Decorative Block is a relatively new product in the Pacific Northwest, but their use has ‘caught on’ quickly. Now, you often see them used in many landscapes, for utility, interest – to create hardscaping, or as a feature itself. They have replaced the once-very familiar RR Tie wall or rockeries. They are much less expensive than concrete walls. They are safer, require much less maintenance, and require very little horizontal space to achieve a vertical gain (or almost, depending on the type of block used). With today’s smaller building lots, this can be very desirable in creating level usable spaces in the yard. Shades of Green Landscaping has designed and installed hundreds of decorative block walls – simple, complicated, formal, freeform, freestanding, and retaining walls. The location and design of these walls is a big factor in defining the style of landscape being installed and we recognize the importance of selecting just the right block as a basis for this part of the hardscaping. It is fun to discuss the possibilities with clients and help them visualize how they will look and work in their yard.
Decorative Blocks come in many patterns, colors, textures and sizes. They are appropriate for many styles of landscaping and definitely can add to the overall effect of the yard. They can be very formal or used in very freeform, casual yards….there are perfect blocks for every style – it is just a matter of imagination as to what can be done.
Decorative Blocks are usually used for building walls. Depending on the block, they can be freestanding walls or retaining walls. The blocks can be cut to fit a linear dimension or cut to create a perfect curve.
There are also special blocks for doing corners or columns that are incorporated into the layout and design so that all sides are finished.
Decorative Block walls have height limitations for their size, depending on the variety being used – these restrictions are usually at 24″, 48″, and 96″. There are also blocks that are fairly unlimited in height restriction, but these are massive and require special permitting and large equipment to install.
Besides walls, Decorative Blocks are often used for edging – to define an area, path, or to keep gravel/lawn/plantings separated.
In combination with many walls, a nice finishing touch is adding a capstone. These can be the same pattern or color as the wall, but more often, it is a contrasting color. Besides the aesthetics, it can provide a place for sitting, displaying a flower pot(s), or a wider/safer place to walk or gain access to a steep area or fully planted area for maintenance.
Lighting is often added to walls or columns – they can be fixtures, LED strips, glass block – there is so much available and in so many styles!
Decorative Blocks are easy to combine with concrete or paver paving and there are endless complementary combinations.
There are many manufacturers to select from, most must be ordered, as there are so many choices, and keeping them on-hand at a hardware store would require a lot of space….but there are specialty stores in the area to purchase them more quickly. Because of their weight and volume, usually delivery is necessary.
Decorative Blocks do not require a concrete foundation base, a major advantage in both cost and installation. Usually, it is recommended that there be a base course of compacted crushed rock, depending on the height of wall, type of block, and the type of soils and drainage on the site. Decorative Blocks are designed to ‘hold together’ and ‘stay’ where and as installed by virtue of their weight or individual design…..just stay within the manufacturer’s recommendations….. And, definitely consider any drainage issues that could present a problem to the wall’s integrity – drain tile and/or drain rock is always advisable if there is potential for there being a lot of water behind the wall.
Below are a few pictures of Decorative Block Walls and various ways they can be used:
The pavers, fire pit blocks and wall are all coordinated in color.
The block walls create an inviting ‘shortcut’ to the patio area; much better and more efficient that having to walk through the house and much prettier and elegant than just a ramped path.
During construction, this is a stackstone wall, requiring a footing and inner cinder block walls. It is topped with cut-to-fit capstones.
This block wall provides a nice bit of privacy from the sidewalk and street while creating an elevated, mini-courtyard between the street and front entry. The plantings ‘softens’ the wall and makes the entry very welcoming.
This block was used to make an outdoor kitchen and fireplace.
The wall steps up and follows the slope of the stamped concrete walkway to the back yard. The walls have capstone/lighting and the risers of the steps are made using the same type of capstones.
While the wall is fairly low, the blocks used are quite large. The curve of the wall defines the pleasing lines of the driveway.
Decorative Block Walls and small set of steps with flagstone stepping stone to lower yard add a lot of elegance to the once large concrete patio.
Clients wanted no bark or proximity to lawn. Built elevated paver patio with a planting level partly down. The bed was mulched with small rocks. The rest of the back yard is lawn.
The original connection from the front door to the street/sidewalk was a narrow, straight sidewalk with a few steps next to one another. Decorative Block Walls were installed, creating large planter areas, separate landings and offsetting one another to create interest.
This back yard is in-progress. Block walls were installed to terrace the slope so that the once steep areas could become a level planting area. Steps between the walls make getting to the huge back yard much easier than a steep slope.
Block walls define the fire pit area, providing lots of seating and keeping rambunctious kids contained. The same blocks were used for creating the surround/counters for the grilling area.
The block was extended to create a back support for this fire pit area over a stamped concrete patio.
To add a little softness and interest, this block wall has an added planting area along the new asphalt driveway. This also allows the wall not to be so imposing at the base of the downward sloped driveway.
Installed over the existing concrete patio of a condo, this wall gives some privacy and separation from the shared grassy common area grounds.
The front yard of this residence was raised to be functional. Block walls allow more level ground than the original slope the neighbors still have. Additionally, the wood steps up to the front door don’t seem so tedious with the break of material and a level landing along the way.
Rock slab steps connect the flagstone lower level patio to the upper patio. They divide a block wall. The contrast in materials is interesting and helps define the steps.
An amazing pergola, paver patio, fire pit and block wall with a fountain that recycles.