Pro Tips with Jamie Snyder

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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

                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.

Gabion

                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.

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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.”

landscaping_upstate_weekend_home

5 ways StoneMakers retaining walls have changed the industry FOREVER

Posted by James Snyder on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 @ 40:11 AM

StoneMakers retaining walls have changed the industry, that's a fact! Here are 5 examples of things that retaining walls can do now that were unthinkable before StoneMakers hit the market.

  1. StoneMakersSPEED - Build a 75' long by 4' tall retaining wall in 5.5 hours. That's not an exaggeration, it's actually an understatement. Just so you understand what used to take me THREE DAYS now takes 5.5 HOURS. You know what this means for the consumer - BETTER PRICES!
  2. VALUE - Make a retaining wall that looks like natural stone, but is stronger than stacked stone or stacked block for that matter. Put simply - you cannot get a stronger or better looking wall for the money.
  3. COLOR THEORY - Block retaining walls come in few colors. Some companies have more than others but the reality of it folks is that most companies hover around 6-7 color choices. StoneMakers has 33 colors! And to top it all off you never use just one, which would not look natural. To make our retainer walls look like natural stone we blend the StoneMakers colors. In the end we have an infinite number of colors to choose from.
  4. MONOLITHIC - Back in the day - say 2009 - If I wanted to make a wall look like natural stone I had two choices. Buy natural stone or use cultured stone as a veneer over some type of concrete wall. This wall could be block or poured but the outcome was the same. Sure cultured stone looks fine if done right. Done wrong it looks like the wall has zits. Either way it's nowhere near as strong as a monolithic (one continuous piece) wall is. And Natural stone is flat out expensive.
  5. ENVIORNMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE - No forms mean no waste. Even if every contractor recycled their forms the wood wasted is staggering. A small retaining wall may have a few hundred pounds of wood used as forms. Multiply that times the number of jobs that contractor does a year and you can see how that ads up. With StoneMakers there is ZERO wood to throw away.

Want a professional to come to your home or business and give you a free estimate for your StoneMakers project? CLICK HERE!

Top 5 questions people ask when buying a retaining wall.

Posted by James Snyder on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 @ 15:01 PM

As a retaining wall contractor I get all sorts of questions. Below are the 5 most common questions I am asked about building retaining walls.

1.       What type of material should I make my wall out of? These days there are 2 basic choices block or concrete. The railroad tie or plain old wood tie walls are a thing of the past and rightfully so. They don’t last. If you are building a wall now - SRW (segmented retaining wall) blocks or concrete is the way to go.

retainer wall cornwall ny

Old "Railroad Tie" wall

Retaining wall cornwall NY

New retaining wall made from SWR (segmented retaining wall) block.

2.       I’ve heard all about these new types of walls without forms – what are they and are they any good? The new walls you are referring to are StoneMakers retaining walls. These walls are not only good they are the best! It’s everything a homeowner could want. Strong, beautiful and affordable. 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.

3.       I have a lot of water issues, what can I do? Well seems like you already did everything you had to. Telling your contractor about water issues you know for sure to be a problem is essential. Keeping these things secret does no one any justice. Automatically your contractor should build your wall to NCMA specifications. But if he or she is not NCMA certified they might not even know about these specifications so helping them out by telling them about any potential problems is beneficial to all involved. Click here to learn more about the NCMA.

4.       Do I need a building permit for this? Well that depends on a few things. Your local building department will be able to tell you right away. Unfortunately every building department can make their own rules on this so guessing or saying “usually such and such can be done without a permit” is useless. Better to ask for permission than forgiveness.

5.       I only plan on staying here x number of years more. Can this be built cheaper? Sure, but not by me. It’s my job to be honest and the problem here folks is that a wall can either be built to spec or not. The real issue lies in that no one has a spec for a wall built to last 3- 4 years. It’s either built to spec or it’s not, that’s it. I had a customer that had a wall built by another contractor and it lasted three days! Not 3 weeks, not 3 months – 3 DAYS! They were kind enough to open up their home to me one weekend and allowed me to interview them on camera. What they went through was horrible and for them to talk about it with me so that others may avoid their pain speaks volumes as to how caring they are. This video was taken about a year ago and I have since done more projects with them and have more planned. 

To have Albert Group come out and discuss your retaining wall project click here.

StoneMakers Skeptic Turned Believer - Concrete walls without forms!?!

Posted by James Snyder on Tue, Dec 21, 2010 @ 04:10 PM

WellStoneMakers Licensed Dealer I am on my way home on Delta flight 2508 enjoying the free web access and reflecting on my week of StoneMakers training. First of all, A sincere Thank You to David Montoya. David Founded StoneMakers and was our host & trainer along with his son and crew. Also joining us was a StoneMakers dealer from LI (the island - as we call it) Peter Castillo of Castilloscapes in LI. If you are reading this and live in LI call up Pete, he's THE guy.

Well what can I say, EVERYTHING StoneMakers claims is true! I can't believe it myself. Truth is, what we learned should not work according to everything I've ever been told about concrete. And, the results speak for themselves, just check out the videos below.

The idea is simple. Make a wall that is monolithic, and have it look like stone. As simple as it sounds, it is just not possible unless you can get the concrete to stand up vertically without forms. Sure you can make a wall with forms or out of block and then add a veneer later, but that's not monolithic and it's expensive. You could also make a wall and add a layer of concrete on top and stamp it but that layer will be thin and not have much depth to it. Both of these techniques are subject to de-lamination. Now with the StoneMakers process we can create a wall or patio without forms and add  texture before it has cured. Not only that, any shape you can dream up (within reason) can be achieved. Want a bench that looks like a tree? No problem. How about a giant waterfall that looks like cliff rock? - I'll take mine in gray with tan hi-lights please. Want your new wall to match the brown tones of your home? We can do that too. The possibilities are endless.

A side effect of building a wall using the StoneMakers process is added strength. Typical concrete will be between 3-4000 psi. Because the StoneMakers product is also a water reducer and water makes concrete weak. The StoneMakers concrete recipe will be much stronger sometimes as much as 6-7000 psi.

If you have any questions please feel free to comment or call me at 845-283-8787.

Albert Group Landscaping & Swimming Pools - StoneMakers newest Dealer

Posted by James Snyder on Thu, Dec 16, 2010 @ 44:12 AM

stonemakers dealer logo

About two months ago I came across the StoneMakers Company while checking out retaining wall videos on Youtube. I know what you are thinking. What kind of guy watches videos about retaining walls? Well luckily for my customers it's the kind of landscaper that loves what he does that checks out the latest hardscape videos for fun.

At first I was very skeptical of the video and what was being shown. Can it be true? Build a retaining wall out of concrete that looks like natural stone. Does not use forms and is more economical than natural stone. I smelled SCAM but... on the slim chance that something would really be as advertized I filled out some kind of form on the website. Well, the next day I received a call from Dick Conley. Dick was very helpful on the phone and laid out the process of becoming a dealer. He also suggested I do my due diligence and call some dealers and he emailed me the contact info for 6 dealers. Now being skeptical and figuring it was a cherry picked list I was about to stop the process right there. But I was very interested in the product so I asked for a list of every StoneMakers dealer. Dick gladly e-mailed me a list of all the dealers and I began to call them all. I know having been a dealer for many other products that an upset dealer is not shy about their feelings. Well immediately I was receiving a common message.

  1. The StoneMakers people are great to deal with and will go out of their way to support their dealers.
  2. The product does everything they say it will.
  3. When you go to the dealer training get your hands dirty. Do not just watch.

After almost 50 phone calls I was convinced. I talked it over with my wife Varje and we decided to go for it. Due to some scheduling issues I missed the next dealer training event. But I'm here in Dallas Texas now and I've seen it with my own two eyes. I could go on forever with all it can do but if you are interested check out one of the videos that got me interested in the beginning. I will also be adding new video and pictures from the training over the next few days.

 

 

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