Launch Slideshow

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Another Brick in the Wall

Another Brick in the Wall

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    A survey shows more masonry contractors are installing segmental retaining wall systems, such as this one by Belgard Landscapes.

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    Free-standing wall system. With its rich, textured appearance, the Anchor Highland Stone Free Standing Wall system complements any home or landscape. Units are available in two heights and three face lengths to create a random look and in the same colors as the Highland Stone retaining wall system. Free-standing walls can be straight or curved. Column units are available in two heights to construct structural and decorative pillars. Anchor Wall Systems. 877-295-5415. www.anchorwall.com.

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    Mosaic walls offer random-pattern look. The VERSA-LOK Mosaic Retaining Wall System is designed for random-pattern retaining walls without height limitations. It accommodates straight walls, curves, corners, stairs, freestanding walls and columns for a versatile system suitable for residential, commercial, and government projects. The Mosaic system comprises three VERSA-LOK retaining wall units in a four-unit panel: one Standard unit (82 lbs.), one Cobble unit (38 lbs.) and two Accents (36 lbs.). Each Mosaic panel measures 10 in. high by 24 in. wide by 12 in. deep. The Weathered Mosaic texture option offers a naturally aged, antique appearance and additional design potential. VERSA-LOK. 800-7704525. www.versa-lock.com.

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“We have two crew leaders who are trained and certified for SRW installation,” says vice president Ike Stauffer. “And it's good that we're able to offer the service. For much of the SRW work, we're working along with Horst's excavation division, preparing sites for construction.”

Content for now to keep SRWs as a sideline, Stauffer says that if Horst wanted to expand that business very much, it would probably set up a separate division with a different labor force and wage scale to compete more effectively with the landscape contractors that do most SRW installation.

Nashville-based Wasco Inc. is one of the largest commercial masonry contractors in the country, with more than 500 employees and about $40 million in annual sales.

Wasco has been installing segmental retaining walls for about 12 years, but the firm only recently established a separate division called Sitescapes to handle structural retaining walls, interlocking pavement, and other sitework.

Sitescapes roject manager Steve Fechino says they've cross-trained the retaining wall crews not only to install concrete pavers and rooftop pavers, but also to do tuckpointing and other masonry restoration work. The cross-training provides flexibility to deploy the crews for different tasks, depending on the needs of current projects.

Fechino also expects the retaining wall market to grow as undeveloped land in metropolitan areas becomes harder to find and more work is needed to enhance the grade of more difficult sites for construction (see sidebar). Branching out into segmental retaining walls from conventional masonry isn't easy, nor is it one that all masonry contractors will want to make. But those who do will appreciate the expert support and advice that experienced SRW producers can provide.

— Kenneth A. Hooker is a freelance writer based in Oak Park, Ill. This article first appeared in the May 2008 issue of THE CONCRETE PRODUCER, MASONRY CONSTRUCTION's sister magazine published by Hanley Wood.