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November 21, 2014

What Backyard Fits Your Style?

 Backyards have expanded from just simple areas with no style or useful spaces to elaborate patios and outdoor rooms that are an extension of the home.  The types of plants, lighting, water features, appliances, hardscape materials and natural stone that is now easily available gives anyone the ability to create outstanding spaces.  No longer is the wood deck or concrete patios the mainstay of backyards. 


Using the wide assortment of available materials one can create patios with paving stones or natural stone in place of that concrete slab if directly on the ground.  If above grade, use retaining walls to build up that raised patio then add two sided low patio walls to create outdoor walls in place of that wood deck.  These walls work great for built-in seating or plantable areas.  Incorporate lighting for outdoor entertaining within the wall or the paving stones.  Then create flowing pathways leading up to the backyard with the same paving stones or natural stone for an inviting feel for your guests.


A bigger upgrade is to add in outdoor kitchens, pergolas and fireplaces.  With the push to create new outdoor living areas, the comforts of the indoors are moving out as well.  The large selection of kitchen appliances that are meant to be used outdoors is vast.  Build them right into the materials being used for the patio for a seamless feel to the project.  Don’t have room for the full kitchen, add in a bar and seating for the same feel.  Incorporate pergolas for shading, custom fireplaces for warm entertaining evenings, the list goes on and on. 


Using plants and water features to soften landscapes is a beautiful way to bring nature into the backyard.  To soften the noise of the outside world, adding the sound of running water with waterfalls or fountains will help bring a relaxing space to your new backyard space.


When it’s time to upgrade that backyard area, do some research and see for yourself all the wonderful options that will help you create a backyard to be excited to call your own.

Want to learn more? Check us out at allanblock.com
 


November 14, 2014

Retaining Walls: Can You Use Recycled Concrete Aggregate As Backfill?

As roads are being redone and buildings are being demolished, you see an increasing emphasis on recycling the concrete instead of filling up landfills. Most uses involve crushing the concrete to use the product as aggregate.  So the question is; can this recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) be used as backfill material behind an Allan Block retaining wall? 

The short answer in “No” unless you take the necessary design steps to manage the chemical properties associated with RCA.  The reason is that the cement paste component of recycled concrete aggregate has substantial influence on the alkalinity within the aggregate.  In fact, the pH levels have often exceeded 11.  Keep in mind that 7 is neutral and anything over 11 is 10,000 times more alkaline than water.  Therefore, you will need to make sure the geogrid used can resist the elevated pH levels and maintain its integrity. 



Got more questions? Give us a shout! engineering@allanblock.com

November 13, 2014

FALL GARDEN MAKEOVER


Allan Block Garden Bed
Summer is over, and with the cooler temperatures of fall, many summer plants have shriveled up, leaving both vegetable and flower gardens looking tired and shabby.  Instead of waiting for snow to cover the eyesore that was once your beautiful garden, why not give your garden a fall makeover by adding raised garden beds!

Allan Block Garden Bed with StairsRaised garden beds have many advantages over regular garden plots.  For example, they help you organize your space so that you can get more out of it.  They also have lighter, fluffier soil, because, by leaving a walking space between beds, you eliminate the need to step in your garden.  When soil is not compacted by constant walking, roots have an easier time growing.  Raised beds also drain better, conserve moisture and suppress weed growth. Best of all, your raised beds will be ready for earlier spring planting because the soil in them drains and warms quickly.


So don’t wait until spring to think about planting, prepare your garden now by adding raised beds, and maybe even planting some fall bulbs that will surprise and delight you in the spring.