July 21, 2017

Are Concrete Footing Required for Retaining Walls?

Written by: Laura Horstmann
For Allan Block retaining walls we prefer that you DO NOT use a concrete footing. In our Best Practices Document we strongly suggest the use of a leveling base made up of compactible gravel ranging in size from 0.25 inches to 1.5 inches.  For more information on base material and preparation visit our website or watch our YouTube video. 

For our AB Courtyard the blocks will need a level base be it paver patio, compacted gravel, or a concrete patio. If you already have a patio the blocks can be placed right on top. But if you are installing your own patio the AB Courtyard blocks can be placed at the edge on a level compacted gravel base.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

July 14, 2017

Are Allan Block Retaining Wall Blocks Easy to Handle?

Written by: Kyle Huerd
Retaining wall blocks by Allan Block are all designed for the ease of use of the installer.  Whether you are a homeowner who doesn’t like to lift heavy blocks or a contractor who would like to place as much square footage of wall with each block, Allan Block has a product that is for you!  Most Allan Block products are hollow which reduces the weight to carry them and set the blocks during installation.  A distinct look to an Allan Block retaining wall is the rear “wings” of the block.  Those areas allow the installer an easy hand hold when using the product. 

For more information about Allan Block products - check out the products page on our website

June 30, 2017

Independence Day - July 4th, Why We Celebrate

July 4th is the most important day for all American citizens; it is Independence Day. A holiday celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the anniversary of the day United States officially becoming its own sovereign country. We celebrate the fourth enjoying the outdoors: Barbecue with family and friends, out on the lake, go to parades, and closing the day with a spectacular fireworks show.
While celebrating our freedoms and enjoying outdoor activities savoring various patriotic themed sweets and snacks, we must not forget that this day is also about celebrating the values our country was founded upon. The Declaration of Independence was written based on the principle that every individual has inherent rights:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In other countries, they may celebrate their “freedom” with military parades and test-launch missiles. We celebrate our independence day with passion and joy, thankful for the Life we have, the liberty to make choices and the opportunities to find happiness. Simple rights, denied to many people around the world.  

We celebrate and humbly thank our founding fathers and all those who believed our lives, our freedom and future are worth the price they paid for it.   We, at Allan Block, wish you a Happy and Safe Fourth of July weekend.    

June 16, 2017

Outdoor Wall Lighting for Concrete Walls

Whether you are building a retaining wall to add more usable space or patio walls to define it, you don’t want your beautiful design to disappear when the sunsets, so taking the time to plan for outdoor lighting before you build will keep you out of the dark.

Done right, outdoor lighting can shed light on the best architectural features, draw attention to plants, ponds and other focal points as well as provide illumination for stairs and pathways through the dark.

If you are building a wall with rock or solid concrete, adding lighting to the face of the wall can be labor intensive and tricky. Walls that have a hollow core, like Allan Block  make it a little easier if you want to add in-wall lighting.   That hollow space inside the blocks is a perfect place to run the wiring. Check out this video to see just how it’s done.

If you are looking for lighting to add above the wall or in your landscape, there are many varieties to choose from and can use either solar power or low voltage wiring.  If you are doing the work yourself make sure you are comfortable with the skills needed to do the installation or hire a licensed electrician to do the work.

Another important step in your lighting design is how to control the lighting.  Solar  works great, but if the area is heavily shaded, they may not provide the best illumination.  Installing switches or timers are great for low voltage wiring but may also require additional electrical work.  

For more information on outdoor lighting, check out the lighting section on allanblock.com


May 12, 2017

Proper Construction Could Have Prevented Bulging Retaining Wall

The Battle with the Bulge
Look at this beautiful lakefront property in northern British Columbia. It’s a secluded cabin with the added “curb appeal” of a 12’ (3.7 m for our metric friends) tall Allan Block wall. Like so many of us, the owner of this cabin wanted to address a relatively large grade change in his backyard and gain as much usable space as possible. What was his first step? He called a trusted local contractor who had been in business for over fifty years.
The contractor quickly went to work. He dug and poured a foundation for wall, stacked some blocks, and backfilled. When all was said and done, the homeowner had a rather attractive wall in his yard with a lot of added usable space as is shown above.
Two years later the homeowner reached out to Allan Block. His retaining was bulging. Bad! What went wrong? He hired an experienced contractor. The contractor was meticulous in his base preparation and leveling the first course. Unfortunately, his contractor was not an AB Certified Contractor. Here are some of the mistakes that were made:
  • The high water line was not considered at the base
  • No thought was given to water management
    • No wall rock
    • No drain pipe
  • Poor clay native soils were used as backfill
  • No geogrid was used
  • No soil compaction performed 

Sufficed to say the homeowner was dissatisfied with his retaining wall. The contractor readily admitted his mistakes and offered to correct them. We provided him with our Best Practices document and our Commercial Installation Manual. The wall is scheduled to be rebuilt in the Spring of 2017. Hopefully, this time it’s built correctly. Time will tell.