April 2, 2020

What if the Fit isn’t Perfect?

Segmental retaining wall (SRW) systems have a variety of positive attributes, which include an assortment of sizes, styles and colors available for each project.  This variety of options will allow you to customize your project while also providing you flexibility on your site to match any condition. 

Often, we are asked how to “fit” the wall into an area, because the space allocated for the wall doesn’t match the exact size of the blocks meeting up with an existing structure. There is a very easy solution with any of the Allan Block (AB) products, and we will outline how you can fit product into any site below. 

First, when you are working with AB, it is important to understand what type of tools will be necessary. Whether you need to extend the wall a bit to fit it into your area, or shorten the block a bit, a concrete saw with a diamond blade may be required.  To cut the block, mark each unit at the length needed to fit each respective block into the desired location.  You can do this by using a lead or soapstone pencil that will easily wash away.  Using your concrete saw, cut the block/s along the marked line and to the required length to allow for easy placement into your retaining wall and ensure the finished look is just right.  Learn more about modifying blocks online or email (info@allanblock.com) us about more site specific questions.   

March 26, 2020

What Kind of Material Should I Use for the Base?

It’s best to use compactible aggregates ranging in size from 0.25 in to 1.5 in (6 to 38 mm) with no more than 10% fines.  Use this material in the base, within block cores, and behind the block.  Irregular shaped materials also work much better than rounded materials.  Crushed stone for example is far superior than rounded river rock.  The sizes of the aggregates should also be well graded, meaning they should have a good mixture of sizes.  This is important to ensure that the aggregates can be compacted easily and within tolerances.

March 19, 2020

Where Can I Buy Allan Block Products?

Allan Block typically is available through landscape supply dealers or building material outlets. There are stores that stock and/or supply Allan Block worldwide.  Need to find out if there is a store near you?  Check out the “Find A Store” locator on AllanBlock.com for specific contact information.

March 12, 2020

Top 5 Stair Designs

Allan Block’s retaining wall products can be used to create many different types of stair designs.  Using your imagination to create a set of steps that helps the flow of the site not only allows easy access to higher elevations, it can also be a focal piece of the landscaping.  Curved, straight or multi-level stair sections can easily be incorporated into any design.  Check out these ideas or visit allanblock.com for more great design ideas.

Multi-level walls can easily incorporate stairs, by curving into the stair location for a soft inviting look to the landscape.

Stairs can be built within or at the end of a wall using multi-level plateaus to have ease of access for taller elevations in tight spaces.

Stairs can be built along the front of a wall with long runs between steps, that will provide a smooth flowing path up very long slopes or hills.

Standard entryway stairs can be built using corners or posts for a dramatic and stylish feel to any project.

Placing stairs prior to the wall is a great option and adds additional space on the landing or raised patio as shown here.

March 5, 2020

Dublin Down – Building with Allan Block AB Courtyard

So you are building your first patio using AB Courtyard. You have prepared your base, and you are ready to start laying your first course of block. You have laid out your walls. You’ve determined the best starting point—usually a corner or post—and you started laying your first course of block. Everything is going great, until you pick up your first AB Dublin. You set it down next to an AB York and the points are angled the wrong way. You spin it around 180 degrees. It still doesn’t work! This stupid block was manufactured backwards! What gives? What sadist would make a block this way? Does Allan Block enjoy watching me suffer? Have no fear. Everything is going to be alright. There are a number of ways for you to overcome this monumental obstacle standing between you and your perfect patio. 

Option 1:The first option for getting back on track is to set another AB York in your wall. Every time you put a York into the wall the long point will alternate what side of the wall it is on. Don’t have enough room for an added York in your wall?

Option 2: Try grabbing a different AB Dublin. Two thirds of all AB Dublins are manufactured to face in one direction and the remaining third face in the other direction. The reason for this is simple. It optimizes the space needed within the mold used to produce the block. You can’t find any of the AB Dublins that are angled in the direction that you are looking for?

Option 3: A third option is to simply flip the AB Dublin that you are using upside down. Doing this will reverse the orientation of the AB Dublin, and get you back on track. We recommend doing this as your last option. The raised rings on top of the AB Dublin hold the course above in place. You should take care to use construction adhesive if the stability of your wall is a concern.

As you can see, there are a number of options for you to hurdle the challenge of a backwards AB Dublin. For more information regarding building with AB Courtyard visit the Allan Block website.

February 27, 2020

What Can I Build with AB Courtyard?

“I really like the idea of using AB Courtyard to make my yard into an outdoor living space. I’m just not sure how I would like to use it.” Does this sound familiar? Are you having a hard time getting the creative juices flowing? Have no fear, we can help. Allan Block has a wealth of tools and resources available to help you create an outdoor living space that is easy to build, and even easier to customize.

A great place to start is the Design Ideas by Allan Block. Contained within this document, you will find a varied assortment of photographs using AB Courtyard along with some of the other products that Allan Block has to offer. You will find this document is categorized by the type of application for the various products.

Not finding what you are looking for in the Design Ideas brochure? Have you taken a look at our Patio Packages or Weekend Projects? Both can be found within our AB Courtyard Installation Manual. Patio Packages are a great, no-fuss solution for creating a complete outdoor living space from a pre-existing template. Do you like the idea of a patio package, but feel like it is just missing one element to make it perfect? Try adding a fire pit, pond, or a grill surround to your Patio Package.

Do you like the idea of building a Patio Package but wish it were a different size? Allan Block has created an application for you to design your patio exactly how you want it! Our application can be installed on almost any computer or mobile device. Best of all, our application is totally free! With videos, step-by-step help files, and a simple user interface and output, our AB Courtyard Application will help you design your patio in a snap. Our Patio Packages and Weekend Projects are just a click away with the app, as well. Give it a try today.

Whether you use our photo galleries, our publications, or our applications, you have a number of avenues to pursue to come up with a unique design that creates an ideal space. As you can see, Allan Block has all the tools and resources you could possibly need to design the perfect outdoor living space for your home. Click on any of the images above to learn more!

February 20, 2020

What Goes Around…

Are you building a retaining wall that isn’t just a straight line? If so, you’re probably wondering “How tight of a radius can I turn with an Allan Block retaining wall system?” That is a great question!

The Allan Block wall system has a vertical batter (it leans into the hillside) there isn’t just one answer to this question. For example, a wall built with AB Stones will lean back into the hillside twice as far as one built with AB Classic. Since Allan Block retaining walls have a vertical batter, curves get smaller as the wall gets taller. Think of the curve in your wall as a cone with the pointed end facing up. If you slice through that cone near the point, it makes a very small circle. However, the farther you get from the point, the bigger the circular slice gets. Make sense? Take a look at the image shown to the right for a little bit more clarification. Once you know the batter of your block and the height of your wall at the curve, you may use the table below to determine the tightest radius you can turn at the base of your wall.

A similar table can be found in the Allan Block Residential or Commercial Installation Manual. There you will also find detailed instructions on constructing curves using Allan Block products. Don’t feel like sifting through all that reading material? Check out our page on building curves which provides plenty of insight into building your curve the right way.

The best way to ensure that your radius is built perfectly is to hire an Allan Block Certified Contractor. All Allan Block Certified Contractors attend hands-on classes to ensure they know exactly how to build an Allan Block wall the right way. Then, you can rest assured that your radius will be tight.

February 13, 2020

Construction Safety Tips

Building a retaining wall should never result in personal injury or destruction of equipment.  To ensure your job site remains safe, keep these tips in mind when constructing a retaining wall.

      1.  Always check with your municipality about codes to ensure you comply with local requirements.

      2. Prepare a plan to help you successfully complete your project – check out the AB Apps to assist.

      3. Speak with your neighbors to properly communicate what you are doing and any potential obstacles that may be created during construction.

      4. Call your local utility company to mark all below ground utilities (gas, electric, cable, etc.)

      5. Prepare yourself with appropriate safety gear:
a.       Hearing Protection
b.       Eye protection (glasses)
c.       Inhalation protection (masks)
d.       Gloves
e.       Knee pads

      6. Be equipped with the appropriate tools to protect yourself from potential construction debris (i.e., concrete dust) and/or simplify the process by avoiding incorrect use of equipment:
a.       Cutting equipment (one or two of these typically needed)
                                                               i.      Wet saw diamond blade (easily cut with minimal dust)
                                                             ii.      Integrated dust control concrete/masonry saw (saw sucks in dust)
                                                           iii.      Hammer and Chisel (snap the block when needed)
                                                            iv.      Concrete splitter/guillotine (snap block when needed)
b.       Construction Equipment
                                                               i.      Shovels (pointed and flat nose)
                                                             ii.      Rakes (metal – screening or bow rakes)
                                                           iii.      Dead blow hammers (avoid bounce back from mallets)

When you are in the need of building a retaining wall, never forget to think safety first!  No project is worth an injury to you, a loved one, friend or colleague.

February 6, 2020

I am Building a Retaining wall to Hold Up My Driveway. Do I Need to Add More Reinforcement?

It is difficult to immediately answer the question “do I need more reinforcement grid when my Allan Block wall is holding up my driveway?”  To properly answer that question, we will first need to understand several things:
Typical Gravity Wall
       1.  How tall is the wall?
       2.  How close is the driveway to the retaining wall? 
a.       Typically, if the surcharge (defined as additional weight, and in this case, the driveway) is located closer than twice the height of the wall, the structure will act as a surcharge……for example, if you have a 4’ (1.2 m) tall wall, the surcharge would need to be 8’ (2.4 m) behind the wall to avoid putting pressure on the wall.
      3. What type of soil is the wall being constructed in?

Driveway Surcharge Example
So, when you are building a wall that is holding up your driveway, these questions will need to be answered and will be the starting point for the conversation on IF grid is needed, or more grid is needed.  The quickest way to understand if grid is needed is to reference our Retaining Walls by Allan Block brochure, or talk with a local engineer.  This brochure will walk you through the “Plan, Design and Build” steps needed to properly layout and build your retaining wall.  In addition, you may also want to check out various locations within our website such as these simple gravity wall charts.  “Gravity walls” are walls built without the assistance of grid or reinforcement and only use the weight and setback of the block to perform.  So when you get ready to build with Allan Block, please don’t hesitate to contact us, use our reference tools or talk with one of our dealers to assist you in figuring out if your wall will need reinforcement (grid).

January 30, 2020

Building an Allan Block Wall? Where do I Start?

Before you start your first Allan Block project, you are probably like me and have tried to think through everything, so you don’t have any surprises along the way.  “How much block do I need?” is always the first question, right?  Well, there are a lot more.  “How much grid do I need?  How am I going to dig the required dirt out, and move the rock from my driveway in the front around to the back?  Where do I rent a Bobcat?  Do I have a friend that owns one?  Oh man there’s a lot to think about and to plan for…”
The very best resource for you will be Allan Block’s website (www.allanblock.com).  At the home page, click on the Homeowner or contractor button at the top, and the following pages will provide you everything you need.  At your fingertips, you have access to our products, catalogs, installation, estimating, project ideas and more.  Try out the Photo and Video Gallery for some incredible ideas.

Your local Allan Block dealer is also a great place to go. Simply go to the Find a Store page at the top of any page and input your Zip or postal code.

After you’ve done your research, you will be well prepared to start digging!