Trusting your allan block retaining wall installer

Offering reliable landscaping services to homeowners in British Columbia since 2013

Picture of Sam Maerz

Sam Maerz

Owner/Site Foreman

Trust – Trust – Trust Your Allan Block Retaining Wall Installer

 You must trust your contractor, and your contractor must trust you. Both parties have important roles to play in the successful completion of any project.

If you plan on hiring a contractor to “work” for you, you will have problems, instead working together.

Here is a quick breakdown of the client and contractors’ roles

Client:

Communicate openly and honestly the entire time

Provide input during the design phase

Be available to answer questions when things come up (they always do)

If you have an issue at any time communicate it immediately

Take care of the finances, and pay on time

 

Contractor

Communicate openly and honestly the entire time

Provide input and guidance during the design

Be proactive with as much information as you can

If you have an issue at any time communicate it immediately

Do at a minimum what you agreed to, and if possible, exceed expectations

Respect the finances, pay off all materials, labor, and stay in business for your customer

 

 

Damage To Your Home Or Yard During A Retaining Wall Build 

 Trust your contractor to either protect surfaces or repair them afterwards.

A great example of this is your lawn. Heavy equipment running over your yard for days or weeks will rut it up over time.

Your choice would be for us to instal temporary plywood roads. Currently we can run about 400’ on plywood roads. Or, we could repair the lawn afterwards.

Usually, the decision comes down to the surface, and what is most economical. Hard surfaces like driveways, sidewalks are almost always protected, or avoided all together if possible.

What To Expect During A Retaining Wall Installation 

While covering every issue ahead of time is impossible, there are common issues when it comes to building retaining walls.

On our site consultation we go over the major components such as parking, material staging, equipment parking and access, and where our portable toilet should go. Please openly communicate all questions, concerns, and requests at any time.

Dust

If we are excavating during the dry season, the space we are working in will be dusty. There are a few months near the end of summer where we usually have several inches of very fine dust similar to icing sugar.

This gets stirred up, and will blow several houses down the road. It can get all over your home, and even inside a little bit. Keep doors and windows closed during these times.

We can wet the areas to suppress the dust, but midday we usually can’t get enough water down fast enough before it dries.

 Noise

Cutting blocks with a gas-powered saw is noisy, and there is no way around it. We work during normal hours, and try to keep the noise down early in the morning, but on some days the saw may need to start up at 7 am.

Communicate any noise restrictions, and we can work around them no problem.

Most of our equipment runs on diesel engines. The noise isn’t too bad inside the home, but outside may be as loud as a lawn mower, although maybe not as annoying of a sound.

Our equipment runs ¼- ½ the time we are onsite. During the beginning stage when we are excavating it will run all day, while other stages it may run very little.

 

Project Change Orders

Change orders are changes to the contract, that you agree upon prior to the work being done.

This can be optional add Ons, or project changes due to unforeseen site conditions.

The strangest example we can think of was when we uncovered buried drywall from the 1970’s when excavating for a retaining wall in 2021.

There were additional disposal costs for the contaminated soils.

Change orders are documented and paid for prior to the work being completed. Live signatures may be possible if you are home, or we can email you a DocuSign for completing at work. E-Transfers, cheques, cash or credit cards are accepted.

Preplanning

To ensure a successful, low stress experience, we need to preplan your project. The timeline, material choices, colors, etc. are all components of a successfully preplanned project.

While most of this is behind the scenes for us, you have an input role of communicating your expectations, and concerns.

Building you a focal point retaining wall doesn’t just happen without a plan and your input!

 

Gut feeling

Trust your instinctive emotional response to what you are learning about retaining wall construction. If a contractor is not a good fit, neither of you want to work together. That’s ok!

If you have a concern, you should be able to discuss it, and confirm if it’s actually a concern, or just a misunderstanding.

In person is most effective, while phone calls are most efficient. Texting should be avoided on major issues as it causes more confusion due to lack of tonality.

 

Google Reviews

Google Reviews are a great way to vet a company, and learn what it’s like to work with them from a customer’s perspective.

Reviews will vary from just a star rating, to a rating, photo’s, and a long write up. If you read them well you should get an InSite into the character of the team.

Did they go the extra mile somewhere, or work late to stay on a timeline? Customers notice this, and usually mention it if they had a great experience.

When you hire Back 40 Landscaping, you will be asked to leave an honest, and accurate review.

 

Wall builders

Retaining walls don’t just get stacked up. Surprisingly the blocks are not actually all the exact same sizes, so while building the wall small touches and fixes are constantly being done. This is why some stairs, corners, or long walls look slightly off.

They may not be structural issues, but in order to be a focal point, they need to look good.

A good work ethic, and integrity is essential to ensuring a great wall is built.

Training and Installer Certification from Allan Block ensures the builder has the knowledge to build the wall.

Trained and Certified

When you hire a company, you should know who is doing the work.

Are they trained, certified, and experienced? At Back 40 Landscaping Sam, Viktor, and Lindon will be the ones building your wall.

Reliable and Honest

As the foreman in the field, I am fortunate to work alongside both Viktor, and Lindon. I trust them with my life and family. Now this may seem like an overstatement, but as a retired structural firefighter I’m used to either trusting people completely or distancing myself from them.

Everyone on our team has proved time again they can be relied upon, and are of utmost character. We simply do not hire, or work with questionable people.

 

Weather

The weather plays a huge role in our field work. Most of it can be worked through, but it certainly presents a challenge.

During the rainy season we tend to work more off of plywood roads so we don’t bury our equipment in the mud, while during the dusty conditions in August we soak the ground to reduce the dust.

 

Compaction

Compaction is a great real life trust issue. If it’s not done right your retaining wall will sink, or settle. This is apparent even on large commercial projects where multiple oversights failed.

During the winter months if the ground is frozen you cannot compact. The ground just won’t respond to compaction equipment.

You must have faith and trust your retaining wall builder will work around, or address this issue. Watching the forecast, and planning ahead, or switching to another task will ensure you compact when the ground is workable. Trust, its important!

 

Gluing

Gluing your retaining walls caps down is a critical step to ensure your wall looks its best, and last for many years before it needs any maintenance.

Gluing can’t be done if there is a layer of ice on your retaining wall blocks and caps.

There are 2 types of glue that are designed for dry weather, or rain/cold weather.

Many days we have had to postpone gluing caps in the winter due to freezing conditions. It can be inconvenient, but it’s the right decision so you do not have to call us back to reglue caps in a few months.

 

Physiological stresses

The physical stress of building a retaining wall can be enough without adding weather conditions. The rain, heat, and cold can make a physically demanding project that much harder.

Long days outside lifting 70lb blocks (1000’s of them), takes a special person who is hard working, smart, and dedicated to building you a quality wall.

Fortunately, when you hire us, we have a team ready to get to work.

 

Builder Efficiency

 Building efficiency benefits everyone involved. The sooner we can build your retaining wall, the lower the cost for you, and more projects we can complete in a year. Becoming efficient however is the hard part.

A few years ago when we were addressing this we realized that specialty equipment really does pay for itself. We have 2 diesel powered track dumpers that can handle 3000 lbs each.

We are able to swivel the hopper, and dump gravel exactly where we need it. This not only saves time, but in at least 50% of our jobs I don’t know how you could get that much gravel behind our walls.

wacker-neuson-track-dumper-dumping

Another great example of increasing efficiency is our screeding bars system. This produces a laser perfect gravel bed for basing an Allan Block. Its fast, and exact.

Did you notice how in both of these examples not only was time saved, but quality went up?

Cutting corners or cheating an install is not being more efficient. Instead, you need to think outside the box sometime to become more efficient, and do quality work.

 

Transparent pricing

 In 2023 pricing should be on every website on the internet. There is no excuse not to. We have access to enough technology to get accurate “ballpark” pricing. Exact pricing is determined onsite, but getting range to with 10% or so is very common.

Please check any of our Services pages, or read any of our cost articles. We aim to give you an idea of what your project could cost, anytime you want to read!

 

Education

If you haven’t noticed by now, we are very passionate about educating homeowners.

Natasha writes the vast majority of our articles, but from time to time I get to sit down, and pour out what I hope is useful, helpful content that helps you make an informed buying decision.

In full transparency, we most likely want to work with you, but if you choose to hire someone else to build your retaining wall that’s ok.

We will both feel much better knowing you had access to every piece of information about retaining walls, and made an educated decision.

If you only catch a little from this article hear this

Retaining walls needs a lot of drainage

Hire a trained and certified builder

Make sure you can TRUST them!