Landscape Newsletter Issue 5
Contractor Builds AB Walls and Record Growth in 2004!
|2004 was a good year for Scott Ruble, President of Estes Grounds Maintenance Inc.
His landscaping and lawn maintenance company has seen steady growth since he took over the business
in the mid 1990s, but 2004 brought some exciting new changes. We heard about Estes's strong growth
and thought it might make an interesting story for this newsletter. So we caught up with Scott in
mid-December for a phone interview.
Scott, What's been the biggest reason for your growth the last 12 months?
"It's two things really. Number one is the Allan Block Certification training my foremen and I did last spring. Although we had installed a couple of AB jobs prior to the training, we learned several new things. I was very impressed with the quality of the program. The handbook they provided is a great reference guide for technical questions."
How has AB Certification helped your business?
"It's given us credibility and confidence. Being able to say - ‘I know I can build this wall, we have been certified by the product manufacturer' - goes a long way with landscape architects and engineers. There have been a few wall failures in this market that have raised everyone's awareness about the need to build walls correctly. AB Certification provided us the skills and knowledge to build with confidence."
So, training's number one, what's the second reason your AB business has skyrocketed?
"I'd boil it down to experience. Our crews have gotten really good at installing Allan Block walls, and we're getting calls from general contractors and developers looking for that experience."
How did your AB installation crews ramp up so quickly?
"Allan Block is much more installer friendly than the other products we had been using. The hollow core blocks are easier to work with and there is less cutting involved. Using a dead blow hammer to set base blocks, turn corners and make minor adjustments to the wall is much easier with AB than with other blocks." We've installed a dozen AB walls over the last eighteen months and now our guys don't like to work with anything else.
How is it that general contractors and developers are calling you about Allan Block?
"We've built our reputation and our business on strong relationships with general contractors. The first Allan Block job we did was a 1,400 sq. ft (130 m²) Ashlar Blend wall. The GC, who we've done work for in the past, wanted us to do the project. Although it was our first Allan Block wall - and a multi-block wall at that - it was a "piece of cake". There are a few little tricks you need to know when installing the blended or patterned walls, but the local Allan Block rep was a great help on-site. Now, we're working on a 13,000 sq. ft (1,208 m²) AB wall for the same developer."
AB Photo Contest Winner 2004
|2004 1st Place Winner
Owner, Fred Johnson
The homeowners wanted a totally new outdoor entertainment area that would take advantage of the beautiful pond and wooded areas surrounding their backyard. They envisioned a swimming pool, large patio deck and an outdoor kitchen incorporated into the existing architecture of their property. The finished project included:
THE LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR
Lawncraft's owner Fred Johnson has built a solid reputation since starting the business in 1989. His two crews are focused on high end "creative landscaping" and have built most of their retaining walls with natural stone and boulders.
THE DESIGN - BUILD PROCESS
Lawncraft designed the entire project including the pool and concrete pool deck, lighting, gas cook top and heat lamps. Fred Johnson states, "The project was intense. It required ongoing project management and update meetings with the owner. We brainstormed new ideas and adjusted the project throughout the entire process." Construction was completed within just 5 weeks.
ALLAN BLOCK - ON THE JOB
The homeowners wanted a product that matched the European look of their home so they chose Allan Block's Europa Collection.
The homeowners are delighted with the project and are planning to complete an outdoor bar in 2005 using AB Courtyard Posts/Pilars. Landscaper Fred Johnson is happy too, he states "This project has given my business a big boost. I've never been much of a block guy, but this project worked out really well. I'm happy the homeowners chose Allan Block."
Lawncraft Man hours 1,200+
AB Europa Collection 1,950 sq. ft. (181 m²)
AB Geogrid 1,000+ sq. ft. (93 m²)
AB Courtyard Collection 300+ sq. ft.(28 m²)
"The four block shapes used in the
AB Abbey Blend pattern provided
the ease of using a retaining
wall block - and - it has the
look of natural stone."
Fred Johnson, Lawncraft Corp.
Soil Compaction - What Every Contractor Must Know
Excerpt from the new Allan Block Installation GuideProper placement and compaction of infill soils behind a retaining wall is critical. Foundation and infill soils require compaction to 95% of "Standard Proctor," or 95% of the soil's maximum density. Local geotechnical and soils engineers are trained to test and measure compaction densities. On-site testing ensures that the structure will perform as designed.
The most important step in achieving proper compaction is placing and compacting the soil in "lifts" or layers. Compacting in lifts of 8 in. (200 mm) or less with the proper equipment and moisture content, will provide the necessary compaction. Compaction in lifts that exceed 8 in. (200 mm) will result in less than adequate soil strength. Always backfill and compact after each course of 8 in. (200 mm) Allan Block is placed (figure 2).
Compaction equipment must be sized according to the type of material being compacted and the proximity to the "Consolidation Zone" (figure 4). The Consolidation Zone runs from the back of the block back 3 ft. (0.9 m) into the infill soil. Only walk-behind mechanical plate compactors shall be used within the consolidation zone.
For taller walls where geogrid reinforcement is used, larger compaction equipment is required in the "Reinforcement Zone" but not in the Consolidation Zone. (figure 4). Consult with a local equipment supplier to ensure that proper compaction equipment is used.
When compacting in the Consolidation Zone, a minimum of two passes with a walk behind plate compactor are required. Start compacting directly on top of the block and compact in paths that run parallel with the wall - to approximately 3 ft (0.9 m) behind the block.
Some applications require higher levels of compaction in the Consolidation Zone, for example, when additional walls or structures are located within 3 ft (0.9 m) of the back of the wall. Higher levels of compaction can be achieved by decreasing the lifts to 4 in. (100 mm). Compacting in smaller lifts will achieve higher compaction levels and will not place lateral loads on the wall facing. Higher compaction levels reduce settlement over time.