Tips and tricks of hand leveling of retaining wall

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by GWhunter, Aug 20, 2011.

  1. GWhunter

    GWhunter LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 380

    So I'm frustrated as hell and hope someone could provide some insite. I'm building a retaining wall using Allan block 18" blocks, I built a smaller wall with the same material (but and inside corner so no corner blocks) a few years back and it came out great. This wall on the other hand is driving me crazy. I've started over twice since the blocks show every imperfection and I can't just leave it. I'm following the video instructions from Allan Block except one( and it could be the issue).

    The wall starts at a foundation footing with three block then 90's and goes another 10' then 90's again. The footing side is the lowest point of the wall so that's where I started. I excavated a 18" trench, added 3/4 crushed stone and compacted(here's where I'm not following allan blocks instructions). I'm using a hand tamper not a plate compactor. After I tamp I take a 4' level and add/tamp where needed. I then set my blocks and level front to back side to side. So far so good, I've been working on this wall as time allows so days pass between installation. The corner blocks are narrow compared to the straight blocks. I then place the next block and level and make sure the seam is tight and not open top or bottom. The corner blocks are where I seem to be having issue. I get them level/tight and proceed to the next course and then have seem/level issues. I can't figure out what the problem is. I've checked for debris and rechecked level of the base course. I'm starting to wonder if it's imperfections in the block or me. I'm using a torpedo level on the blocks and 4' level for the course. These blocks get filled with 3/4 stone and then backfilled and tamped. Of course the imperfections get magnified as the courses continue. The original base course is only 15 blocks since the wall is built into a hillside. Can anyone offer any pointers on what the issue may be? I'm sure using a plate compactor would help but I'm already $$ into this with the gas concrete saw purchase. I really appreciate any help you guys could offer. I'm so FRUSTRATED with this project.

  2. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,565

    Holy cow that's alotta reading and And the bulk of it all lumped in one paragraph.

    My attention Span is not that long.

    Any chance you can condense that and maybe bullet point it and maybe show photos?

    Posted via Mobile Device
  3. GWhunter

    GWhunter LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 380

    Thanks for your super helpful reply. The long and short is the outside corner blocks are giving me fits trying to get them level front to back side to side.

    They have a different foot print than the rest of the wall blocks and I'm not sure what the problem is. It seems like setting an leveling would be a no brainer but by the next course I need to fool with the corners again.

    I can snap a few pics today.

  4. Snyder's Lawn Inc

    Snyder's Lawn Inc LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,530

    what size of rock you are using to back fill
  5. GWhunter

    GWhunter LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 380

    3/4 clean stone, as AB recommends, I think the corner blocks are defective. If I set a wall block and corner on the pavement the corner is 1/16 higher than the wall block. I've tried several of the corners to see if it was just one. They all seem off, I got these delivered in two shipments.

    Is it possible they changed there molds? I've had the blocks for awhile so there's no way there taking them back. I'm starting to think that the reason I had no issues on the other wall(which was inside corner) was no corner blocks were used. I'm going to talk with a mason tomorrow and get his take. I'm new to hardscaping but the leveling process shouldn't be this much of an issue. I grabbed my camera to take pics but the batteries are shot. So no pics till tomorrow.
  6. westcoh

    westcoh LawnSite Senior Member
    from Alberta
    Messages: 313

    The corner blocks are defective. Every AB wall I've ever built with the corner blocks has had the same problem, in that the 90 degree corners are not quite as high as the rest of the wall blocks. Only way to fix it is to shim the corner pieces on every row. Another reason I avoid using AB whenever I can.
  7. scagrider22

    scagrider22 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,272

    Every time I use the Allan Block corners they are taller than the Blocks, on the last job I had to grind them down. I think I may look into Techo-bloc, but they do not have many dealers in Ohio.
  8. Bru75

    Bru75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 582

    Not being a smartass, so don't take this the wrong way. Rent a plate compactor, or later on you'll wish you had.
    The money to rent one is nothing compared to what it will cost to rebuild after everything settles unevenly.
  9. GWhunter

    GWhunter LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 380

    Guys thanks so much for the vindication. I knew the corners were the issue but chalked it up to a inexperianced installer. On the compactor, I did use one for the base course trenches, but AB says to compact the backfill twice every course. No more than 8" lifts. I've been doing 4" lifts and tamping with a rotary hammer tamper. I've got one rental place close and they've had it on rent everytime I call.

    Why the hell does AB not fix the problem? Oddly enough they have no video placing corners. Overall all the blocks seem inconsistant. I have tight seems and level tops but to my eye it looks like the lines are off.

  10. SVA_Concrete

    SVA_Concrete LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 467

    since when was a 1/16th of an inch a huge problem with wall block??

    absolute average.......there is no perfect world.

    we use the plastic strapping that holds the block together during shipping and a pit of landscape pl glue to shim as needed.

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