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View Full Version : Allan Block (Ashlar) Walls We Built


JimLewis
10-05-2006, 04:50 AM
Here are some photos of a rather large job we just completed. We installed 4 AB walls, concrete steps, concrete path, sod, lighting, and irrigation.

http://www.lewislandscape.com/photos/gallery/Retaining-Walls-and-More

First time doing AB. Comments?

Ron's Lawncare
10-05-2006, 06:50 AM
nice work jim, are those blocks easy to work with? i've never done a random pattern like that before.

JimLewis
10-05-2006, 12:17 PM
Oh yah! They're easy! About as easy as a friggin' rubick's cube!!!

No, in theory they are easy. But in practice, they weren't as easy. The pattern itself makes it about 25% more difficult than a regular block wall. Then you have to fill each block with gravel. That's annoying, and makes it another 25% more difficult. And that's just if you are doing a wall where the base is straight and the top is straight.

The biggest problem is when you get to the step-ups at the base of the wall. That is, if the area where you need to install your base course is not level from right to left and you've eventually got to step up the base. That's where it gets hella confusing and complicated with the AB Pattern. We only had to do that on the lowest wall, by the sidewalk. But that wall took us as long to build as the other 3 walls combined.

Then there was the issue of geogrid. That was very complicated as well, because of the step-up pattern. Geogrid itself isn't too difficult to install or figure out. But when you have a step-up pattern then it makes it next to impossible because you don't ever arrive at a flat point in the wall to install the geogrid.

It was a PITA, is all I can say. But the customers love it. And everyone else on that street has the typical Mutual Materials "Manor Stone" walls. And now all their walls look like crap compared to these walls. Everyone on the street was jealous as heck. They loved this pattern and look and wished they had done it at their home. So even though it was a PITA, it was probably worth it. Lots of publicity.

I'd say if you are building one where the base is totally level, it's not too difficult. Like I said, about 50% more difficult than a standard block wall. But if your base isn't straight, plan on it being more like 200% more difficult.

MarkintheGarden
10-05-2006, 08:30 PM
Here are some photos of a rather large job we just completed. We installed 4 AB walls, concrete steps, concrete path, sod, lighting, and irrigation.

http://www.lewislandscape.com/photos/gallery/Retaining-Walls-and-More

First time doing AB. Comments?

Great job!
I like the material choice, the walls complement the house and that brings the landscape and building together.

Please tell us more about this project; how many man hours, costs, equipment used, how are you going to plant it, anything! I would like to see a photo from a distance.

Looks like a tough hill to work on:weightlifter: :weightlifter: :weightlifter:

Dirty Water
10-05-2006, 10:31 PM
So you didn't use any grid at all?

Also, why no safety handrail on that staircase?

GreenMonster
10-05-2006, 11:24 PM
So you didn't use any grid at all?

Also, why no safety handrail on that staircase?

looks like two pulls, Jon.

One after the first course, and then you can see another horizonal line a couple course up.

I started out with AB and now HATE it. You're brave, Jim....tricky wall, material, and site conditions, Jim. Don't you love the extra step of getting stone in all those cores? :dizzy: Nice work.

Did you use an AB pattern, or just let it free flow on your own? I find it just as easy to lay them up on your own and not get caught up in following their pattern.

Dirty Water
10-05-2006, 11:28 PM
Mark, I didn't look at the close up pic.

Nevermind then, I apologize for jumping on Jim :)

I still think its needs a hand rail though.

neversatisfiedj
10-05-2006, 11:31 PM
Jim - great project ! 2 thumbs up

GreenMonster
10-05-2006, 11:38 PM
Mark, I didn't look at the close up pic.

Nevermind then, I apologize for jumping on Jim :)

I still think its needs a hand rail though.


yeah, prolly does need a rail.

Jim, you could have built integrated stairs with the AB, then you'd really be swearing!

mbella
10-05-2006, 11:41 PM
looks like two pulls, Jon.

One after the first course, and then you can see another horizonal line a couple course up.

I started out with AB and now HATE it. You're brave, Jim....tricky wall, material, and site conditions, Jim. Don't you love the extra step of getting stone in all those cores? :dizzy: Nice work.

Did you use an AB pattern, or just let it free flow on your own? I find it just as easy to lay them up on your own and not get caught up in following their pattern.

Yeah, that stuff looks like a PITA to install and really doesn't look that good in my opinion.

Mike33
10-05-2006, 11:53 PM
Nice work, i use ab all the time but never built one asler style. I set one up at home show very small and swore i would never do one for real. We had more time with one 6' long 3 couses high than the main wall we showed 30' long 8 courses high. Yes i agree with Mark you could of put the icing on the cake with steps and been real pissed off at the end of the day. Nice work.
Mike
www.bobcatservice33.com

JimLewis
10-06-2006, 12:26 AM
So you didn't use any grid at all?

Also, why no safety handrail on that staircase?

Yes, we did use geogrid about 3' back every course. That was a PITA too.

Safety rails? I dunno. It was never brought up. Most of the homes around here that have concrete stairs like that don't have a handrail. So I guess I never thought of that. And neither did the homeowner or my flatwork sub.

JimLewis
10-06-2006, 12:34 AM
You're brave, Jim....tricky wall, material, and site conditions, Jim. Don't you love the extra step of getting stone in all those cores? :dizzy: Nice work.

Thanks. Yah, filling those cores with gravel sucks. I personally didn't have to do that. But we spent a lot of man hours doing that.

About the site conditoins; it's even worse than it looks. That bottom wall took us over a week to do. Mostly because there were HUGE boulders right in our way all over the place. I'm talking 600-1000 lb. boulders burried in the hillside right where the wall and geogrid needed to go. Trackhoe had to remove all those and then we had to haul them all away. And where there weren't boulders, the ground was just pure rock, gravel, and hard hard dirt. Not fun.

Did you use an AB pattern, or just let it free flow on your own?

On the upper 3 walls we used the pattern. On the lower wall we tried to use the patter but the step-ups make it impossible to keep to the pattern 100%. So we had to freeform a lot of that wall.

JimLewis
10-06-2006, 12:39 AM
I would like to see a photo from a distance.

Your wish is my command....

JimLewis
10-06-2006, 12:42 AM
Please tell us more about this project; how many man hours, costs, equipment used, how are you going to plant it, anything!

Those kind of details you can PM me about and I'll be glad to share them. I'm not going to post all that.

We are still in the process of planting it. And then probably mulch. I'll take more pictures next week when the plants and trees are in.

It's going to look really nice next year when the plants begin to fill in and some of them hang over the wall. I'll be taking more pics next summer when this happens.

kootoomootoo
10-06-2006, 01:49 AM
Now all it needs is a waterfall.

JimLewis
10-17-2006, 04:24 AM
how are you going to plant it, anything!

I've changed the photos on our website and uploaded a totally new set of Before-After photos, with the plants and mulch included now, for anyone who is interested.

Note: More planting next year. This is all they could afford this year. And the plants don't look all that great yet as it's the end of the season and many of them are starting to die back or defoliate for the winter. But it will look very nice next summer as they grow and fill in.

They plan on spending another $20K-$30K with us next year on a whole host of other landscaping stuff, including more of these walls in the back yard. And we've already landed another job from this one too. It's definitely made an impression.

Here are the new photos;
http://www.lewislandscape.com/photos/gallery/Retaining-Walls-and-More

huh
10-17-2006, 05:17 AM
well I think the quality and workmanship looks first rate.....I like the part at the top with the small turf area

I think the wall looks way better than just pavers or paver like materials

there is something that sticks out to me though and I am not sure how I would do different, but the plant materials in the 3 tiers seam "out of order" somehow....like maybe switch the materials on the 2nd and 3rd rows.....or maybe even take the first tier materials put them on the 3rd tier and put the 3rd tier materials on the second and the second on the first.....like biggest plants on top tier middle in middle and smallest on lowest....they seam out of order somehow

also I love the lawn patch up top, but did you ever consider dropping a couple of nice trees in that area....might block the large mass of gray on the house side there

again the work is top notch and it is a huge improvement that will probably get you more work...sorry to make picky comments....maybe the plant materials just need to fill in some:)

MarkintheGarden
10-17-2006, 11:07 AM
Fine work Jim,
I like the way it looks with some plants, as they fill in you are gonna have a contest winner there.
I also searched around your web site, enjoyed the landscape designs, looks like you have a top notch designer working with you.
Thanks for the update.
M

MowJoeLandscaping
10-17-2006, 08:44 PM
Beautiful. Loos Good.