View original topic: Dry Stack Concrete Block Page: 1, 2  Next
djkeev Mon Dec 23, 2019 4:54 pm

So, I'm planning an addition and I was talking to my Brother about it.

He has been a contractor in NJ since 1975.
He was saying that in recent years he has moved away on some projects from mortar based block and has come to favor the dry stack method.

It has vertical runs of rebar in concrete filled hollows.
It can be completely filled with concrete or you can do SBC parge (Surface Bonding Concrete) on the sides after it is stacked.

Anyone has constructive feedback?

Doing some reading about the system, it certainly makes sense.

Honestly, I've seen a LOT of failed mortar bonds in my lifetime!


busdaddy Mon Dec 23, 2019 5:22 pm

djkeev wrote: Anyone has constructive feedback?
Here's some deconstructive feedback, having demo'd a few block buildings the ones with filled walls were a major pain, just as hard to break up as a foundation wall or slab with bar in it.

Manfred58sc Mon Dec 23, 2019 5:31 pm

I've done 2 foundations that way. I was trained by a Mexican contractor , they use this method up to 2 stories there. Goes quick and holds fast. Will not pass code...

calvinater Tue Dec 24, 2019 3:14 am

Erect forms, reinforce with rebar and fill with concrete.

photogdave Tue Dec 24, 2019 10:26 am

Whichever way you go make sure you have effective perimeter drainage!
I know you will but I feel better saying it.

Splitdog Tue Dec 24, 2019 4:03 pm

If you use no mortar, but fill each hollow with rebar and concrete, it will never fail. (As long as the foundation is adequate.) The outside SBC coating will just be for asthetics and to keep water out. The strength will come from the concrete and rebar.

coad Tue Dec 24, 2019 8:50 pm

Just don't fall for those styrofoam blocks you stack up and fill with concrete. I did two basements with those things and they were a nightmare.

djkeev Wed Dec 25, 2019 6:17 am

Without a doubt the World of masonry is changing!
I remember when redi-mix was a relatively new thing without the tedious on site mixing.
Trucks could only get just so close to the location so a lot of wheel barrow work and shoveling was required.

Now we have redi-mix with pumper trucks placing concrete within inches of where it is needed.
We have vibrators to remove air pockets.

We have trucks that will mix what you want on site and place it.

For wall systems we went from home cast units, hollow tile and weak Cinder Block to precision high strength concrete (CMU).

The old standard of poured concrete foundations is still around with handmade wooden plywood foams (a huge step up from individual boards) or commercial grade reusable steel forms.

Yes, those foam based units are readily available now too (never liked them)

Then came Superior Walls, I sold them for awhile here in Pennsylvania. No concrete footings, just a level bed of small crushed gravel. A foundation in a day. It had early resistance but is now a proven product..... though NOT at all a cheap DIY system.

Dry stacked filled block just seems like an "easy" answer, if working concrete is ever easy!?

And footings? The digging, the trenches, the form work!
Stumbled across this product..... I may try it....

I have other thoughts on footings too. It just seems that what we do today is at times overkill.
Look at the old Stone buildings of yesterday, there isn't a drop of concrete holding them up. Yet they stand for hundreds, if not thousands of years!

But, codes are codes........

Can't go fighting City Hall too much!


calvinater Wed Dec 25, 2019 8:36 am

Can you cut the stone as precise as the Mayans did?

calvinater Wed Dec 25, 2019 8:38 am

The Romans used concrete that is still standing today, 1500 years later.

djkeev Wed Dec 25, 2019 9:55 am

calvinater wrote: The Romans used concrete that is still standing today, 1500 years later.

I've read that no one today knows their formula.

I think of their ancient concrete and then look at America's aging and failing concrete infrastructure that is for the most part what? ...... 150 years old or less!


Splitdog Wed Dec 25, 2019 10:22 am

There is nothing today as cheap and strong as steel reinforced concrete construction. Flat-out. The bang for buck is huge.

coad Wed Dec 25, 2019 7:24 pm

I was just in the basement of a house built in the 1970's, and it was one of the first with a wood framed basement. When they built them they couldn't give them away--there was no way wood basement walls would survive, and it almost bankrupted the builder who built them. I don't think anyone in my area has tried them since.

Anyway, it was in perfect condition. You still couldn't sell them, but if I were ever stupid enough to build a house for myself I'd think long and hard about doing a wood basement.

djkeev Thu Dec 26, 2019 5:47 pm

I do wonder how perfect that assembly is.
I've seen a lot if old pressure treated lumber that visually looked to be whole and strong, but had the structural integrity of balsa wood!


coad Fri Dec 27, 2019 5:40 am

djkeev wrote: I do wonder how perfect that assembly is.
I've seen a lot if old pressure treated lumber that visually looked to be whole and strong, but had the structural integrity of balsa wood!


The thing I keep going back to is that with wood (or dry stacking that started this thread) at least the builder could do it himself.

I'm out of it and never want back in, but I remember when a builder could make money doing a basement--it was an important part of his profit on the whole house. He laid his own block or at the very least formed up his own walls with some cheap plywood forms.

Now it's all brick-mold forms, and pump trucks, and whether he's renting them or just hiring a specialty sub to do it for him, the profit's gone and he's just writing checks. Its not just the money either--how does a builder convince a customer to hire him instead of the other guy when every builder on the street is using the same subs and basically building to the same quality?

cdennisg Fri Dec 27, 2019 7:14 pm

I have built on standard concrete and steel foundations, various foam block/lego type contraptions filled with concrete and rebar, and even one of those concrete-and-styrofoam-beads style of blocks that was glue together with spray foam and filled with mud in eight foot lifts. It is three stories tall, and built on a hillside at a ski area with tons of snow. That was in 1997.

All of them are still standing, doing just fine, and have their advantages and disadvantages. The lego-style foam blocks are very handy for small additions. Poured concrete walls and footings are my preferred version around here, but we rarely build with a full basement due to high water tables.

I have done one full basement house, with all basement walls of solid concrete at a full eight feet tall. That is a very nice house, and still doing quite well. We built it in the summer of 2003.

I just did a second story addition on my own home in the summer/fall of 2018. Due to my constraints with adding on to an old foundation and needed a new one to support a second story, I went with solid concrete footings and stem walls.

If I were to build new right now, with only a crawl space, I would seriously consider using a version of foam blocks or dry stacked cement blocks. The tech is worth a look.

calvinater Sat Dec 28, 2019 5:18 am

Which ever method you choose, be sure to waterproof the exterior and install drainage pipe around perimeter with fabric and washed stone, keep it flush with top of footing and run pipe out to daylight, no more than 1/4" per foot pitch.
Also gutters help to keep water away from foundation.

djkeev Sun Dec 29, 2019 2:17 pm

Yeah, I'm doing a stem wall crawl space foundation for a small addition, I used to be in the trade doing additions and remodels but have been out of it for 15 years now.

The land is very slightly pitched where the addition will go. A day light drain is a must have no matter what I do.
I wish the owner/builder did a daylight on the full basement back in 1967!
A future "fix" that I'll probably never do........

I'm looking to do it all myself, just a one story 14x17 with a modest pitch roof.
Money is an issue but I want it done right never-the-less.

I'll run to the building department tomorrow and see if they accept dry stack block.

Thanks for the feed back and opinions.


Splitdog Sun Dec 29, 2019 2:28 pm

Hearst Castle is a prime example of what can be achieved using steel reinforced concrete construction.

cdennisg Sun Dec 29, 2019 7:14 pm

Let us know how it goes. Dealing with building departments can be a challenge.

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