that you get a nice uniform layer of sand, 1 inch thick.

7.  Laying Pavers – Lay the pavers in the pattern and design that you planned for.  Some pavers have spacers between them for the design.  If you need to cut pavers, use a diamond saw or mechanical splitter and safety glasses.  Once all the pavers are laid, use a plate compactor to help set the pavers into the sand bed.

8.  Sand Joints – This step involves sweeping sand over the surface to fill the joints and lock the pavers into place.  You should use a fine grained sand rather than a coarse one so that the sand can compact much easier and fill up the joints quicker.

9.  Sealing – Clean and sweep the newly paved area in order to remove all materials and debris.  Seal the area with a sand binding sealant so that the joint sand will not disappear which will also prevent weeds to grow in the joints.  Sealing your pavers helps prevent stains and allows you to clean off any stains with much greater ease.

10.  Maintenance – Regular cleaning and sweeping of the pavers is recommended.  Re-sealing your pavers may be necessary to maintain color and appearance.  It is not recommended to power wash due to the potential to dislodge the joint sand.

 Now that you have the fill list from start to finish, you can make the final decision on a DIY project or finding a contractor to install the pavers for you!  GOODLUCK!

September 2, 2016

Top Evergreens to Plant for Tough Sites

Ponderosa Pine
Being from Minnesota, you may have a difficult time finding a tree that works in your site constraints.  Below are a list of a few evergreen trees that could help add privacy to your yard in tough conditions.
Clay Soil
  • Arborvitae
  • Austrian pine
  • Ponderosa pine
  • White fir

Sandy Soil
  • Scotch pine
  • Mugo pine
  • Junipers

Mugo Pine

Wet Soil
  • American arborvitae
  • Balsam fir
  • Black spruce

High pH
  • Arborvitae
  • Black hills spruce
  • Mugo pine
  • Ponderosa pine
  • Arborvitae

  • Junipers

Windy, Exposed
  • Black hills spruce
  • Jack pine
  • Mugo pine
  • Red pine
  • Ponderosa pine
  • Rocky Mountain juniper
  • Savin juniper
  • Eastern red cedar
  • Juniper
  • Douglas fir

Partial Sun
  • Arborvitae
  • Balsam fir
  • Douglas fir

  • Canada hemlock
  • Canada yew
  • Japanese yew

August 26, 2016

Retaining Wall Planning for All Seasons

While it is hot outside now and snow is the last thing on our minds, it is important to consider when designing retaining walls in areas where the beautiful white flakes fall. For those of us this live in areas where snow is a part of winter life, one must consider the plowing process and understand where snow may be dumped on a site.  Even though it is seasonal, the wall design may need to account for additional weight of large piles of snow, which can add significant weight to the wall as well as the future water (snow melt) that will occur to ensure they do not cause the wall to fail. 

Snow, just as a pool, driveway, parking lot and many other items may act as a surcharge (or load) on a retaining wall that sits below it.  When the wall is below a parking lot or drive, the placement of snow is often times the last thing anyone considers.  

Asking the question about the placement of snow and potentially designing for the surcharge may be the best route.  Educating the owners on the negatives of placing large piles of snow on top of a retaining wall is a great practice as well.  If you have any questions as you design your segmental retaining wall, please feel free to call us at any time.

Allan Block Corp.
(800) 899-5309