Learn the "Square Foot Unit"

Build in Units to avoid cuts.


The beauty of working with Euro block is their modular design.  Sure you can build in a traditional stacked bond, but you will incur more cuts.  By building with a "square foot unit"  you can build in four inch increments.  Many times you will eliminate the need for cuts.  Also, you can create more "stone look" random patterns.  Once you start thinking of these units as single pieces, you won't return to stacked bond.  Learn to see the square foot unit in my designs and try to incorporate the square foot units in your own designs.


The square foot unit is simply three block configured as shown.  The face of this unit is 12" x 12".  Thus it is a square foot.  The unit has a depth of 8 inches.  Think of this unit as one block.  This will simplify building.  Just rotate and flip this unit as you build for a random look.  Avoid long vertical bond lines for added strength.


Build a wall section

Flip and turn units for randomness.



Once you start learning to see and use "Square foot Units" (SFUs), you can easily build structures in four inch increments.  Just be sure to flip and turn the unit to create a random look.  Be sure not to create long vertical joints in your structure.  Many people ask me if the horizontal lines every foot bother me.  No.  Think about a traditional brick house.  there is a horizontal line around the entire structure every 2.5 inches!  True, you can come up with a more elaborate pattern to eliminate horizontal lines as well as vertical lines, but it is usually unnecessary.  Hardscape features are rarely tall enough to warrant such a pattern.  If they are tall, they are usually not very long.  If they are very tall and long, they are surely out of the scope of a do-it-yourselfer.  Here you can see a row of randomized SFUs.  All we need to do is start 4 or 8 inches off of this for our next run.  You could start with a single block or a double block.  I am only showing SFUs for the sake of this illustration.  As you can see, you can easily stack the wall or feature as you build.

Mind your verticals as you rotate the SFU.  You always want a vertical to hit the middle third of a block placed lengthwise above or below it.  This can be a single unit, or a double unit lying lengthwise.



Finish out wall sections

Just use single or double units.

Now you know how easy it is to build a random looking wall with SFUs.  You can now learn how easy it is to start or finish a wall section.  You have read how you can build in linear 4" increments, well, this is how.  You can easily add a single Euro block to the end of a run for four inches, or add a double block for an 8" segment.  There is also a probability that you want to build a wall that is a whole number of feet and no more.  If you were to stack and turn SFUs on the second row, you would still get vertical bond lines every 12".  This is easy to solve.  Just divide one SFU.  Start with either the single or double unit.  Add the remaining pattern in Square Foot Units.  Then, finish the run with the rest of your "divided" SFU.  If you started with a single, end with a double.  If you started with a double, end with a single.  You will still come out on a whole foot.



Make a corner

Think of the unit as one block.

You have now mastered building with the Square foot Unit (SFU) and terminating on any given 4 inch segment.  But you are wondering how to build a strong corner.  There are really only two main things to remember.  First, think of each SFU as one block.  Second, always keep corner blocks horizontal.  DO NOT turn a corner SFU so that there is a vertical joint.  After following these two rules, just alternate the units every course.  This will create the typical interlocking corner found in traditional masonry. See illustration at left.  You should know how to end your run at any point as per the earlier instructions.  Be sure to glue every block together when creating corners.  Remember to use a level to keep everything plumb and square.  Your corners are the most important part of the build after the foundation.  Take time to get the corners LEVEL, PLUMB, and SQUARE.



build in 8" and 4" increments

It is simple, but may need cuts.

I know, I know.  Not everything needs to be built in 12" increments tall.  It could, you would just have to dig more dirt and buy more block.  But, that seems counter-productive  on at least a couple of levels.  If you have to build an eight inch section, simply flip the block as shown.  The good news is that this "odd" course looks best as the top of a structure.  It should not be in the middle, or the bottom.  Trust me, I have tried them all.  This is awesome, because you build up in 12" courses, then top it off in an 8" course.  Then, cap the wall and go.  The bad news is that you may need to cut or break a block or two to end a run correctly.  Sometimes, you can turn it in and ignore the extra block.  Many times, this won't work.


If you need to add a 4" section, well that is easy (kind of).  True, you just add a run of single blocks lined in a row.  This looks acceptable on the top course.  It is better to know ahead of time that you are going to need the extra course.  Then, you can bury that 4" course and nobody would know.  If you are building on top of an existing pad, the jury is still out over whether it is better to add it first or last.   Once again, you may need to cut a block to terminate at the 4" length you need.


Avoid vertical bond lines

Just pay attention a little bit.

What the heck is a bond line?  That is the space between two block where they come together.  The random "bond lines" is what gives these block a random stone look.  As in any masonry, the structure is stronger with staggered vertical joints.  Think about brick.  Each brick is offset (usually halfway) from the brick above and below it.  This is half bond.  Many brick also work on third and quarter bonds.  These block actually would work on a third bond.  4 inches is one third of twelve, and 8 inches is two thirds - third bond.  These block are more versatile than most brick because they can be turned on their sides.  Anyway, that is a very quick intro to bond lines.


To keep your structure strong, you must avoid long vertical bond lines.  Try to avoid any longer than 12".  Long horizontal bond lines are fine.  It is the vertical joints we are concerned with.  When starting a new course of block on top of your course of SFUs, start with a single or double block to stagger the joints.  If you do not stagger the bond line by at least a third, there will be long vertical joints even if you rotate your SFU.  See the above illustration.  It is a checkerboard of SFUs.

Moreover, just because you stagger your SFUs, it doesn't guarantee you won't encounter a long bond line scenario.  If you were to build in horizontally placed Square Foot Units only, you would be safe.  The problems can arise when you turn an SFU in a horizontal orientation.  This creates two 12" vertical joints.  There is one on each side of the single vertical block.  This creates room for problems to occur.  Do not worry, it can still be done. You need to be sure not to allow these vertical joints to continue along the edge of SFUs above and below.  See the illustration to the left.  The SFUs are staggered, but the red units are turned vertically.  They are placed in such a way that they create long vertical joints with the units below them.   You always want a vertical to hit the middle third of a block placed lengthwise above or below it.  See the illustration of proper installation.  You can see how we simply turned some units to fix our problem.  You may come across a vertical that is properly placed on the unit below, but due to spacing, the best you can do is turn the block where it creates a 16" vertical joint.  This is acceptable.  While not ideal, it is much better than a 24" vertical joint.  Just pay attention and all will be well.


Build on slopes

Just add more block.



One thing you may notice is that everything is planned for being built on level grade.  That is great if you have level grade or plan on laying down a base of pavers and building everything on the same level base.  But in the real world, it isn't necessarily so.  You probably have some less-than-level to downright-sloping areas in your landscape.  This is usually no problem.  (If your yard is greater than 2:1 slope, I recommend calling a professional.)  Just throw more money at it.  All joking aside, you need to build your structures level.  You just will have to step the footing and add more block.


Here is how to do it.  On walls, be sure to bury 4" of wall/feature.  Bury 1/6th of the exposed height of a column in the ground. If your column is 60" tall, bury 10" deep (at least).  Do not build a column over 72" tall (exposed).  When stepping the footer, be sure a minimum of 4" of block is below grade (at least) before stepping the footing.  If stepping the footing will make less than 4" be buried at any point (even just a little bit), you must bury more block and step the footing at a different point.  You need to keep a minimum of 4" buried, not an average of 4" buried.  Thus, building on a slope means you will need  extra block.  This accounts for the fact that you bury more block to keep your minimums.  You can see from the illustration, that all the minimums are met.   For the sake of clarification, the actual rock footing is not depicted - only the block.


Cap Your Walls

There is no shortage of options.

You have stayed with me this far, so you are on your way to becoming a Euro master.  Pat yourself on the back.  We are almost done with the tutorials and you are almost done with your structure.  To finish it, we need to cap it.  First off, let me clear the air.  No, there is not one single huge magical piece of stone to cap your walls with.  They don't exist for anyone.  They are made of smaller, manageable parts.  So how do you manage those parts?  Easy.  You can choose to cap the top with euro block turned sideways.  This will give you a 12" wide cap.  This is perfectly acceptable.  Many times, however, this is a heavy looking cap for the feature you are building. See the illustration at the top.


I prefer to use Romanstone Ledge Rockā„¢ to cap my walls.  Not only do they afford you multiple color options, they are the right size and extremely durable.  They come in four sizes, but we are going to focus on three.  Here are the sizes you should familiarize yourself with: 12x12, 6x12, and 6x9 inch pieces.  The 12x12 works extremely well, and suits seat walls perfectly.  My butt fits on a 9" cap, but it really appreciates more support - Yours will, too.  The 6x12 is nice because you can stagger the bond line by half so your 12x12 bond lines don't end up exactly over the 12" bond line created by SFUs.  You can see how I achieved this in the second illustration.  12x12 caps are used along the length once the bond is staggered.


The third illustration shows the power of adding a double 6x9 to the run of caps.  Two of the 6x9 caps create the twelve inch depth, but add an extra 3" length option instead of just 6" length options by using a 6x12.  By using the double 6x9 you will have a much greater range of lengths to cap your wall.  You may not hit a length perfectly, but you can adjust the overhang on the ends to make it work.  Here I was able to use the extra 3" afforded by using the 6x9 pieces and add an overhang on the ends of my wall section - not just the front and back of the wall.

If you are capping a small feature, or a non sitting feature, you can simply use a row of 6x9 caps.  This way, they won't overhang into a possible planting area, and you save some money along the way.  Of course, you can always cap in 12x12 pavers if you prefer.  Something to think about:  You can add a double cap to some premium features.  Cap with a row of 6x9 pavers first.  Follow that up with a row of 12" wide pavers to create the hardscaping equivalent of crown molding.  Like all crown molding, it costs a bit extra, but the look can be very attractive.  I actually use double caps on all the feature walls and piers at my own house.  Though, I probably have more money and class than you.  Oh yeah?  Prove me wrong, then.