April 18, 2014

Landscaping: Don’t Put all Your Eggs in One Basket

With the Easter Bunny on his way this weekend, it got me thinking about landscaping ideas for spring. I realized we focus so much on backyard spaces and outdoor living; the front of the house is being neglected! That age-old saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” can happen when talking about landscaping.

So what kinds of things can you do to add style to your front yard?


Paint Your Front Door – a new coat of paint can add an instant face lift to the front of your house for very little time and money spent.

Plant Something New – Whether it is some colorful annuals or a new set of bushes, new plants can change the whole feel to your front yard space.

Add Some Lighting – get a new porch light or add a light post to your pathway to bring a more secure and inviting feel to your neighborhood.

Add a Courtyard – Using a patio wall system like AB Courtyard, you can create a simple entry courtyard to separate your front yard space into an inviting place to welcome guests.

Whatever you choose – changes big or small the Easter Bunny will be proud of you for not putting all your efforts in the back yard so he can hide those eggs!

  

March 10, 2014

Caring for your Allan Block Courtyard Fire Pit

You read our blog on How to Build a Fire Pit; You got inspired and built one yourself.  Now you want to keep it looking good; so how do you care for your fire pit?


Let's start by talking about the blocks themselves, the Allan Block Courtyard blocks that you used for your fire pit are concrete units that are manufactured in an environmentally friendly manner, using natural stone and sand with integral color added to the mix during the production process. 

 As with all concrete products it is possible to experience staining from various outside elements.  Fertilizers and deicing chemicals can also cause the concrete to deteriorate over time so you'll want to minimize the contact with your fire pit to extend its life. To prevent fading from sunlight and to enhance your color of the block themselves, you can apply a concrete sealer.  Check with your local building material supply store for recommendations on concrete sealers for your area.  If you do use a sealer, be sure to follow the recommended instructions from the manufacturer of the sealer.

Based on weather conditions, you may experience a white power like deposit on the surface of the concrete.  This is called efflorescence and is not hazardous or an indication of problems with the block itself. It is simply free salts working their way to the surface of the block.  This  naturally occurring phenomenon can easily be cleaned with a power washer or by using an efflorescence cleaner available from most building material supply stores when it does occur.

Concrete blocks will crack and/or discolor when they are exposed to direct flames or excessive heat so you will want to make sure that you keep the flames away from the outside of your fire pit. You can fill the space between the steel fire ring with sand or gravel to minimize the heat transferred to the block to keep them looking good and long lasting.



With these simple tips you can keep that fire pit looking great for years to come. Giving you lots of time to enjoy the warmth and  the stories that will be told around your fire pit from Allan Block.

For additional information please visit our website and allanblock.com.

January 17, 2014

Contractor’s Guide to Surviving the Winter Months

We all know that the winter – no matter where you live – can be a slow time for contractor.  Building retaining walls and other hardscape projects can be much slower in the rain and often stops all together in the snowy places. 

So what is a contractor to do when winter sets in?  TRAINING!

Training is the cornerstone of any successful business, saving you time, money and allowing you to build your business in a way that will reward you for years to come. By making sure you and your staff have the proper training allows you to not only build better retaining walls and outdoor landscapes, but provides you with the tools you need to convey your knowledge to your customer, building confidence and trust between you and the client.
While there are a wide variety of training opportunities available in the marketplace, these allow contractors to gain knowledge and better service their customers:

National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA)
The NCMA provides courses for contractor on the fundamentals of retaining wall installation. These classes are held throughout the country and a list of current classes can be found on their website at ncma.org.

Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI)
The ICPI has a certification program that certified contractors for concrete paving and installation. This certification lasts two years and contractors are required to take continuing education classes to maintain their certification.  Information on this certification can be found at icpi.org.

Allan Block Certified Contractor Program
The Allan Block Contractor Certification Program was developed to give contractors the proper training and tools to ensure top quality retaining walls are built.  Theses training courses include in depth materials on proper construction methods for retaining walls as well as hands on training to really allow the contractor to get a feel for how the products work.  The courses are taught by certified Allan Block trainers. Now certified by the ICPI as an approved class for continuing education, contractors can enhance their knowledge of paving stones with the knowledge of retaining walls – Making them more rounded and valuable in the marketplace.   Classes are set up locally so that you can easily find training near you at allanblock.com/training.
  
Get the Skills
Through training and on-the-job work you build the skills to provide a quality product to the customer. Having the skills and knowledge to tackle any job site, any project challenge with confidence is what sets you, the contractor above the rest.  As a consumer, knowing that your contractor has the training and skills they need to do the job right gives you peace of mind.

Provide the Service
In this day and age where customer service seems to be a lost art, you can set yourself apart from the competition, by providing something no other company does – excellent customer service.  When a customer is satisfied with your knowledge, skills and presentation, you have a client for life.  And having a client means both parties win. As a customer you win a highly skilled professional that is ready, willing and able to meet their expectations and makes the customer feel uniquely special at the same time. As a result, the customer is completely satisfied with both the service and the product which in turn leads to referrals and repeat sales.  The best advertising you can do is have a happy customer.

So what are you doing to pass the time this winter?

December 5, 2013

A Snowman’s Principles for Retaining Wall Construction

What could a snowman and a retaining wall possibly have in common you ask? Well the answer is simple, proper materials and good solid construction. Without these two main principles; neither can be successful. 

Start With the Right Materials. Every good snowman must be built with the right type of snow.  You can’t make a good snowman with fluffy or slushy snow. The consistency must be just right for it to stick and hold together.  A retaining wall needs the right block, rock, soil and reinforcement to make a lasting impression.  Poor soils and the wrong material can make for a mess when it doesn't stay where you put it.

Use the Right Construction Techniques. Frosty won’t stay where you put him if he is built on a poor foundation. That bottom snowball is crucial to your winter wonder-boy’s proud stance. Jim Sysko, an expert snowman builder who helped work on the largest snowman in the world, recommends that you flatten the top of the first ball as well as the top and bottom of the middle ball, making it more stable so Frosty doesn't topple over.  Same goes for your retaining wall, building on top of a properly excavated and compacted base as well as making sure the blocks are level as you build creates the same stability. No one wants their wall or their snowman to lean or topple over!


Unfortunately for your snowman, the first sunny day could find him melting away, but with the snowman principles in place, your retaining wall will be standing proud every season for years to come.

Beautifully Built Bonfires - How to Build a Fire Pit

S more's, hot dogs on a stick, storytelling and laughter are just some of the things you think of when you think - bonfire.  Who doesn't want their own place to build a fire and hang out with family and friends?  While some may prefer the mobility of a self-contained fire table or fire kit, you may want to consider something a little more permanent.  

Easy to build in just a couple hours, you can have a fire pit in your yard or on your patio that adds seating and beauty.  Check out for yourself with this quick video and then download the instructions to go out and build it yourself.