Pro Tips with Jamie Snyder

Subscribe via E-mail

What type of retaining wall do I need?

Posted by James Snyder on Tue, Feb 05, 2013 @ 44:12 PM

Retaining walls come in several varieties. Some of the most common types are:

  1. Wood or Tie walls
  2. Concrete Block
  3. Poured Concrete
  4. SRW – Segmented Retaining Wall
  5. Gabion
  6. StoneMakers Concrete
  7. Mafia Block

Wood Tie Walls

                Wood tie wall are common with DIY’ers, they are not as common with the pro’s. These walls tend to have a shorter lifespan than the other methods listed here for a few reasons. Since they are wood and wood will rot most professionals do not see much upside in installing these. The material itself is only slightly less expensive than concrete so there is not much savings there. The amount of digging is the same so no savings there as well. They just install a little faster. For a 1-3’ tall wall that will be installed by yourself you might be happy with this type of wall. For taller walls consider a more permanent solution, doing these things twice can be very expensive.Concerte block wall ny

Concrete Block walls

                Concrete blocks look like the ones you remember being called cinder blocks as a kid. They are rarely made of cinders anymore but instead are made of concrete. Concrete Block walls can be used as a retaining wall however they are used more often as a load bearing wall. This is mainly because SRW’s and poured in place walls have taken over this market. Since a concrete block wall often times requires a substantial footing and loads of rebar and a lot of labor most pros would rather just pour that type of wall.

Poured concrete

Poured Concrete wall Fishkill NYPoured concrete walls are great when done correctly and disasters when corners are cut. One common mistake is to incorrectly lay the rebar inside the form, or use the wrong type or amount. As a homeowner it is important you have a contractor that doesn’t cheat here. If they do you will be paying to do it over. See the picture to the right. When it goes wrong there is no repairing it, just replacing it. That job was done by a contractor in Fishkill, NY and only lasted 3 months before it broke.


                SRW’s installed correctly can be a great choice. The upside is that they are easy to install fairly easily. They are lightweight (usually around 100 lbs each) and they look good. The downside is that it is easy to skip steps such as burying courses, geo grid, properly compacting the base, etc. When these steps get skipped the project is in jeopardy. I have seen walls incorrectly installed fail completely.


                A gabion wall is made from a cage filled with rocks. These are pretty simple to do, and usually very strong. These are mostly done in industrial areas or by roads and bridges. They allow water to run right through them. The look of them can be debated but most homeowners do not like them for their back yard.

StoneMakers Concrete

                StoneMakers concrete walls are only installed by a network of StoneMakers dealers so the downside is that you may not be able to find a dealer near you. This is constantly changing and chances are if you live in a moderately populated area there will be one. These walls take a lot of skill and know how that no homeowner would know without being taught. The wall because of the proprietary ingredients is much stronger than a normal concrete wall. This type of wall is also much more attractive, as the name implies you make the wall look like stone. This wall is a great choice for almost any retaining wall scenario and is what we use.

Mafia Blocks

                Mafia Blocks get their name from the size resembling coffins. Aside from their unflattering name they are extremely heavy and require a medium to large excavator to lift or some other piece of equipment. They are great for making bins at the landscape supply yard to put mulch and gravel in. Most homeowners would not want these things in their backyard.

Get a Quote NOW !
Watch Albert Group in Turf War

How to Increase Your Livingspace with Retaining Walls

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 @ 00:09 AM

retaining_wall_Lagrangeville_New_YorkAre you longing for the warm summer evenings, when you could enjoy sitting in the backyard way past midnight without even having to wear a sweater? Does your living room feel just a little bit too cozy and crammed after all those beautiful nights you were able to spend on your patio under the stars? You are not alone. According to the American Institute of Architects' first Home Design Trend Survey 48% off all homeowners in the US prefer an outdoor living space to the traditional green lawn.

Companies Take Indoors Outside
Many companies respond to that demand. There are amazing new outdoor furniture-options. The new fabrics are made from acrylic fibers and are fade-resistant and waterproof. SunBrite TV and Mirage Outdoor Concepts both sell flat-panel LCD television-set, which are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and temperature changes – and are equipped with a wireless connection.

How to Create an Outdoor Living Space
But it takes more than just cozy cushions and entertainment devices to create a real outdoor living space. To be successful you should adopt some of the same principles that make the interior of your home comfortable. That means you need some walls, a floor and a ceiling. Start by establishing the outline or boundary of your outdoor room. The idea is to create an area where you don’t feel watched by your neighbors. Like in your home you want enjoy some intimacy.

Complement your Home with a Retaining Wall
Especially if your yard has different levels or is slightly sloped, a retaining wall can be a great starting point for your new room outdoors. With StoneMakers concrete we are able to create almost any shape – and even the color can be mixed to complement your actual home. This way your outdoor space will really feel like an extension of your indoor living area. Thanks to the flexibility of the material, it even is possible to add different features to your wall, like a bench or sitting area, different water-features, a fire pit or fire place.

Why choose StoneMakers
Because the material is so easy to work with, StoneMakers allows us to even carry out the most creative design-ideas. At the same time you do not have to worry about the durability. StoneMakers is twice as strong as typical concrete. After being in this business now for almost 20 years, I can tell you, that “StoneMakers retaining walls are not only good, they are the best!”, says Jamie Snyder of The Albert Group Landscaping.

The New York based landscaper has a lot of experience to implement different outdoor living ideas. „We have built outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, BBQ-pits, waterfalls, pools, whole entertainment areas“, Snyder explains. Albert Group Landscaping is also certified by both the National Concrete Masonry Association and the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute. „You can be assured that your project is installed correctly“, says Snyder.

The Albert Group Landscaping does offer complete solutions for your backyard make over. „Before we start, we offer our clients a 3D rendering oft he project“, explains Snyder. „This will allow you to see your project conceptually before you buy.“ Are you ready to increase your space? Contact Jamie Snyder and ask for a free estimate.


What Types of Material are Best for Retaining Walls?

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Sat, Aug 18, 2012 @ 01:09 AM

swimming_pool_landscaper_lagrangevilleWhen it comes to residential retaining walls, there are various materials available. To help you decide, which material will work best for you, we want to give you some basic pros and cons and describe the two main materials, we recommend, in detail: Segmented Retaining Wall Blocks and StoneMakers Hardscape.

Wood is not Durable
Although some contractors might offer it to you, we recommend staying away from wood. While the up front costs are affordable and the installation is quick and fairly easy, wooden retaining walls are a short-term investment. Wood is simply is not as durable as other wall materials, mainly due to rot and infestation with insects. And don’t be fooled, just because it seems easy, to pile some railroad ties, they still need to be reinforced with braces and deep anchors. No matter, where you build your wall, it needs to be able to support the weight of soil and water. How long is your wall supposed to hold up?

Natural Stone is Expensive
Traditional stone retaining walls can be beautiful and have a very natural look. The number one reason, why many people decide against a natural stonewall, is the huge expense. Natural stonewalls are very labor intensive, and even if the project has been built professionally, stones might shift and the mortar used while stacking might crack.

Brick is Less Versatile
A brick wall is often used to match brick accents on the house or a garden path. Many brick walls are actually built from cinderblock that is reinforced with rebar and than faced with brick. Those walls are pretty strong and durable, but also very labor extensive and require a special accommodation for drainage.

Segmented Retaining Wall Block
Segmented Retaining Walls can be built of various concrete blocks. Some systems are designed so that the blocks interlock with each other - which provides a mortar-less solution. Segmental Retaining Walls rely on gravity and the blocks are designed to gradually step back into the earth they retain, to provide more strength. There is a huge variety of concrete blocks available, so you can choose are cleaner or a rather weathered look. Most systems allow the integration of curves, corners and stairs, and the blocks can be split to fit the shape of the project.

StoneMakers Hardscape Changed the Industry
After being in this business now for almost 20 years, I can tell you, that “StoneMakers retaining walls are not only good, they are the best!”, says Jamie Snyder of The Albert Group Landscaping. StoneMakers’ propriety concrete product can be completely customized. There are 33 colors available, which can be mixed to an infinite number of colors. While the product is strong – actually twice as strong a typical concrete – it can be shaped into almost any design. “It’s only every so often a product like this comes along. If you have a contractor that is certified to do these you are sitting pretty.”


What is the most durable retaining wall?

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Sat, Aug 11, 2012 @ 00:09 PM

Retaining_Wall_westbrookvilleRetaining walls are supposed to hold back soil or rock from a building, structure or area. Since they have to prevent downslope movement or erosion, they have to be made from strong and durable material. Materials, which are generally used, are masonry, stone, brick, vinyl, concrete, steel or timber.

Since backyard projects are not only supposed to be durable, but also aesthetically attractive, many people choose natural stone for their project. But natural stone is expensive. Single stones might get loose, the wall is prone to deteriorate and begin to collapse within a few years. Concrete walls usually are pretty durable, but don’t look great and will crack over time. That is why Albert Group Landscaping uses StoneMakers hardscape.

Advantages of StoneMakers Hardscape
“Concrete block has long been a reliable method for constructing home beautification projects. Done correctly, a project using this method can be solid and durable. However, StoneMakers has created a proprietary concrete mix that trumps concrete block in several ways, most importantly, in durability, cost effectiveness and aesthetics”, says James Snyder of Albert Group Landscaping.

Due to a special mixing process, StoneMakers increased the strength of it’s concrete from 3000 to 4000 PSI to over 7000 PSI. On top of that

What about Cracks?
Every concrete might crack and there is no guarantee that your project might not develop a crack over time when frost occurs in the area. However, with StoneMakers, a crack will not destroy the project. All structures are reinforced with rebar or wire mash and natural control joints to increase stability and durability. And if a crack occurs, we can recarve and touch up the area the area.

Are StoneMakers Retaining Walls Maintenance-free?
StoneMakers hardscape is one of the most durable products available. It mainly can be left alone, but there are a few things you can do, to keep your retaining wall looking good. You should keep the wall free from accumulating leaves over the winter, which might discolor the surface over time. Salts and chemicals should be washed of the surface. And if the finish begins to wear, you should seal it again.

Is there a Warranty?
Yes, while the warranty associated with a concrete paver system normally runs anywhere from one to three years, a StoneMakers system is guaranteed for three to five years depending on the service package purchased.


Albert Group Landscaping: What is the Difference?

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 @ 53:08 AM

swimming_pool_landscaping_nyFor this entry we want to turn the spotlight on our customers. We want to thank you all for working with us and share all the positive feedback you sent our way. For us at Albert Group Landscaping it is all about you – and we are always happy to hear about your experiences and ideas.

When Mr. Vasco called us, he was not very happy with the look of his front yard. Albert Group Landscaping built a new walk way and a retaining wall in the front yard. “Albert Group Landscaping was referred to us through a friend. Jamie Snyder called back right away, to talk about the project and delivered on time. Every little detail he said was done – and it made the house look 100 percent better. We are very satisfied and happy with the job. The work they did was extremely extraordinary.”

Mr. and Mrs. Trapani had called another contractor before they contacted the Albert Group. “We did not get his estimate until Jamie had completed the work”, they say. The Trapanis contracted us in the middle of January, they had problems with the drainage on their driveway and wanted to make sure to have the project done before spring. “Jamie’s team worked very professional and was done on time. We don’t have problems with the drainage any more and the new wall looks great. He even put lights in them. It is just perfect.”

Mr. Fetter had very specific ideas when he contacted the Albert Group to build his swimming pool, and was positively surprised. “The fiberglass pool is very durable, the salt-filter system is much easier to maintain than the chlorine filter system I was used to. The waterfall looks great and it is so much fun to swim under it. We use our built in lights often and enjoy the integrated spa-jets. It is like getting a massage in the pool. We are very happy. It looks great.”

Mr. and Mrs. Enriquez had recently moved to Washingtonville from New York City. As first time homeowners they did not want to make any mistakes and did a lot of research to find the right contractor. Now they don’t have to look any further. “Jamie Snyder is the one person whose word I can take to the bank, if he says that is how it is going to be, I know it will look good. It was almost surreal how smooth everything was”, says Mrs. Enriquez. “Every phone call was answered, the relationship of the team was completely professional, all you saw was work, it was natural for them and at the end of the day the yard looked cleaner than before. The project, a Versa-Lok retainer wall, was of the highest quality, completed on time and within the estimate. The Albert Group exceeded every possible expectation. We recommend you without any hesitation to our families, friends and neighbors.


Let us know about your experience with Albert Landscaping Group and click here if you are interested in further testimonials.

Retaining Walls: Made to Fit Your Dreams

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Fri, Jun 01, 2012 @ 59:07 AM

retaining_walls_chester_nyAre you dreaming of a water fall spilling down over a cliff rock, a hot tub beneath a romantic cave, a wall which perfectly fits the color of your house? With StoneMakers concrete structures like that are possible. Before he started to work with StoneMakers himself Jamie Snyder of Albertgroup Landscaping could not believe himself, what kind of possibilities the product offered. “Well what can I say, EVERYTHING StoneMakers claims is true!”, he says today.

Snyder mainly uses StoneMakers concrete for customized retaining walls and backyard waterfall projects. And the results are amazing. Due to the special technique of building a monolithic structure at first and than adding the texture, all kind of structures and looks are possible. There are no limitations to form, shape and color.

Stone looks great, yes, but you cannot build a stone wall in a day. With StoneMakers it is possible, plus the wall can be build exclusively to fit the specific needs of your yard. Even a curved wall is possible.

StoneMakers is designed to look and feel like stone. Next to walls it is also possible to recreate the look of huge rocks or boulders. While you might have a very hard time to find, transport and pay for a rock of a certain size, with StoneMakers you can build one in a few hours. There is no major transportation or lifting required, no cranes are necessary. And it will cost considerably less.

The average cost ranges between $95 -$120 per yard, plus Stonemakers additives, stains and sealers. It takes about a day to install 100-120 ft of 4 ft wall. “Another side effect of building a wall using the StoneMakers process is added strength”, says Jamie Snyder. “Typical concrete will be between 3-4000 psi. The StoneMakers concrete recipe will be much stronger sometimes as much as 6-7000 psi.”


Retaining Walls: How to integrate them in your Swimming Pool Area

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Tue, May 08, 2012 @ 02:09 AM

retaining_wall_landscaping_nySince there is no such thing as a flat yard, the first thing, when building a pool is to think of where and how to create a flat level surface. Although there are a few different ways to create a flat area for your swimming pool, we want to focus in this article on different options for retaining walls and how to best integrate them in the landscape of your back yard.

Make it Look Great
Walls can be an eyesore and make the space looked close up, especially if they are too high and do not offer some attractive edge. The Albert Landscaping Group works with Stonemakers’ Concrete, which is versatile and easy to work with. Thanks to the special mixture, it is very strong and durable. Another plus for great-looking landscaping projects is, that Stonemakers’ product can easily be shaped and will look like natural stone when we are done.

Use it the Smart Way
There are also a few design tricks to integrate a retaining wall in the whole landscaping project. First of all: Do not build too high. If the slope is too steep, use grading and filling up in addition to the retaining wall. Also think of the wall as part of your living space. The wall does not have to look like the “Berlin wall” and just act as a divider. Why not build in a patio surrounded by a seat wall? The perfect place to gather after a dip in the pool. Plus: You do not have to gather dozens of chair to provide seating for your friends.

If you love to garden, you can easily add a beautiful flowerbed surrounded by a retaining wall. Did you look for a good place for a sandbox, a play area for your little ones or a BBQ-spot? Voila, here you are. There are plenty of ways to use the area enclosed by a low retaining wall.

Add Water Features
If the height difference between parts of your yard is significant, you can even use the elevation change to integrate a waterfall. The extra plumbing won’t make a big difference in the overall cost and you will add an eye-catching feature to your outdoor living space. The retaining wall does not have to be just functional; it can add beauty and space. Contact Jamie Snyder about the different options for your swimming pool project.


Inground Pools on Sloped Yard: 5 Ways to build

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Fri, May 04, 2012 @ 08:08 AM

retaining wall_landscaping_nyYou might wonder if the installation of an inground swimming pool is possible on a hillside. Be assured: Most yards are not flat. There are many landscaping options, which make the installation of an inground pool possible on a slope. Let us introduce some of them.

Retaining Walls
Retaining walls cannot only help to break up the slope, but also can add character to your pool project. Depending on the design of your pool, retaining walls can be installed on the uphill or the downhill side of your swimming pool.

StoneMakers Concrete
If natural stone is not an option, the new StoneMakers concrete, offers plenty of design options. StoneMakers’ propriety concrete product has the look and feel of real stone. We can completely custom color and design options and shape StoneMakers concrete into almost any design. Another advantage of using the StoneMakers process is added strength, which is important, if you want to build on a slope and soil pushes against the retaining wall. The StoneMakers product is twice as strong (6-7000 psi) as typical concrete (3-4000 psi).

Building up
Building the lower level up can be an option, but will mostly be used in addition to other landscaping projects, like a retaining wall. The reason is, that you can’t only use the excavated dirt. To guarantee a strong base and avoid future structural damage, the use of gravel or other compactable fill is strongly recommended. To avoid an even steeper slope from the pool downhill to the rest of the yard, there will be extra fill necessary. Make sure to get a good picture of the changing landscape of your yard, before you start the project. To be able to create a gentle slope, the yard also should be reasonable sized.

Grading and Landscaping
If you really do have enough space, talk to your landscaper about grading your property. The objective is to flatten the needed area while allowing for proper drainage. If the landscaping around the new project is done thoughtfully, you might even gain on enjoyable outdoor space.

Combining the Options
In most cases landscaping-expert Jamie Snyder recommends a combination of the above explained options. If you want to know, which landscaping possibilities would work best in your yard, contact The Albert Landscaping Group.


Insights as to why retaining walls fail – Part 2

Posted by James Snyder on Wed, Mar 09, 2011 @ 01:09 PM

The 6 top causes of retaining wall failure.

Retaining walls can fail for any number of reasons, some more common than others. Usually when a wall fails there is more than one thing wrong with the wall. One thing that all failed walls have in common is that the failure was avoidable.

1. Drainage not installed correctly – or at all - as we will see is sometimes the case.

Walls must be drained, if they are not you will have a problem. Depending on the season, amount of water and wall material the wall fail in different ways. Bt the point here folks is that the wall will fail.

retaining wall builder washingtonville nyNotice how this wall had no gravel behind it or around the drainige pipe

2. Soil not reinforced.

Geogrid is used to reinforce soil, forget to use it and all bets are off.

Check out how strong Geogrid is in this video below.

3. Base not correctly installed.

Base must be installed correctly. A wall cannot be balanced on a pad of gravel the same with as the wall material. At a minimum the base must be 3 times as wide as the first block and set deep enough to bury one block.

4. Rebar not correctly installed in concrete walls.

When building a concrete retaining wall rebar must be used correctly. The corners are especially tricky, I tried looking online for a picture of the correct way and only found one.

Here it is.retaining wall builder monroe nyAll the others looked like the picture below which is wrong.

retaining wall builder goshen ny



Below is what happens if you do it wrong. The wall is only 4 months old! In this photo the rebar is too few and not in the correct position.

retaining wall builder harriman ny

5. Block walls not installed correctly (you truly won’t believe this!)

Believe it or not there are contractors out there that build retaining walls upside down. A lot of them! It’s just stupid, but it happens. Here’s a picture of a retaining wall where the block is upside down, no drainage to speak of, no soil reinforcement, base too  high etc etc…

retaining wall installed upside down This wall shown here was built upside down. The slots should be facing up and the holes fasing down.

6. Some retaining walls need an engineer.

Don’t try and save money here. If your wall needs to be engineered hire one, preferably that specializes in walls. See, when an engineered wall fails it’s comes down to one of two things. Either the contractor did not follow the engineers plans or the engineers plans were bad.


In closing, retaining walls are projects that demand to be built correctly. Trying to save money on a wall is false economy. You will pay much more in the end if a wall fails.

I was motivated to write this article because of a story I had been told about a year ago that still sits in the back of my mind. I went to a retaining wall seminar at the New England Grows trade show. We learned all sorts of things about retaining walls that are only interesting to people like me that build them. The Speaker - Vern Dueck – has built more walls than probably anyone in I know of. He actually holds the patent for the Cornerstone wall system.

At the end of his seminar he told us about a friend of a friend that had asked about building a retaining wall. Vern told the guy based on his description of the project an engineer was required. Well people being people and trying to save money he decided to build the wall himself – without the help of an engineer. That guy did have help though, his wife and a plumber friend that had a small excavator to help dig. Nearing the end of the project the wall fell and killed his wife. The wall fell extremely fast, he was talking to her when it happened. This was 100% preventable.

Not every wall needs an engineer and truthfully most of the walls I build don’t. They are simply not tall or complicated enough. But when a retaining wall professional says the wall needs an engineer he’s not saying this to make his engineer friend rich. He’s telling you this because your project is not an off the shelf cookie cutter type of job. Besides a good engineer will save you money. You won’t over or under build it. Over building costs more because of materials, under building costs more because you do it twice or worse someone gets hurt.

Insights as to why retaining walls fail – Part 1

Posted by James Snyder on Sun, Feb 27, 2011 @ 36:12 PM


If you are reading this chances are you may be considering a retaining wall in the near future. Or you may have already had a wall installed that recently failed. Unfortunately folks, some people this year will buy a retaining wall that will fail. That’s a fact –some dishonest or unqualified contractor will take advantage of someone. Hopefully reading this will give you some basic knowledge so you can avoid being a victim. In a perfect world you would just be able to trust every contractor that showed up to bid and award the project to the lowest bidder and get the same quality of the highest bidder. This will seldom work out.

Check out the video below to hear a client of Albert Group Landscaping & Swimming Pools talk about what they went through when their retaining wall failed and how we helped them.

Failed retaining wall orange county NYHere is a 4 year old retaining wall that needs to be replaced - before it crashes into the homeowners 4 year old garage.

 There will be a lot of information here, so I will post this in two posts. For someone truly looking to buy a retaining wall– I promise to make this article worth the time to read.

Every year - in my relatively small service area - I receive 10-15 calls from people that have had a retaining wall fail. Now I’m not talking about an old tie wall that simply rotted away –I get another 20 or so calls for those. I’m talking about retaining walls less than 5 years old - some less than 1 year old - that have failed to 1 degree or another. I feel that it is my job here to give you the information you need whether it is good, bad or indifferent.

The Good:

If this wall has started to fail and is just leaning it has probably not hurt or killed anyone yet. The good thing is that you now know to keep your family away from it. It’s a good idea not to put anything in front of it either - like a car.

More Good:

You may have actually gotten lucky and learned a lifelong lesson. You get what you pay for. From now on - every project you do – you will also do your “due dillagence.”

The Bad:

When I receive the call for a failed retaining wall the conversation usually starts out like this. “I need someone to come over and give me an estimate to fix a retaining wall.” The bad is that not only are retaining walls not usually repairable, the material often needs to be replaced. See you might be able to re-stack a block retaining wall, but you will not get down to where the problem originated.

More Bad:

A retaining wall will most certainly cost more to fix than you originally paid to build it in the first place. Simply put there is more work to do now. Assuming when the wall was first installed there was no wall there, now you have all a failed wall to throw away. This is not cheap. Now if the reason the original wall failed is that you went with a low bidder, you’d be foolish to go the “cheap route” again.

Even more bad:

Trying to sue the original contractor will only make your lawyer rich. An honest lawyer will tell you that you will probably win the lawsuit. Now once you have a judgment against that contractor he will almost certainly have filed bankruptcy. I personally know of 4 contractors that have used this tactic to avoid payments of one form or another.

The indifferent:

Noting really is indifferent about a retaining wall failure. It will cost you time and money to fix. Your property will become a construction site again. Like buying car parts you are spending money just to get back to where you started.


Part 2 coming soon where I analyze:

The 5 top causes of retaining wall failure.

  1. Drainage not installed correctly – or at all - as we will see is sometimes the case.
  2. Soil not reinforced.
  3. Base not correctly installed.
  4. Re-bar not correctly installed in concrete walls.
  5. Block walls not installed correctly (you truly won’t believe this!)

I had the opportunity to interview Mr. & Mrs. Enriquez about their retaining wall project. They were generous enough to talk about what happend to them so that it won't happen to you!

To Scheule a free estimate with Albert Group Landscaping and Swimming Pools click here.



Download the FREE eBook

The Ultimate Buyer's Guide for Fiberglass Pools


Everything you need to know when buying a fiberglass pool. From the best time of year to buy and picking a contractor, to pricing, options, and add-ons!


Most Popular Posts