Allan Block

Contractor News

December 14, 2016


We at Allan Block are always striving to be Always Better and bringing you, our contracting customers valuable information that can be incorporated into your business is vital to our success. Our final newsletter of 2016 will strive to bring insight that will (1) help you find ways to bring value to your business by providing programs/tools to help you drive revenue and (2) provide market information to better educate on industry standards, initiatives and/or best practices to assist with installation efficiencies.

If have questions, comments or topics you would like to see addressed, please send them to us. We look forward to hearing from you!

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What's New At AB

We have received great feedback and in a few test markets have dozens of projects installed with our most recent addition to the Allan Block family of products – AB Aztec.

AB Aztec provides many great qualities. Two of the greatest attributes are:

  1. AB Aztec blocks are the exact shapes as those within our AB Collection so the Classic, Junior, Lite, Junior Lite, Corner and Cap are identical to the products you are already familiar with installing and can all be used to create a nice ashlar pattern or used individually to meet the needs of your customer.

  2. The product offers a non-split face unit with a slight texture to provide a more contemporary look and based on market research, a look many designers and owners are trying to find.

What does this mean for you? You will enjoy the same speed and efficiency when installing AB Aztec as you do with our AB Collection. None of our products are going away so this is just another system for you to sell and use to win more jobs.

In addition, to help launch this collection we will be running an incentive through 2018. Every dollar you spend on AB Aztec will qualify you for AB Stamps. The more units you buy the more AB Stamps you earn and can use towards Apple products. Learn more about AB Aztec and our launch program that will help you become more successful at:

certification class

Allan Block Certification Program

With winter upon us in many parts of North America it is once again time for training of current and future Allan Block installers. We have many classes set up and are working to add more for you, our contracting customers. Best Practices for Segmental Retaining Wall Design has already had a positive impact on our industry and the request for certified contractors to be specified within projects is starting to be implemented. Don’t let the lack of a certification through an industry recognized program like the Allan Block Certification Program prohibit you from installing jobs in 2017 and beyond. Check out your local classes here and if you can’t find any classes near you, please let us know by clicking the respective button on that same page.


Did you know that our certified contractors have an Allan Block resume available based on completed projects submitted? This service is free and can be used with your submittals on projects or to show your experience to an owner to help close a deal you are working on. We want to keep your resume growing – have all your 2016 projects been entered? Have you received all the free rewards like a contractor bag, dead blow hammer, cooler among many others for your hard work? Give us a call, email your project information or talk with your local sales associate to learn more about your personal resume and/or enter projects. info@allanblock.com or 1-800-899-5309.


Recently we sent a thank you package to each Allan Block Master Wall Builder (the top tier of the AB Certification program). Included within that package was an AB camo hat, each MWB’s resume, a Best Practice for SRW Design along with a thank you letter from AB President, Tim Bott. Each MWB helps all of us at AB and we can’t thank all of you enough – we are looking forward to providing more certificates this winter and into 2017 so send those completed projects in as soon as you can!


Contractor Talk: Water Management

Water management is a must for all retaining wall projects and a key to long-term success. The design and performance of most retaining walls are based on keeping the area behind the wall relatively dry. To ensure a quality project, the soils used must not become saturated during construction and the final design must route water away from the back of the wall. Incorporating berms or swales into the final design is an easy way to direct surface water away.

Retaining Wall Berm
Retaining Wall Swale

During the design process, develop a thorough understanding of the site and determine where water will come from and how it will be properly managed.


During wall layout, it is important to evaluate the entire site to determine if water will drain into the area where the wall will be constructed. Temporary grading may be needed to ensure water will not drain towards the construction area.

Ground Water

Ground water can be defined as water that occurs within the soil. Sources include surface infiltration, water table fluctuation and layers of permeable soils. Ground water movement must be prevented from coming in contact with the wall structure, including the soils behind the wall.

If subsurface or ground water is encountered during construction, consult an engineer to ensure that the water has been accounted for in your design.

Drain Pipes

Drain pipes are an effective part of the water management process and are used in a variety of applications. When do you need a drain pipe? Follow these rules of thumb:

  • All walls taller than 4 ft (1.2 m)
  • Sites with poorly draining soils
  • Alongside paved areas
  • Water lines, mains or fire hydrants
  • With slopes above the wall
  • On multi-tiered and terraced walls
  • All commercial and municipal projects

In all cases wall rock is located within the cores of the block and a minimum of 12 in. (300 mm) behind the block.

The toe drain and the wall rock are designed to remove incidental water from behind the wall and are not meant as primary drainage paths for above or below grade water management.

alernate drain
Vent drain through block face
drain for slopes
Vent drain to lower grade

Drain pipes used in toe drain applications must be properly vented a minimum of every 50 ft. (15 m). To accomplish this, vent the drain pipe to daylight or a lower elevation on the site.

When venting to a lower elevation, it is important that all drain locations are properly marked and protected to ensure that the drain pipe is not damaged or plugged. Rodent screens can be used to allow the water to flow through the outlet pipes and keep the pathway clear of debris.

drain drain

Use a drain pipe to route water from behind the wall. Attach tee fittings at 30 ft. to 50 ft. 9 to 15 m) intervals and direct the drains out through the wall face or to a lower elevation.

Concentrated Water Sources

Prior to constructing the wall, review drainage plans and details to identify all potential sources of concentrated water. Examples that must be accounted for are:

Irrigation System
  • Driveways
  • Slopes above walls
  • Grading of site
  • Water lines, mains or fire hydrants
  • Roof down spouts
  • Sump pump outlets
  • Irrigation systems
Patterned Walls

Featured Collection: Pattern Walls

Are you ever looking for that retaining wall system to differentiate your business from competitors? AB Pattern walls provide a unique and aesthetically pleasing system that win job after job for many contractors. Whether you are building with the AB Collection, Europa or our new Aztec Collection, a pattern wall may be just the look to differentiate your proposal from your nearest competitor.

You may be asking yourself; do my customers want or ever ask for pattern walls? The most successful pattern wall installers have found that introducing these systems and selling on the added aesthetic wins’ jobs for them time and time again. We have many tools to help you sell more pattern walls including:

Patterned Walls
  1. Easy to follow patterns to help with estimating and installation which can be found on our pattern brochure.

  2. Our estimating tool (downloadable on our website here) will allow you to quickly create an estimate of material for any AB Collections based on your site requirements. If you customer is looking for a traditional AB Classic wall, estimate it with AB Classic and then simply go back one step in the estimating tool and select AB Ashlar Blend to quickly create an estimate for the same job with a different style……you can do the same thing to add a Europa estimate and will soon be able to do it for AB Aztec as well. Imagine walking into a final meeting with a potential customer and educating them on the various styles and added aesthetic while efficiently showing them the cost difference between the collections. Ashlar installations mean additional revenue for your business so check it out and sell them on your next project!
hot topics

Hardscape North America Show

HNA proved to be another successful venture this year with our local producing partner, Reading Rock. The attendance was up and the crowds through the booth were great. As previously mentioned, we had great feedback on our new AB Aztec Collection while also receiving positive remarks on two new AB Fieldstone products – the parapet cap and the 8x18 smooth unit (what is the name of this?) ask your local rep to learn more about these products.

We were also happy to see Greenworks Landscaping win the HNA/ICPI “Segmental Retaining Walls – Residential Category” with Allan Block Retaining Wall products - HNA Winners. What a great award and a great project that still amazes us each time we review it.

HNA 2016

HNA 2016

Email us completed project pictures and we will hope HNA or other various industry associations will honor your projects with an annual award in 2017. info@allanblock.com


Get to Know an Allan Block Master Wall Builder

As a recap, an Allan Block Master Wall Builder (MWB) is an individual who has reached the third and final step in the Contractor Certification Program (level 1 = Certified Contractor and level 2 = Experienced Wall Builder). Contractors that reach this level have both the knowledge and the skills to build top quality Allan Block walls. To learn more about the details associated with each certification level, please visit our AB Certification site.

Each quarter we will introduce you to a new MWB from a variety of markets – there are hundreds of these individuals throughout North America and all their stories are unique and interesting. This quarter we are focusing on Scott Lovdal, owner Outdoor Environments.

Scott is celebrating his 30th season in 2016. He began his business near Cincinnati, OH after his sophomore year at Ohio State University where he was studying to become a Landscape Architect. What started out as a landscaping business in 1986 has evolved into a multimillion-dollar hardscape business focusing on retaining walls and pavers. He is currently running six wall crews and one paver crew and has approximately 50 employees.

Sometime around 1990 Scott and Reading Rock’s Steve Keller (retired AB Wall of Fame inductee) met and the two began working together. Concrete SRW units were still new and Scott took the system and ran with it by educating home builders and others on the system. His work paid off and as he told us, “builders saw the advantage – we offered an affordable, quick and attractive system and they began hiring us for their retaining wall projects.” Today Outdoor Environments spends approximately 60% of their time on commercial projects, 25% of their time with home builders and 15% directly with residential customers.

Our goal at AB is to create products that make our partners (manufacturing, distributing and contracting) money. Scott told us when he began using Allan Block he quickly saw he “could make money with it and today that still holds true.” Outdoor Environments has had a very good 2016 season and they are wrapping up the year with a 27,000 sf Allan Block project – well done!

Scott was certainly a pioneer in the SRW industry and continues to push the industry into a better place. Scott, from all of us at Allan Block, thank you for your dedication to the industry and Allan Block!

Allan Block Corporation
7424 W. 78th Street, Bloomington, MN 55439
Help & Support Center: (800) 899-5309
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