“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.