BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to retaining walls, and more particularly, but not by way of limitation, to retaining wall blocks specifically formed to be of light weight construction, and methods of their manufacture.
2. History of Related Art
Retaining walls having been used in general construction, and particularly in landscaping for many years. The design of and the materials used for retaining walls have varied over time. Retaining walls are typically used to support or retain soil or the like in place, but also may be used to enhance the appearance of a surrounding area. Such walls typically stand on a ground region and retain therebehind an earthen section or other fill material, which earthen section would otherwise form a natural slope in place of the retaining wall. Such retaining walls are typically vertical, or at a slight angle. A generally retaining wall may begin to deform as the mass of the earth retained behind it presses against it. A wall must resist this tendency. In addition, designers of retaining walls are constantly striving to construct retaining walls providing greater strength for support of a greater weight.
One of the most popular, and aesthetically pleasing forms of retaining wall construction involves the use of manually positionable individual blocks. The blocks may be stacked one on top of the other to form a pattern on an outside face of the retaining wall. It can be very time consuming and tedious aligning numerous blocks to form the proper pattern in the retaining wall. Moreover, a retaining wall may have one or more curved portions. The very design of many retaining wall blocks encompasses the exposed face which may be curved or flat. Irrespective of the shape of the face of the block, the weight of the block is of tantamount importance. Various approaches have been taken in retaining wall block design to reduce weight.
Related art references discussing subject matter bearing some relation to matters discussed herein include U.S. Pat. No. 5,941,042 to Dueck (Dueck), U.S. Pat. No. Re. 37,278 to Forsberg (Forsberg), U.S. Pat. No. 5,704,183 to Woolford (Woolford), U.S. Pat. No. 4,964,761 to Rossi (Rossi), U.S. Pat. No. 5,214,898 to Beretta (Beretta), U.S. Pat. No. 5,294,216 to Sievert (Sievert), U.S. Pat. No. 5,711,130 to Shatley (Shatley), U.S. Pat. No. 5,484,236 to Gravier (Gravier), German Gebrauchsmuster DE 295 00 694 U1 to Ming Su (Ming Su), U.S. Pat. No. 5,865,006 to Dawson (Dawson), U.S. Design Pat. No. 380,560 to Forsberg, U.S. Design Pat. No. 384,168 to Stevenson, U.S. Design Pat. No. 397,451 to Stevenson, U.S. Pat. No. 5,540,525 to Miller (Miller), U.S. Pat. No. 5,800,097 to Martin (Martin), U.S. Pat. No. 5,487,623 to Anderson et al (Anderson), U.S. Pat. No. 5,881,511 to Keller, Jr. (Keller), U.S. Pat. No. 5,524,551 to Scheiwiller (Scheiwiller), U.S. Pat. No. 6,260,320 B1 to Di Lorenzo (Di Lorenzo), U.S. Pat. No. 5,226,275 to Trahan (Trahan), U.S. Pat. No. 4,824,293 to Brown et al. (Brown), U.S. Pat. No. 5,522,682 to Egan (Egan), and U.S. Pat. No. 6,176,059 B1 to Cantarano et al (Cantarano). Dueck discloses a retaining wall block with downward-extending cylindrical knobs. Forsberg discloses pins and pockets for interlocking overlapping blocks. Woolford discloses a masonry block which has a centrally-located and dogbone-shaped, or two centrally-located circular, protrusions aligned with an opposing inset (or insets) extending partially into the block. Rossi discloses dry-mounted construction elements for use in a retaining wall with a series of openings within each block. Beretta discloses retaining wall blocks with a cambered front, tapering side walls and an abutment for engagement with an adjacent lower block. Sievert discloses a solid composite masonry retaining wall block with a flange extending down from the block back surface past the height of the block. Shatley discloses a retaining wall building block with rearward and forward lugs extending downward, holes extend through the blocks and pins for interlocking them together. Gravier discloses retaining wall blocks with an upward lateral extending front lip and a laterally extending recess. Ming Su apparently discloses a retaining wall block with upward-extending cylindrical knobs. Dawson discloses a retaining wall block with a flange extending downward from the block's rear surface. The Forsberg design patent discloses a three faceted broken front face retaining wall block with a rear edge protrusion from the bottom surface of the block. The 384,168 Stevenson design patent discloses a retaining wall block with 2 rear protrusions from the bottom surface of the block. The 397,451 Stevenson design patent discloses a portion of a retaining block wall using the retaining wall blocks of the 384,168 design patent. Miller discloses a groove in the side of a block and uses a small slat inserted in the groove. Martin discloses an array of projections on the top face of a block that fits into an array of apertures on a bottom face of a higher block. Anderson discloses vertical rods inserted through holes of the blocks in order to form reinforced columns. Keller discloses block having a dovetail section for fitting together with adjacent blocks. The Scheiwiller discloses blocks having holes for attaching with other blocks by filling the holes with concrete. Di Lorenzo discloses wall flanges held together by rods or cables that are held in each adjacent brick. Trahan discloses a block with a lower lip that fits into the block below it. Brown discloses a wall using a tieback to connect to a lower member. Egan discloses a modular wall block with rearward abscesses for receiving grid connectors. Cantarano discloses a wall form panel with interlocking protrusions around the edges which make the panel reversibly symmetric. These comments are not meant to be, in any way, comprehensive in scope, because many other aspects are shown in the referenced patents, and reference to the full teachings of these patents is made herewith.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It would be a distinct advantage to have a block which is simple to make and to use in building retaining walls, and which provides lighter weight, while maintaining the aesthetic beauty of the face of the block once in place in a retaining wall.
The present invention relates to retaining walls, and more particularly, one aspect of the present invention involves a retaining wall block. The retaining wall block includes an underside recessed surface for reducing the weight of the block while allowing the face of the block to be formed with any desired shape.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
In another embodiment, the block of the present invention may have an arcuately formed underside which reduces weight of the block. The face may be curved. The block may also include at least one aligning element located on a surface of the block body. When assembling the blocks on top of each other, the blocks are staggered, so that each block in an upper row rests upon parts of two blocks in a lower row.
A more complete understanding of the method and apparatus of the present will become more apparent by reference to the following drawings, in conjunction with the accompanying Detailed Description.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of a retaining wall block constructed in accordance with the principles of a first embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a side elevational view illustrating the block in FIG. 1;
FIGS. 3A and 3B are perspective and side-elevational views of an alternative embodiment of the retaining wall block, constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention; and
FIG. 4 is a flow diagram of a method according to an embodiment of the present invention.
The present invention relates to a retaining wall system incorporating retaining wall blocks of lighter weight construction and a method of manufacture of the lighter weight wall blocks. Other retaining wall systems incorporated in patent applications filed by the inventor of the present invention are PCT/US00/03677 entitled “Interlocking Segmental Retaining Wall”, U.S. Pat. No. 6,464,432 entitled “Interlocking Segmental Retaining Wall”, and PCT/US03/01583 entitled “Interlocking Retaining Wall Blocks and System” and are incorporated herein by reference.
Referring now to FIG. 1, there is shown a perspective view of the retaining wall block 10 of the present invention. The retaining wall block 10 includes a rounded front face 12, although arcuate and geometrical shapes may be included. The rear wall 14 of block 10 includes an upstanding lip 16 for purposes of securing the block 10 relative to other blocks. From rear wall 14, the side walls 18 and 20 taper outwardly to the front face 12. The solid block 10 is also constructed with an intermediate area 22 of reduced thickness. In the present embodiment, intermediate area 22 is formed of a generally arcuate shape allowing the solid block 10 to be fabricated with less weight.
Still referring to FIG. 1, it should be noted that the block 10, as depicted herein, is in an inverted position. The block would be positioned with the lip 16 facing downwardly to engage an underlying row of blocks in a retaining wall.
Referring now to FIG. 2, there is shown a side elevational cross sectional view of the retaining wall block 10 of FIG. 1. It may be seen that the intermediate area 22 has a sufficient depth for removing substantial portions of the concrete therefrom to allow reduction in weight.
Referring now to FIGS. 3A and 3B, there are shown perspective and side-elevational views of one alternative embodiment of the retaining wall block 100. As will be seen in FIGS. 3A and 3B, the block 100 is formed with a planar frontal surface 102 and has the arcuate recess 222 formed therebehind for purposes of reducing the weight thereof. Other retaining block shapes are also contemplated in accordance with the principles of the present invention which include the reduction in the weight of block in an area of the block not affecting the structural integrity nor the appearance thereof once the block is assembled in a retaining wall. It should specifically be noted that the intermediate area 22 of FIGS. 1 and 2 and arcuate recess 222 of FIGS. 3A and 3B may be of a variety of shapes other than the arcuate form shown herein. The side walls may also taper outwardly or inwardly, whereby the surfaces of the top and bottom of the blocks have much greater or much less surface area differential. In this manner, the back wall of the block may be tapered and/or constructed with varying shapes and contours.
Referring now to FIG. 4, a method 400 according to an embodiment of the present invention is illustrated. At step 402, a retaining wall block is formed with an upper surface and a lower surface. At step 404, a cavity is formed along at least a portion of the lower surface of the retaining wall block. The recessed cavity reduces the weight of the wall block while maintaining the integrity of the front face of the wall block. The recessed cavity may be formed in a wall block with a variety of front face geometries such as a curved or planar front face. Other aligning or stabilizing elements may also be implemented with the recessed cavity retaining wall block. For example, a lip or other aligning element may be integrated into the retaining wall block to further stabilize the system.
It should be noted that reduction in weight of such retaining wall blocks has a number of advantages. Not the least of these advantages is the reduction in shipping costs and the ease of handling during construction. It may be noted that homeowners often purchase such blocks, and because retaining wall blocks of smaller size must be, in many instances, solid in fabrication for purposes of structural integrity, it is important that such solid blocks be of a lighter weight if possible. The present invention provides for such a lighter weight block, although from the top it appears to be a solid block of much heavier weight. The block may be cast out of concrete or fabricated by molding concrete on a block machine. Other fabrication techniques are, of course, are contemplated in accordance with the principles of the present invention.
Further to the above, it should also be noted that in building a large retaining wall, the retaining wall blocks must be structurally sound. A solid block is going to provide that structural integrity. A block with voids may have thin wall areas that could break or collapse. Therefore, one feature of the present invention is reducing the weight of the retaining wall block without introducing voids within the volume of concrete in the block.
It is thus believed that the operation and construction of the present invention will be apparent from the foregoing description. While the apparatus shown and described has been characterized as being preferred, it will be readily apparent that various changes and modifications could be made therein without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the following claims.