Quikrete's Quikwall product is a type of surface-bonding cement; it spreads like stucco or plaster over a block wall's exterior and it binds the blocks into a sturdy wall unit without mortar joints or rebar. Surface-bonding cement walls rival conventional block-and-mortar walls in strength. Builders apply surface-bonding techniques to several construction projects, including both hardscape features and residential wall construction. Although it's possible to construct a retaining wall with surface-bonding cement, you should review the capabilities of Quikwall and the challenges of the project before breaking ground.
About Surface-Bonding Cement
Quikwall and other brands of surface-bonding cement apply to "dry-stack" concrete block walls. Dry-stack walls resemble their name; they consist of blocks stacked without mortar joints or filled with poured concrete. Although builders must level and align the blocks as they progress, surface-bonding cement eliminates the intricate tasks, such as spreading even beds of mortar, and physically demanding tasks, such as cutting and bending rebar.
Below-Grade Applications and Retaining Walls
Although Quikrete doesn't specifically mention retaining walls in its description of Quikwall, the company clearly states that the product is suitable for below-grade applications. Even better, Quikrete recommends Quikwall for several projects that are more demanding than retaining walls, such as basement walls and water storage tanks. Thus, Quikwall offers the structural strength and resistance to deterioration necessary for retaining wall construction. Similar products from alternative manufacturers explicitly state that surface-bonding cement is suitable for retaining wall construction.
Quikwall Footings and Foundations
While surface-bonding cements sound like miracle products that eliminate the need for traditional masonry skills, they only meet their performance standards if you install them on top of a poured footing or foundation. Additionally, you must embed the first course of blocks in a layer of Quikwall or mortar. With the first course joined to the footing via mortar, you can switch to dry-stacking blocks. If you don't bind the first course to a footing, the wall will fail under loads. This is important for retaining walls, because they're under constant stress from the soil and moisture that they retain.
Quikrete recommends that you apply Quikwall to blocks by sprayer or trowel. The type of sprayer that's suitable for Quikwall isn't your standard paint sprayer; you must use a heavy-duty sprayer called a "shotcrete" sprayer or stucco sprayer. Sprayers are usually available for rent at home improvement stores and equipment yards. Manual application with trowels is just as effective as spraying, but requires greater effort and time.