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September 19, 2014

Bringing Back the Front Porch

 “Nobody thought much about the front porch when most Americans had them and used them.  The great American front porch was just there, open and sociable, an unassigned part of the house that belonged to everyone and no one, a place for family and friends to pass the time.”                                      
--Rochlin, The Front Porch, in Home, Sweet Home


The front porch has traditionally been a symbol of community and neighborliness; a place where people passing by feel free to stop and visit.  Unfortunately, many modern homes have been designed without a front porch, as backyard patios have become the more popular outdoor living space.  However, a backyard patio is a private space, and few people feel comfortable enough to trapes through one’s yard in order to stop and say hello.  Truly, few structures are as inviting and friendly as a front porch.

If you long to return to the simpler, friendlier front-porch culture of the past, but cannot afford such a costly addition, consider adding a front yard patio.  Instead of the traditional grass, shrubs and landscaping rocks which often border the front of the house, you can install pavers and seating walls, complete with comfortable patio furniture.  Such a design in the front of your house will send a welcoming message to all who pass by.


September 10, 2014

Vote for Allan Block - Masonry Construction Magazine Project of the Year 2014

Great masonry buildings deserve to be honored, both to recognize quality design and construction and to inspire excellence among others in the profession. Masonry Construction's Project of the Year 2014 will highlight the mason contractor’s influence on the worlds’ best projects in eleven categories.
Check out the Allan Block project at DePauw University and cast your vote today!


September 5, 2014

How Sandcastle Help You Build Stronger Retaining Walls

The sand sculpture festival at Blankenberge
Photograph: PETER DECONINCK/AFP/Getty Images
A day at the beach; the sun, the surf and sandcastles! Picture you and your friends happily digging away creating moats and towers with shovels and buckets, did any of those mounds of sand actually stay standing? Or even resemble a castle? Well unless you were a talented sand sculpture artist; probably not. So what does this have to do with building stronger walls you ask? The answer is simple – compaction and reinforcement.

By compacting, the base are of the sandcastle until it is hard, flat and level, you are creating a strong base for your beach fortress. The same goes for a retaining wall; you must have a solid base that is compacted well to hold the wall. Without a good foundation your wall can sink, sag, tumble, or fall.

Reinforcement is just as important. How many times have you built a sandcastle only to have it topple over or shear in half, thwarting your chances of winning the title of Sand Castle Master? In retaining walls we use a synthetic mesh material called geogrid to reinforce and stabilize the soil and add strength to the wall.  By layering this within the wall and compacting the soil around it, a very strong structure is created. 


But hey, don’t take my word for it – check out this sandcastle video that shows exactly why these two things make all the difference in the world. And read up a bit more on how geogrid works so you are ready for your next retaining wall or that long overdue sandcastle building rematch!

August 29, 2014

Good landscaping doesn't create water problems - IT SOLVES THEM.

Landscaping Tips: Water Management


When planning a new landscape, there are many things that need to be considered, like location, budget, overall design  - the planning can go on and on depending on the detail of the overall design.  One thing that is often overlooked and can have a significant effect on the success of the project is water management.
 
Here are a few things to consider when managing water in your landscape.

Site Grading - Prior to construction of a retaining wall, evaluate that it is properly graded by directing water away from the walls to help manage surface drainage.

Concentrated Water Sources - Identify any concentrated water sources and take them into account during the design of the wall. Examples include:
    • Slopes above the wall
    • Driveways that slope towards the wall
    • Roof downspouts
    • Lawn, landscape irrigation systems and outdoor faucets


Ground Water - Identify the ground water elevation, meaning where the water occurs within the soil. Ground water must be prevented from coming into contact with any wall structures you may have in your plan. If you do find ground water on your project, contact a local engineer to help with your overall design.


Irrigation Systems - When irrigation systems are used they should be designed and installed to perform irrigation in a controlled and reasonable manner.  Even an outdoor faucet can cause problems if it leaks or is accidentally left on, creating a water build-up behind or above the wall.



FACT: 90% of Wall Failures Are Caused By Improper Water Management


By taking the time to plan for the water on your project, you will not be “washed” away by disasters or pitfalls during or after construction – so PLAN AHEAD.

August 15, 2014

Light up your Life – Adding Lighting to your Retaining Wall


Lighting provides a great many things to your landscape.  It can add more security by illuminating entry areas and pathways.  Add functionality by making entertainment or cooking areas more accessible at night. 




A raised patio, retaining walls, or stairway areas are great places to add lighting right into the structures, which keeps the lighting as more of a backdrop and not center stage. It’s a snap to shine a little light on the subject!
Learn more...