Handrails in retaining wall block

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Stonehenge, Aug 14, 2000.

  1. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    I've got a potential customer who has a bedroom with sliding glass doors that sit 5' above grade. She wants a brick patio flush with the door sill. This patio also needs to have a staircase that'll take her to grade level.

    Has anyone worked with handrails in retaining wall block? I know Versa-Lok engineers aren't wild about the idea, having a piece of metal (for example) mounted into a flexible wall. But I also know I'm not interested in building this person a 'lover's leap' patio.

    FIREMAN LawnSite Senior Member
    from n.j.
    Messages: 318

  3. steveair

    steveair LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,073

    How bout a deck instead?

    just kidding.

    I'm not a engineer, but I can't see it being a big deal with the structural integrity of the wall. For starters, how deep will the rails have to be?

    If the rails are set through the cap, and into the blocks, I can't imagine needing to go much deeper that 3-4 blocks at the most.

    Maybe there are codes on this, but I am unaware.

    My idea would be something like this.

    Maybe use something along the lines of 1 inch square tubing for the rails (I know a welder who can do somenice custom work).

    Next, drill a hole in the cap larger enough for the railing.

    Then drill holes in the next 3-4 course for the rail to sit in.

    I would then use a flexible adhesive to bond the top 3-4 courses of wall block all together, therefor the whole thing would be 1 solid layer but still have some flex.

    Last, I would put the rails through the cap, and then use an epoxy to set the railing into the cap, and probably epoxy the rail into the top block also.

    Maybe, for extra security, I would use that 'styrofoam' in a can for the blocks below the 1st one and spray it in the drilled holes the rail sits in to keep it from wiggling at all, maybe even just mortar would work also.

    Another thought is this. You are worried about the wall not flexing, but my thought has always been this. When we put cap on and use a adhesive, Dont we really stop the top few layers from flexing anyway because the cap bond holds the section tight together. If engineers never had a problem with this, I can't see there being a problem with rails every 4 ft along the top that go down 4 blocks, for the glueing of the cap seems to produce a similiar situation.

    One more thing, maybe another type of block would be easier to use. With the versa lock, you would have to drill through the entire block, being they are solid throughout. Maybe a product like anchor(diamond) would be better because they have the 'holes' 3/4 through them already and could be drilled through easier, and also, you could fill the hole up with more mortar/foam, to hold the rail.

    Just some ideas, maybe dumb, but its fun thinking about.


  4. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Messages: 1,625

    Ok have done both types of handrails, one drilled into wll units and other set behind wall. The best is set behind wall, but harder to do with brick set around rails. Use sonette tube and pour your footings before you complete your back fill that way you can get a good base. With drilled railings we use rebar drilled about 12" deep set with epoxy and just set the wood railings over the rebar using epoxy to hold the wood to the rebar. This works best with railings that can be tied to the house. If you have more ? or need drawings e-0mail me
  5. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Messages: 1,625

    As an example we are redoing a wall and patio for a park district, it has a fence keeping the kids from jumping off the wall(only 2' tall wall). The fence was pushing out the wall and causing the bricks to seperate. We tore down the wall and found that the fence was installed with 2' footings made out of 8" pipe, anyone leaning against fence was pushing out the wall now we have to take out the fence and drill holes 4' deep to hold the fence up so the bricks don't seperate.
  6. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    Do they make 9' sonette tubes? With height of patio (5'), and depth below frost line (4'), I'd need a cement truck just to fill them. This is making me nervous....
  7. BRL

    BRL LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,211

    I've worked for an electrical contractor and a general contractor in the past. We had to make footings for buildings, light poles, power line poles etc. Those tubes come in lengths of 20 or more feet and all kinds of widths. If you have to do a few footings, the concrete truck is the way to go. Try to find a company that uses metered trucks so you don't have to pay for a minimum, if its not a lot of concrete.
  8. steveair

    steveair LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,073


    that or use a wood pilon......maybe pour a footing for the pole before the wall, then use that for a base for 8 foot pilons (maybe 6x6, 4x4) and then use that for footings for rails. Thats how they set all the foundations for hangars at our airport (all wetlands), but they drive in 30 ft telephone poles into the ground first, then set the slab on top of them. I still think putting the rail in the wall would be easier though...

  9. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Messages: 1,625

    Sorry for the delay in this post, Stonehedge

    lay out your patio first allowing for the 3/4" set back in your wall per course of wall measure up the set back and dig holes for your footings 42" deep, set your sonnet tubes 5' less the thickness of the brick and pour them full of concrete next build your wall around the posts, Versa-lok is best less spaces for gravel to work it's way thru, finish up with brick pavers and remove brick away from post for railings or build railings and install pavers around railings. not hard just some extra work.
  10. Northernliving

    Northernliving LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    I’m going to put putting a railing system in a patio built up with a stone retailing wall. This will be built into a slope so the wall height will be from 1ft to about 4ft in height. I was also thinking of using sona tube with threaded rod and a flange a the top at the finished level of the pavers. Has anyone done this with stone, and any suggestions on how deep to go with the tube on the 4ft wall?


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