ReCon precast retaining wall system provides a creative, versatile solution for an upscale backyard retreat.
By Shari Held
From the road the New England home is impressive on its own. But the addition of an intricately detailed, three-tiered retaining wall system to the backyard in 2017, makes the upscale property even more unique.
The project scope was ambitious. The two walls (22 feet and 14 1/2 feet in height) totaled 10,000 square feet. The wall system features built-in terraces – three on one side, two on the other. Highlights include a dining/entertainment terrace, a built-in water slide leading to an in-ground swimming pool and two stairways.
ReCon: A natural choice
Through research, it was determined granite slabs would be cost-prohibitive and replicating a textured granite finish would have been difficult and costly using cast-in-place concrete. Dennis McClain, owner of North Reading, Mass.-based MDM Construction and the project’s general contractor, had worked with ReCon blocks before and suggested it to the customer.
Besides being cost-effective, ReCon retaining wall systems can achieve great height without using reinforcement. The interlocking tongue and groove blocks measure 16-inches-by-48-inches with variable depths from 24-to-84 inches. Block weights range from 1,400-to-4,100 pounds.
But it was essential to create a wall system that meshed with the scale and look-and-feel of the pink Deer Island granite mansion.
Ultimately it came down to aesthetics. The customer liked the look of ReCon’s North Shore granite texture wall finish, a standard item for Shea Concrete Products.
“The size of the granite used for the house and the size of our block complemented each other well,” said Larry Cutts, project manager with Shea Concrete Products, which is headquartered in Amesbury, Mass. “From the very beginning, our wall looked like it belonged there.”
Almost every project encounters a few glitches. For this one, the plan was a work in progress.
“The customer gave me a rough idea of what he wanted, and we just went with it,” McClain said.
This required frequent changes that necessitated on-the-fly implementation. Using ReCon blocks proved instrumental in surmounting this challenge.
“Our blocks are very versatile,” said Greg Stratis, president and operations manager of Shea Concrete Products. “You can make adjustments easily as you are building the wall.”
Fast delivery also helped. MDM ordered materials for next-day delivery – typically two- to-three truckloads. Over the course of the year-long project, Shea Concrete Products delivered 65 truckloads of material.
One big challenge was the installation of the stairways connecting the terraces. The stairways required plumb vertical walls. However, ReCon retaining wall system blocks are designed with a setback of one-inch per course which, if left uncorrected, would create a widening gap. MDM solved that issue by trimming one inch off the back of the key to pull the block all the way forward into vertical alignment, ultimately eliminate any gapping. The wall design was reconfirmed with zero-degree wall batter.
Walls done well
Everyone was pleased with the results, with Stratis even being offered a tour of the house by the owner when the job was complete.
“This contractor and the owner had the budget and the mindset to do something a little outside of the box,” Cutts said. “It came out really well.”
Shari Held is an Indianapolis, Ind.-based freelance writer who has covered the construction industry for more than 10 years.