July 2, 2020

Do I need a permit?

It is always a good idea to contact your local city or county building department for their requirements.  These can typically be found on the city’s website or by giving them a call.  Typically, we have found that any wall over 4 ft (1.2 m) in height will require a permit per the International Building Code (IBC).  Some may also have requirements on length or the location to a property line.

When a permit is required, generally you may need to provide a set of drawings showing the retaining wall location and size.  Depending on the scope of the project, stamped engineering drawings may also be needed.  Allan Block has a pre-engineered manual that can be provided to the city with information and specifications for the product for walls up to 6 ft (1.8 m) in height.  If your city does not already have a copy on file, or if your wall is over 6 ft (1.8 m), contact your local AB Distributor or AB Sales rep for this information.

Checking with your city is always recommended when starting any retaining wall project. To assist in this, visit our website to create a custom residential submittal package.

June 25, 2020

What is the AB Europa Collection?

For a rustic, antique look, the product of choice would be the AB Europa Collection™. This product offers a tumbled look to give an old-world style to the landscape. When retaining walls are needed, they tend to be highly visible, and using the right look and color will create a beautiful finished landscape. This collection offers 4 block shapes in sizes that not only work great on their own, but can be used together to create patterns with the modular blocks. When matching the natural stone on a building or home, the AB Europa Collection™ with its range of blended colors is sure to please.

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, and stairs; the options are open to your design. With the pleasing aesthetics to offer an old-world c harm, your project will create unbelievable results.

June 18, 2020

Better Than the Day We Built it

In the spring of 2007, my wife and I decided this would be the summer we were going to transform our backyard. It had been an unusable narrow dirt strip, with a steep slope covered with more than 75 old trees and buckthorn bushes.  Allan Block’s Abbey Blend, from their Europa Collection, was the easy choice for us since it has that great tumbled natural stone look, and that incredible four block pattern that sets it apart from everything else.  I did the entire project by myself, and with a lot of help from friends and family, it turned out great.  It truly transformed our backyard into a usable, enjoyable place to just hang out or to entertain our well deserving assistants.

Well, here we are 10 years later, and I can tell you that it looks better than the day we finished it. The wall has performed perfectly and shows no signs of settlement or movement at all.  It is truly the structural wall I was hoping it would be to take care of our unusable steep slope. 

So why is it better?  The landscaping!

The wall is the picture frame that enhances the beautiful landscaping.  Like a painting in an art gallery hanging without a frame, the picture is not complete; but with the right frame, the picture comes to life.  Because my wife and I love to be in the yard, over the years we continue to change around and enhance our flowers and shrub.  Each time we make changes, the wall changes with it to add its fluctuation and beauty.  The wall is always there, tirelessly doing its job of supporting our hillside, but it is more than that to us; it is the foundation of our transformed backyard.

June 11, 2020

What Colors are Available?

Allan Block products are manufactured at local concrete plants around the world. Each manufacturer has different aggregates available to them, which determines what colors are available in their market. Due to this, one manufacturer’s “tan” will be different than another with the same name. Each manufacturer will have a variety of colors to choose from that may include solids as well as blended colors, which is a combination of one or more colors. As an example, they may offer a solid tan or a tan/charcoal blend. To ensure you select the correct color that compliments your project, we recommend you visit your local distributor to see color samples in person, as any printed material showing color swatches may not be exact due to the printing process.

June 4, 2020

How Much do Allan Block Units Weigh?

Allan Block is available in a variety of different weights – from 20 pounds (10kg) to more than 75 pounds (34kg) per unit. Heavier blocks are typically designed for taller walls. Unique to Allan Block is the hollow core, making it lighter and easier to lift and stack than traditional concrete blocks.  Although the blocks are hollow, they are core filled with rock which increases the installed weight of the block, allowing Allan Block walls to retain heights similar to solid concrete blocks.

AB Classic
1 sq ft. approx.
11 blk per m²
75 lbs
35 kg
8 in. H x 12 in. D x 18 in. L
200mm H x 300mm D x 460mm L

AB Jumbo Junior
0.5 sq ft. approx.
22 blk per m²
35 lbs
15 kg
8 in. H x 9.5 in. D x 9 in. L
200mm H x 240mm D x 230mm L

AB Lite Stone
0.5 sq ft. approx.
22 blk per m²
35 lbs
15 kg
4 in. H x 12 in. D x 18 in. L
100mm H x 300mm D x 460mm L

AB Junior Lite
0.25 sq ft. approx.
44 blk per m²
18 lbs
10 kg
4 in. H x 12 in. D x 9 in. L
100mm H x 300mm D x 230mm L

May 28, 2020

Can You Build a Firepit with Courtyard?

   Yes, it is possible to build a fire pit using Allan Block Courtyard.  You can build a square or circular fire pit in just a weekend.  On our website we have how-to sheets for both the square and round fire pit, along with YouTube videos for each. 

AB Courtyard can be used in different configurations.  If you do not want the predesigned fire pit, you can design your own unique fire pit or fireplace, bringing in other elements to up the “wow” factor.
For more information on our AB Courtyard, go to our website or see our AB Courtyard Walls catalog.

May 21, 2020

How Easy is AB Courtyard to Build With?

Building with AB Courtyard is as easy as building with those colorful children’s building blocks. If you take a look at our blocks, they have a raised ring that acts similar to that of those plastic bricks.  The raised ring, along with the different length sides of the AB Courtyard, are what make the blocks come together to create the wall, firepit, bench, or patio that you are building.

Depending on the design, there may be a need to cut the AB Courtyard blocks. This process is as uncomplicated as it gets. The blocks are scored where you need to cut/split them, and there are multiple documents (blogs, Tech Sheets, brochures, links) that show where and how to cut the blocks, along with how and when they are to be used in your design.


May 14, 2020

Curving into Your Landscape

If a larger curve (radius) is part of your patio wall project, cutting some AB Dublin blocks in half will be required, which allows just about any radius to be built.
The easiest way to create a smooth curve, is to alternate between an AB York block and a half (1/2) AB Dublin block through the entire curve. Limitless curves can be created by combining the various patterns shown here. AB Wall caps will need to be cut to follow any custom radius as well.
By adding small gaps at a maximum 0.125 inch (3 mm), you can tighten the wall or feather it wider. With building bigger curves, you have a few options to choose from:

Option A - Standard Curves
2 AB York block

Option B
1 AB York Block 1 half AB Dublin

Option C
1 AB York Block
1 full AB Dublin-cut

Option D
2 AB York Block 1 half AB Dublin

May 7, 2020

How Tall Can I Build my AB Courtyard wall Panels?

The AB Courtyard Collection is not an engineered system.  There are no design charts that specify how tall or what type of reinforcement to use.  There are, however, four options that will help stabilize taller patio walls.  You can use one or more of these options to strengthen taller AB Courtyard wall panels.

Option 1: Adding Strength with Metal Pipes

Adding metal posts within your wall panels will provide hidden reinforcement and resistance to overturning. The pipe adds overturning stability to the wall.

Option 2: Adding Strength with Adhesive

Secure Wall Caps into place with adhesive
Securing the caps and top course of the wall together increases the stability of the wall. Place with a bead of flexible concrete adhesive along both sides of the raised rings, and along the side of each Wall Cap.

Option 3: Adding Strength with Curves, Corners or Posts/Pillars
Add Posts



Designing curves, corners, or posts/pillars into the wall panels will add additional stability to the wall panel without any added steps.

Option 4: Adding Strength by Interlocking the Panels into the Posts/Pillars
Interlock walls and posts

Use Corner Blocks to tie the wall panels into the posts/pillar structures, by placing a Corner Block half on the wall panel and half within the post/pillar. This will interlock them together adding stability to the wall panel. See How-to sheet #230: Interlocking Walls and Posts.

Building taller patio walls is a lot easier than you’d ever think. Find the method that suits your project, and you’re on your way to a durable Allan Block Courtyard!

April 30, 2020

How to Start an AB Courtyard Wall Panel at a Post or Existing Structure

AB Courtyard Dublin blocks will need to be modified to create a straight edge to the blocks.  This will create a professional look when meeting up with the existing structure or post.  Use a saw with a diamond blade and cut 2 Dublin blocks in half, one down the middle, which creates two ½ sized blocks, and one down the center of one of the raised rings to create a ¾ and a ¼ sized block. Then, place the cut side of the blocks toward the existing structure or post and build out as normal. On the second course, place another cut piece to continue the straight edge to the height desired for the panel. Refer to the pattern for stacking the cut blocks so they line up properly as you build each course. Using the AB Dublin block, you will need to cut 2 blocks for a 4-course tall wall, as shown here. The cut side of the block will create the straight side that is needed for a finished look. Check out this video on cutting or splitting blocks for more information.