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April 24, 2015

Deck Types: Pros & Cons

Do you want to add a deck to your backyard?  Or give your old deck a facelift?

I have been looking into the best options for a new deck in my backyard with the following 3 options:



Wood  Decking

Wood - Stained

Pros

  • Affordable
  • No "Hot Feet"
  • Very Strong

Cons

  • Maintenance
  • Insect Invasion


Composite Decking

Composite

Pros

  • Little to No Maintenance
  • No Splinters
  • Durability

Cons

  • $$
  • Uneven Fading
  • "Hot Feet"







Aluminum Decking

Aluminum

Pros

  • No Maintenance
  • Durability Through Climate Changes
  • Strength - Long Lasting

Cons

  • Noisy
  • Slippery
  • $$$$$




Hope this helps you choose your deck materials. Good luck on your own project!

April 17, 2015

Don’t Let a Rainy Day Spoil Your Retaining Wall Project

Building a retaining wall can be easy. Just a few simple steps and some thoughtful planning can make just about any wall design a reality.  A common step in the planning process that is often overlooked is managing the water on the site.  The success of your wall project can depend on how well this is done.  So where does the water go?

The idea is to keep the water that flows on the site to travel away from or around the retaining wall – not through or behind the wall.  This causes extra pressure and weight on the wall and could potentially cause the wall to fail.  To avoid this type of scenario simply plan an appropriate path for this water to travel. 

When designing your wall, take a look at the layout of your entire site. Where does the water flow?  Once the wall is in, where will that water go?  You may need to incorporate swales or berms to deter the water from heading toward the wall.  The Allan Block Landscape Walls Guide has some good information on this.  Click here to check it out.

Aside from where the water goes after the wall is built, you may also want to take some time to think about water while building and staging your materials.  If you get a heavy down pour during construction, you definitely want to make sure that water travels away from your wall. 


With the water on your project managed properly you can rest easy knowing that your wall will stand tall and stay dry for a long time to come.

April 10, 2015

Mass is King

Some might say royalty, money, or power is the root of being a king.  When it comes to retaining walls, the only real king in that regard is mass.  Gravity retaining walls rely on the self-weight to resist the lateral pressures that soil apply to a wall.  This weight has a range from small landscape blocks (5-10 lbs) for garden beds, to machine set blocks that weight hundreds or thousands of pounds.  The overall mass of a retaining wall will give greater safety factors for a specific project. 

Mass could be the reason why the short wall in your yard is beginning to overturn as the years go by.  If the lateral pressure behind the wall is higher than the mass of the retaining wall system, then the wall will eventually overturn.
Constructability does play a role for each site since you wouldn’t use a machine set block for a 2-3 foot high wall since the cost of installation would be outrageous.  On the opposing side, it wouldn’t make sense to use a small garden block to build a 20 foot high structure.


If machine set blocks work best due to weight of block, then why aren’t they used more often?  A simple answer to this is that each site is different and the same weight that a machine set block has, can be accomplished with geogrid reinforcement.

Geogrid reinforcement is a flexible polymer synthetic which reinforces the soil behind the block and increase the overall mass of the structure.  With the addition of geogrid reinforcement every two courses, the overall mass is compromised of the weight of the reinforced soil plus the weight of the segmental units.  Using geogrid reinforcement, a standard segmental block wall could weigh as much, if not more than a machine set block.   
A simplified calculation to establish how much the geogrid reinforced mass weighs is to take the unit weight of soil (lb/ft3 or kN/m3) multiplied by the embedment length of geogrid and the height of the wall.  This will give a lb/ft which is the weight of wall per lineal foot. 
Directly comparing a machine set block with an Allan Block Classic with geogrid reinforcement, the numbers don’t lie.  If the machine set block is 2 ft tall x 4 feet length and weighs 2000 lbs, this would give a 10 foot high wall a total weight of 2500 lbs/lf (5 block tall x 2000 lbs / 4 linear feet).  Looking at an Allan Block Classic (roughly 1 foot high) with 6 foot geogrid length and an average unit weight of soil of 120 lbs/ft3 for the same 10 foot high wall.  The overall mass is 7200 lbs (120 lbs/ft3 x 10 feet high x 6 foot geogrid length).
A difference of 4700 lbs is very significant when the additional mass adds more stability to the wall structure.  This additional weight not only adds stability to the wall, but is typically less expensive to install without the necessity of large equipment.

The next time you look outside your window and see the garden, patio, or driveway wall leaning forward, just remember that Mass is King.

April 3, 2015

Building an Herb Garden

The herb garden; a simple and popular addition to any home, they are usually easy to grow and have many uses for daily life.  Whether spicing up your food, or for medicinal benefits, having a garden of your own can add both beauty and enjoyment to your outdoor spaces.

Fortunately herb gardens are relatively easy to grow and maintain. While herbs can be grown indoors, an outdoor garden allows for more space, the yields are higher and the product more flavorful. So depending on where you live and what your needs, the outdoor herb garden is your best bet.

Most herbs need plenty of sunlight and ample water to thrive in addition to good soil. Creating a raised bed for your herbs allows you to introduce the best soil and drainage for the plants.  Check out this easy to build, maintenance-free planter design.  

Depending on what your herbs will be used for may also change where it is located. Your kitchen garden, used for cooking, should be located close to the kitchen while herbs for fragrance or potpourri may be placed elsewhere in your yard.

The bottom line – people have been building herb gardens for centuries and the styles uses and designs are limitless. Choose a size that fits the herbs you want to grow and a design that fits your style. Then get planting!

March 27, 2015

A Pond on A Budget



The calming sound of running water has been enjoyed by people for many centuries and has been introduced to landscapes Ponds and waterfalls are a great escape into nature without having to leave the comfort of your own home.

Backyard ponds can range from simple to very elaborate. If you have the space for a pond with the new technology in pumps, liners and the how to videos available for anyone to learn the tips and tricks of building a pond, it is becoming easier and friendlier for anyone to endeavor in such a project.

To really get a beautiful pond with water falls and all the fun relaxing features you need space. Space is not always available especially if you live in the city where the need for a quick escape into nature is much desired. So what alternative/s would you have?

If you don’t have space and/or cannot fork in the resources for an elaborate pond you can Pond on a Budget by installing a self contained water fountains in your landscape. You can find them at any landscape retailer including Home Depot and Lowes. You can choose from heavy stone to a lighter resin that look like stone. There are many styles to accommodate your taste; the more traditional Mediterranean three tier fountain, to more contemporary with geometric shapes. Some include statue of children and animals if you are trying to scare away some birds and even some critters.

These self-contained water fountains can be placed anywhere in your outdoor living space: your deck, your patio, in the midst of your garden and flower beds, as part of your seating arrangement etc… anywhere you can see and hear the calming sound of running water.
If you have some space and you want to have a little pond with fish swimming in it, it is certainly feasible without having to break bank. Using concrete landscape block for building planters and such, you can build a pool of any shape (round, square, kidney etc…) either in ground or above ground. Add a pond liner and fill it with water. To add the sound of running water you can add a tall water fountain in in the middle and voila! You got the look and the sound without the hassle. They certainly serve the purpose without the hassle and you don’t have to break the bank to get one.