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1920's - 1930's concrete retaining wall facade

Hi All,

All over San Francisco in the "normal neighborhoods" houses were build with concrete retaining walls. Mostly they were 3 to 6 foot high in the fronts facing the street-sidewalks. The facades had a molded concrete look that mimicked large blocks of stone with a 1 to 2 inch flat framed edge then a "screw driver" sized line as if the edge of the blocks had they been real.

What I am trying to find out is how was this done. Was a mold used when the concrete was poured or was a mortar mixed up and applied over a concrete retaining wall.

We wish to re-create this process and many concrete folks we have contacted are clueless.

Anyone who has a though or a lead please let me know.

Thanks, James

Re: 1920's - 1930's concrete retaining wall facade

The concrete forms had the reverse image of what you see built onto them. For a small area and a one-time use, you can take a cast of an area with plaster, remove it carefully, then face a form with it. After the new concrete has cured the plaster is chipped away where it sticks, and residual cleaned with a pressure-washer. For larger areas create new forms. There's a bit more to forming concrete than this so if you have no experience you may want to get help from someone who has done finished-face concrete work before.


Re: 1920's - 1930's concrete retaining wall facade

After preparing the "grass-side" of the wall with crushed stone, etc, you can dry fit the concrete blocks.

Then, there is a concrete mix that contains glass fibers and it's applied like stucco. You just spread it on both sides and trowel it flat - or with decorative lines to simulate stones. Once it dries, it's as strong as mortered blocks.

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