Definition of Terms:
Please contact us for assistance in determining the quantity of block, crushed rock backfill or leveling sand necessary for your project.
Bring in the measurements of your project. Our experienced staff is available to assist you.
Retaining wall installation is real quick and easy if you take care in correctly installing the first course.
The first course is the lowest row of blocks and likely won't show in your final project. However, maintaining a level first course is very important for a solid finished structure.
Each block needs to be set level by itself and level with the adjacent block. Once the base course is set, the rest of the wall goes together easily and quickly.
Core fill systems are stabilized by adding ½" crushed rock to inside of the block. The crushed rock works its way thru the wall and ties the whole wall together. The crushed rock is usually available at your local landscape supply distributor.
The taller the wall is being built, the more crushed rock will be required in the base. Please call us for specific recommendations or for calculating the necessary block required for your project.
Our experienced staff is available to assist you.
1) Excavate to the lines and grades required.
Dig a trench deep and wide enough to accommodate 2" to 4" of compactable, drainable leveling base and still be able to bury the bottom block. (For example: 4" of ½" crushed rock or recycled concrete depth + the 8" Cuesta wall block depth means your trench should be 10" to 12" deep.)
Note: If your property slopes, you may have to dig your foundation trench in a series of steps equal to the height of the blocks. Then, as you continue with construction, build up the lower sections with block until the stepped areas accept successive courses of blocks in a level and seamless wall.
2) Leveling pad in the trench bottom should be cut to a depth of 4".
To insure it is level, establish grades in the leveling pad by setting the tops of two 6' to 8' long "grade pipes" at each end of the wall. If the wall is long, a third pipe can be used in the center.
3) Mark the proper elevation.
To maintain the proper depth of the trench and keep it level while digging, tie a string or wire tightly between each "grade pipe". Use a plumb line to assist in determining the necessary depth. The string will also assist when leveling the ½" crushed rock base.
4) Line the trench with landscape fabric.
To prevent the soil from seeping through the spaces between the blocks, line the cavity with porous landscape fabric.
1) Spread leveling sand on the landscape fabric in the trench.
Use a rake or hoe to evenly distribute the sand to assist in leveling the crushed rock.
2) Distribute the ½" crushed rock in the trench.
Use a rake or hoe to evenly distribute the crushed rock between the poles in the trench to a depth of 4".
3) Level the pad.
The "grade pipes" and plumb line initially used for digging the trench are used again to insure the crushed rock in the bottom of the trench is level for the entire pad area. Use the string and plumb line to assist in leveling the ½" crushed rock along the entire length of the wall. (Another method of establishing the grade of the pad us to use a grade rod and transit or a laser level.)
4) Compact the ½" crushed rock.
Compact the crushed rock firmly so that it provides a level, drainable surface on which to place the first course of Cuesta block. A plate vibrating compactor may be used if the size of the project is extensive.
1) Start the wall at a fixed point.
Wall construction should start at a fixed point such as a building wall, 90° corner, or at the lowest elevation of the wall.
2) Place the first course of Cuesta on the base-leveling pad.
Repeatedly check the base course to ensure that each block is level from side to side and front to back and aligned perfectly with the neighboring block. Units must be in full contact with the base-leveling pad.
3) Carefully fill the unit cores.
Fill the unit cores and between the units, if working with curved walls, with core-fill material, (½" crushed rock is recommended). This technique helps lock the base block in place and maintain alignment.
4) Re-check to be sure the first course is level.
Before backfilling, check to be sure the first course is level and the core fill material is packed tight. The top of the first course should be approximately equal to or below ground level.
Tip: After the entire foundation course is installed, set one block in position at each end on top of the foundation course. Use a pair of line blocks and a line level to make sure that the first and last blocks are level with each other. If they are not, adjust the retaining wall blocks until the foundation course is completely level.
1) Place core fill material behind Cuesta units.
The core fill material should extend a minimum of 8" to 12" behind wall. This allows free drainage of water, which reduces the pressures applied to the backside of the wall. Taller walls require more back fill.
2) Sweep excess material from top of units.
Once the surface is swept clear of any core fill material, begin to install the next course. A gas powered leaf blower works well for this step.
1) Start the second course.
Cut one block in half for the start of the second course. This will ensure that the first and second courses are staggered.
2) A ½" set back is recommended for each successive course.
Between courses, it is recommended to allow a minimum of a ½" set back, thus creating "wall batter" which anchors the wall into the slope creating better stability and drainage. Set the rest of the second course blocks in place and then fill the trench around the foundation course with soil.
3) Back fill after each course.
When each course is completely unit filled, back fill and compact behind the wall in 8" lifts before the installation of the next course.
4) Check alignment after each course.
Each course requires that the block be placed side-by-side and aligned perfectly. To help with alignment, use a string along the backside of the block.
5) Repeat these steps with each course.
As you repeat these steps, also check the level of blocks to the string guide.
1) Installing the top row.
When installing the top row, turn the block over to create a flat surface. This is so you can adhere the cap to the flush surface of the top row of block. Use an exterior grade concrete adhesive to adhere the cap to the top wall block.
2) Backfill behind the wall.
Backfill behind the wall and compact to finished grade.
Gather all necessary materials and tools before beginning your project.
To maximize efficiency, coordinate a plan of placing your work materials within a reasonable distance from the project to reduce unnecessary trips and expending extra time and energy. Keep in mind, when the blocks are delivered, do not have the pallets set on your driveway because they are extremely heavy and can cause damage.
To accurately cut a block, score a line around it with a 3 ½" brick chisel and a 3 lb. sledgehammer. Place the cutting edge of the chisel in the center of the score line and strike the chisel sharply with the sledgehammer.
After the first course is placed, two or three courses may be set in place before the core fill is added.
Backfill materials should be installed in 8" lifts and compacted tightly for best drainage and stability.
When building two-tiered walls, keep in mind, the "range of action" is twice the height of the bottom wall. This means, if the lower wall is 2' tall, the upper wall should be built 4' behind the lower wall.
Before starting your project, check with local building codes as they can vary. Alleviate unpleasant surprises later.
For more information or further installation instructions on any of our wall systems, please contact us.
Please contact us with any special product order requests or questions.
Below are some of the most commonly requested documents, brochures and information. Let us know if you have a special request!
We are continually updating our brochures, listed below. So contact us or check back often to see the latest!
Each project has unique characteristics or challenges. Using your measurements, we will provide an estimate of product quantity necessary for your project. Call us at 303-833-4144 or contact us online with your request.
We can recommend various Landscape Professionals or, if you are the 'Do-It-Yourself' type, we provide these helpful installation instructions.
~ more install tips coming soon
Every industry has quirky terms that can be confusing especially if the product names sound alike, but are actually not comparable at all in quality or intended use. Contact us if you have any questions.
The ASTM International Standards Certifications awarded to St. Vrain Block are held in very high regard. Quality has been the foundation of our reputation since 1946. Please review our ASTM Certifications page for more information.