Shotcrete, or pneumatically applied concrete, is commonplace on commercial jobs and civil engineering projects. But as a specialty concrete contractor, I've found that it can also save a lot of time and effort on residential jobs. My company started using shotcrete several years ago to build and repair foundations under existing houses, and it didn't take us long to realize that it has an almost unlimited range of other uses.

Our first nonbasement shotcrete job came up several years ago, as we were preparing to build a conventionally poured retaining wall for a new home on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was late in the year, and building the forms for the 18-foot-high, 150-foot-long, 18-inch-thick wall threatened to drag on into an extended spell of bad...

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