Can I cast my own concrete retaining wall?

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I live on the Oregon coast, and my lot is almost pure sand. It is about four feet above the lot next door, so I need a retaining wall to keep my sand from sliding into the neighbor's yard. When I first bought the place, there were some railroad ties there, but they are weathering away, so I need a more permanent solution. They are only two feet high and my lot slopes down from my house to the edge; I want to make a four foot wall so I can have a flat lot (I can get more sand).
Every conventional solution I've seen is too expensive for me. My property line is over 100' long, so buying concrete landscaping blocks at $2 apiece or so would cost thousands of dollars, plus most recommendations I've seen say they shouldn't be stacked much more than two feet high anyway.
I'm not much of a handyman by nature, but when I have to do something, and when I have good instructions, I can usually get it done.
My idea is to pour the concrete myself. I've never done it before, but I already have a lot full of sand, so I'm thinking that if I just do a few trial runs to figure out how much cement and water to mix with the sand, I can cast the blocks in place. It seems to me that all I would need would be a rectangular wooden form, and I could make it a lot bigger than a typical landscape block, because I wouldn't be lifting the blocks, I'd just put the form where I want it, shovel in the sand and cement, add water, and mix it up. When it is solid, I knock the form off and do the next block. I guess I would have to use a slightly smaller form for each layer, so the concrete doesn't run out of the bottom, but I can figure out how big to start at the bottom so that the top layers are still big enough.
I am thinking that if I did it this way, I could make a wall four feet high, because the blocks will be bigger and heavier than regular landscape blocks, and also I can gouge grooves in the top of the blocks I pour before they harden, so that the next layer fills the grooves and they lock together to resist sideways motion. I could even make the bottom layer with a wide flange that goes back toward my house, so the earth helps hold it in place.
I realize this would take a very long time, but I have time. If I just do a block or two a day after work, and maybe a dozen or so on weekends, maybe it will take five years, so what? At least the total cost will be less, and the cost will be spread out for as long as I want it.
So, I'm asking the experts here if this is feasible. Can a rookie learn to mix concrete good enough for this use fairly quickly? Is there something I don't know that makes it hard to cast a block on top of another block? If I make the blocks big, say 3'x2'x1' (lxwxh), and groove them the way I described, will they make a wall strong enough to hold back four feet of earth, or would I need some kind of additional measures? I know that I am not good enough to make a wall with mortared joints, but I was thinking I could imbed some kind of deadman anchors halfway up.
No need to be gentle with me. If this is just a stupid idea, feel free to say so, but please tell me *why* it's stupid. Thanks for any help.
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Forming and reddy mix is the way to go. First you need good base to put the blocks on. If your looking for an electric mixer I highly recommend the Gibson.
http://www.constructioncomplete.com/PortableConcreteMixersElectric/CleformGilsonMixers150WBPL15.html
Small enough to go through a door way but stable. I did some concrete work inside with one recently. I see that the price took a jump. I paid just over $300 for mine delivered.
Trying to do an retaining wall over a couple of years seems lame to me. I would be interested in getting the ground stabilized. If you doing this on the fence line maybe your neighbor would be interested in pay for part. After all he would be getting a wall out of the deal. I certainly would ask.
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Maybe his neighbor would want him to hire someone so it doesn't fall and hurt some kid when they are playing on it.

http://www.constructioncomplete.com/PortableConcreteMixersElectric/CleformGilsonMixers150WBPL15.html
work
delivered.
on
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I didn't even know I needed a mixer. I thought that if the form is only 1 foot deep, I can mix it right in the form with a metal rod. Is that stupid?
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Yes.
There is no way you will mix it in the form. Mix it in a wheelbarrow and then dump it. Or in a trough and shovel it into the form.
Before you invest heavily into this, make a small form. Buy a bag of the pre-mixed stuff and give it a go. Once you realized the weight of it and the amount of turning over needed, you will start looking for a better method.
--
Ed
http://pages.cthome.net/edhome/



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You want a 100' long retaining wall, 4' above ground, 2' to the footing, with a 2' wide footing say 8" thick, and the wall itself about 8" thick, so you're looking at 8" x 8' x 100 = 534 cubic feet of cement. If a bag is about 1/2 cubic foot, then you're looking order-of-magnitude, 1000 bags of ready-mix.
If you're making your own concrete out of local materials (which you shouldn't do), then the concrete is only around 15% by volume of the ultimate wall, so you only need around 160 bags of cement.
What's a bag of cement cost you, retail? Somewhere around $9.00?
How does that compare with the price of having some guy in a truck drive out to where you are, and shovel directly into a form that he set up the weekend before?
Doing large-scale concrete work yourself is almost never cost effective. Your sweat equity isn't anywhere near enough to make up for the lack of heavy equipment.
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You'll have to pour a foundation, or it will fall over.

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I thought a foundation was only necessary when the soil was susceptible to cracking or freezing. Neither is the case here. Pure sand, and it very rarely gets below freezing. Or above 75, for that matter. Does that make any difference?
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Even if there's no chance of freezing, a foundation of some kind is needed to stabilize anything that heavy. Concrete weight varies depending on density, but even if you figure 125# per cubic ft., a 1' x 4' x 100' wall will be 50,000 lbs. Put that together with water pressure from rain, and you've got an accident waiting to happen without a proper base.
wrote:

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Have you ever considered a fero-cement fence?
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On Wed, 18 Jan 2006 18:22:46 -0600, "Freckles" <Little Red
No, and there's a very good reason for that. I have never heard the term before. I'll look it up, but it sounds expensive.
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Mixing cement and sand together does not make concrete. You will need lots of gravel. You make concrete with one part Portland Cement, two parts sand (it must be clean, coarse sand to make it work) and three parts gravel. You will find making it yourself very tiring, will take a lot of materials and have to mix lots of batches. For example, a wall 100 feet long x 1 foot thick x 5 feet high (it really should go deeper than 1 foot into the ground, depending on your frost situation and soil stability) will take 500 cubic feet. Your mixer may make 1, 1 1/2 or 2 cubic feet at a time, this will take 500 to 250 batches to make your wall. When you figure the work, cost and time involved, plus buying re-inforcing steel, the retaining wall blocks will look good.
Check out other brands of retaining wall blocks, some are good for 4 feet high and more and are not that expensive. Don't look at the home center to buy them, look in the yellow pages for concrete products and buy direct from the manufacturer.

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wrote:

Thanks, I will do that. One problem, though, is that I am in a very small town, and the nearest city of any size is over an hour away, so the delivery charges may be prohibitive.
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wrote:

Seems to me you're paying delivery charges for everything, including the stuff they deliver only as far as the store you buy it at. If the store is 10 minutes away and the supplier is an hour away, the supplier is at least 50 minutes from the store. Unloading might be a little cheaper at the store, because they have a forklift, but to buy it from the store, you'll have to load it a second time, and unload it a second time at your house.
I know that this is not perfect, because you plan to only buy the raw ingredients, which are sold from a different place than pre-made blocks, but it seems to me it would all add up the same way.
This is NOT a recommendation to buy from the manufacturer an hour away, only an effort to challenge your idea that shipping would be more. It might well seem more because it would be itemized, but the stuff at your local store doesn't ship itself for free, and it doesn't hitchhike. If the place an hour away had to send a whole 2 two-ton truck to carry 5 pounds for you, that would cost you a lot, but it sounds like you need a whole truck load or whatever you need.
You have to look at total price, including how long it's going to take you. If you make 20 dollars an hour at your job, maybe you shouldn't figure 20 for your spare time, but at least 1 or 2 dollars an hour for your spare time. Unless you plan to enjoy this so much that it will replace *spending* money on recreation, and I think you might for the first day, but it will take longer than that. There is also the pride of doing things from scratch. You have to consider all that. Sadly, I doubt many people will be very impressed that you mixed your own concrete.
Is that true guys?
It would just be something you are prooud of, and they are slightly impressed by.
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Couple of thing to do it right. You need a footing. Depending on local regulation, that may be 12" to 48" so check that out. Footings are easy, pretty much filling up a big hole and leveling the top. I'd use a reddi mix truck for that so it can be done in one pour.
If you want to mix yourself, you can probably find a used mixer at reasonable cost.
Check local regulations. You don't want the building inspector make you tear it out for some silly reason that you missed.
In addition tot he sand, you need some gravel. There are books and charts to give you the right proportions for the mix.
I have heard of people doing what you intend to do and though it took time, it can be done. Lots of work hauling the sand and gravel though.
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wrote:

Thanks, I will check into it. There is no room for a truck to get back there, though. Can they extend their chutes 100 feet?

As I said to another person, I didn't know I needed a mixer. Is it impossible to mix concrete by hand, even in very small batches? I am pretty strong.

Hadn't even occurred to me. Thank you.

I thought I read that you can just use sand. Guess I have to read some more.

The sand is already right there. If I need gravel, that will be a problem, but not a big one. I can have them dump some in front of my house, and move it back one block's worth at a time.
Thanks to everyone for the responses.
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Tony Sinclair wrote:

What kind of sand? Sharp or not? Size? Clean? How wet is it? Got salt in it?
All are things that affect how useable it is.
-- dadiOH ____________________________
dadiOH's dandies v3.06... ...a help file of info about MP3s, recording from LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that. Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
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wrote:

That's a situation I'm in, and I'm hoping to start my own thread on questions unique to me. That's why I'm reading your thread so closely.
I think they have 50 foot chutes (I've seen them pour foundations for the new style of garden apartments, but I just estimated the length), but I don't know about 100. Does your planned wall start at the street?
Some have like a big self-powered wheelbarrow. I haven't seen one yet, but I'm told it carries as much as 3 normal wheel barrows. I guess it has it's own gasoline engine, and maybe treads?
Do they tip so that the concrete goes right into the hole for the footing, or do they need to use shovels?
I actually went to a place that has this all last Friday, but the guy she said I wanted wasn't in, and I didn't learn anything.

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There are concrete pumper trucks that can push it hundreds of feet.
This is probably the least of his worries.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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On Thu, 19 Jan 2006 19:35:28 -0000, snipped-for-privacy@nortelnetworks.com (Chris Lewis) wrote:

I'm glad to hear it.
My problem is that it has to go around two corners, to get behind my house. Do these trucks do that also?
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