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.

May 5, 2017

What is the AB Collection?

 Allan Block offers a wide range or retaining wall products that can be used for any project – large or small.  The AB Collection is the main product line and offers 4 block shapes that can be used separately or together as the blocks are modular.  This versatility allows the blocks to be built in beautiful patterned walls that look outstanding.  The blocks offer a standard split face look with clean edges that give a professional finished look to the projects.  Offered in many colors around the world, there is a block in this collection that will offer the solution to your project. 

As with any of the AB retaining wall blocks, this system can build any size project from small garden walls to large engineered walls.  Easily create curves, corners, stairs; the options are open to your design.  There are over 100 million of these blocks installed worldwide with the number growing every day.  Truly one of the longest and best systems on the market and because of that has tons of installation, drawings and video help available to answer any question during the plan, design or building process. For moe on the the AB Collection check out our website - allanblock.com

Allan Block Collection 

April 28, 2017

Can I Build a Fence Above a Retaining Wall?

While the short answer is yes, a fence can be built above a retaining wall; the real question is if the fence is being built above an existing retaining wall or are the wall and fence being constructed at the same time?

If the retaining wall is already built it may be too late to add a fence, or at the very least you may have to give up valuable space behind the wall in order to build it. It is important to know how the retaining wall was built before you proceed with fence construction so the fence installer doesn’t damage the structural integrity of the wall.

If geogrid (mesh reinforcement) was used in the construction of the wall the fence install could tear the grid during construction of the fence which could cause the wall to fail, and if the wall was constructed using No-Fines Concrete the fence installer will not be able to install a fence behind the wall once it has been built.  So don’t wait until the wall is built before you think about the fence!

Here are a few ways to tackle adding a fence above a retaining wall during your retaining wall planning phase:

Place the fence a minimum of 3 ft. (0.9 m) behind the back of the retaining wall.  This method is the preferred because it does not require extra engineering.Construction tubes are placed for the fence posts during the construction of the wall.

A second method is to have the fence directly behind the wall; this method requires a fence above the wall overturning calculation to be completed to understand how the fence interacts with the wall. This calculation is to determine the fence parameters; how deep do the posts need to be placed, how far apart are the posts, how tall is the fence? These factors impact the wall which may cause the top to overturn and fail. To have the fence directly behind the wall you will have to install the construction tubes during the construction of the wall, just like the first method.
Another way to have the fence directly behind the wall is to use a product called Sleeve- It. Sleeve- It is a product that is installed during the wall construction but it does not require extra engineering for overturning.

For more information, check out our tech sheet on Fences above Retaining Walls or visit our website at allanblock.com

April 21, 2017

Are Curved Retaining Walls Hard to Build?

Curved walls are actually easier to build and faster to build than a 90-degree corner and/or a mitered angle.  In addition, they are typically more economical to build and in fact are preferred and recommended when a change of direction is required with your Allan Block retaining wall. 

How do I start a curved retaining wall?
First, we always suggest laying out your wall with a garden hose or something flexible to allow for curves – spray paint may also be a choice for the creation of your outline.  The radius may be easiest to create by using a string line that is a length equivalent to your radius and a stake as shown here.

Once the desired shape is achieved, the type of curve will dictate how you begin installing it.  There are two types of curves – an inside or outside curve.

From the point of where the curve will start, measure straight back from the wall the required distance and drive a stake into the ground. This will be the center of the curve. Attach your string line to the stake and rotate it around to mark the location of the base course. Install the blocks with the front of the blocks lining up with the marks. Using these tips and tools will allow you to ensure the finished shape is what you are anticipating. 
When building an inside curve, simply lay the Allan Block units out on the intended radius to meet the look or need of your site.  When building an outside curve, the rear wings will need to be removed for proper placement of the block on your desired radius. 

Before installing the base row of blocks on your intended radius check out our basic install steps to ensure proper installation. 

Keep in mind the minimum radius at the top of your Allan Block retaining wall is dictated by the width of the wall unit.  An AB Classic unit will allow for a 4 ft. 11 in. (1.5 m) radius and a AB Jumbo Junior unit will allow for a 3 ft. 5 in. (1 m) radius on a 3ft. (0.9 m) high wall– check out the AB Radius Charts and additional radius information at allanblock.com