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May 1, 2015

Backyard Design Ideas: Raised Patio Vs. Wood Deck

Need or want to update you back yard?  Build a raised patio over installing a wood deck for great long lasting appeal!  There are many benefits using the Allan Block products over a standard wooden deck.
  • No Maintenance
  • No Footings to dig
  • Versatile for any Design
        (
    looks great with curves)
  • No Under Deck Mess
  • Durable and Strong


By using the products from Allan Block you can create beautiful outdoor spaces that become an extension of your home with added value.  Designs can be as simple or as detailed as one can imagine.  Flowing curves can create visually stunning projects that a wood does not easily allow.  In place of the wood spindles around the deck, use the AB Courtyard product to create something that create the same effect but adds additional seating or places to decorate with plants or lighting.



Using the AB Install Manuals will make the job easy.  With detailed graphics and videos available along the way your new outdoor space should take shape quickly for years of enjoyment.

Learn more at allanblock.com

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!