3/2012 – Retaining walls should look good

Simple, yet good design

Concrete retaining walls do not have to look dull. A reputable walling contractor should be able to supply a design, or one endorsed by an engineer, for a concrete aesthetics retaining wall that is pleasing to look at, and complementary to the landscape it is placed in.

Holger Rust, owner of Terraforce, a Cape Town based concrete block business, has watched the industry change steadily over the last 35 years:

“It is encouraging that step by step, designers, developers and installers are moving toward a more aesthetically pleasing, living built environment. Many parties worldwide have been promoting these ideas and we at Terraforce understand that our contribution was and is miniscule.  We are glad though that we did not bungle along in the wrong direction.”

Four legged friend approves

Four legged friend approves

Hard landscaping shaped around existing features

Hard landscaping shaped around existing features


A good example for simple, yet good design is the featured family garden that was designed in a sustainable and attractive fashion.

Attractive garden scaping

Attractive garden scaping

Says Simon van Blerk of Decorton, a Terraforce approved contractor:  “I was contacted by this family for some advice on enhancing the recreational appeal of their back garden. Proposal and quotation were accepted and weeks later the family had a significantly transformed garden to enjoy.

Apart from the meandering terrace walls in a rock-face finish, two small sets of steps were installed. In this manner safe and easy access was provided to a raised area of the garden. Maintenance of level platforms is easy, compared to mowing on the slope, as any gardener will confirm.”
 

Of particular interest, says Van Blerk, is the small curved set of stairs next to the pool, rounded to match the adjacent terrace walls that were packed in a circular shape:

Curved stairs with retaining blocks

Curved stairs with retaining blocks

“Installed on a concrete foundation and filled from the side with a fairly dry concrete mix that was compacted with a pick handle, the blocks were fanned out only slightly, so that the gaps that opened up between the blocks towards the back were hardly noticeable.”

No corking or grouting was deemed necessary, according to the client.

This would be an important requirement on installations with a tight radius or where triangular wedges have to be cut from standard 4×4 Multi Step blocks to form sharp corners, curves or tricky details.

In such instances, reinforcing becomes a necessity to avoid excessive cracking of the grouted joints. 

Overlapping lengths of reinforcing steel – 4mm diameter minimum – would then be pushed into the moist concrete mix that is used for filling the blocks, and once the blocks are placed in their proper, level position.

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