Rebuilding Retaining Walls

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My backyard is higher than my neighbor in behind me. To keep the ground level, there is a three foot retaining wall at the back of the yard, which is only a few inches from the fence. The wall is built from 6x6's, and is not normally visible (even the top of the wall is hidden by bushes and flowers in front of it.
The problem is that the 6x6's appear to have started to rot. I imagine they were put in place when the house was built 25 years ago. This year, the neighbor's want to rebuild the fence, so I was thinking of replacing the retaining wall at the same time to give easier access. It doesn't have to be pretty, just functional, and as long lasting as possible (and preferably fast to build without breaking the bank). The wall is about 25m (around 90') long, and I live in Canada, so there's lots of freezing and thawing going on.
I'm wondering if I should consider concrete, brick, or wood again (and what the advantages are), and if anyone has any advice that I might not have thought of.
Thanks
John
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If it's only 3 feet, you might consider just dumping some soil to make a transition slope on your neighbor's property. Since it's on his border, he'll likely just have plants there anyway.
The slope will allow for a higher fence.
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Yeah the FOREVER SOLUTION, go to the angle of natural repose. Thats what rail roads do.
Walls can look pretty, but require permanent work.:(
low maintence is far better, just plant some good ground cover on the slope and forget about it!
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Nothing is permanent!
At the back of my yard I really like the suggestion made by some one to just add dirt to create a natural grade.
If you have to build a wall as I had to a few years back, I would bite the bullet and use the heavy duty wall blocks laid on a compressed bed compacted road grade fill. We call that DGA here but I have no clue what it is called in Canada. I actually poured a footer for mine instead of using the DGA because I had an anal neighbor that I had to assure that her house was not going to slide down the hill.
Using concrete or concrete blocks will not allow the trapped water to escape. My detailed studies at the time I did mine indicated that the dry laid blocks which allowed natural drainage of water were a superior product. I think the brand I purchased was Lee Blocks and I think they have a website under that name.
None of the treated wood sold today is anywhere near as good as the old stuff. High quality used RR ties are probably still your cheapest, fastest option.
--
Colbyt
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On Wed, 21 Apr 2010 16:59:34 -0400, "Colbyt"

Doesn'that depend on the water table? There is still no bottom to the yard, and if the water table is normally below the bottom of the wall, it will go down and escape that way. Even if it is not below the bottom of the wall, water will go down to the water table and spread out, eventually going around the wall.
But maybe I'm wrong.

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wrote:

During heavy rain or in the spring when the ground is still frozen and things are melting the cement wall will indeed hold back water...HTH...
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This sounds like a very good situation to use a precast concrete masonry unit retaining wall system...
The blocks interlock with each other using plastic pegs, you have to prepare the base properly with the correct sand and gravel mix and you would have to install drainage pipes through the wall to allow for water to drain... You would use landscape fabric and gravel behind the wall...
~~ Evan
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John-
Budget? Time horizon?
If it was my yard in SoCal, I'd go with a fully grouted 8" block wall. But we don't have the frost issues.
I built had my block wall built with an "I" style foundation 14" x 34" because I wanted to minimize foundation intrusion into the yard.
In order to assure longevity and good performance a block wall in your yard would suggest using an engineer or maybe your local building dept has "stock plans / deign guidelines". Providing for drainage is key as well..... otherwise the wall could suffer lateral frost heave.
Just a WAG here...... ~ 350 8x8x16 blocks, ~20 yds of concrete concrete for footing, ~2.5 ys of grout, ~600 lbs of steel
The idea of a natural slope is sounding better & better.
As others have posted, high quality used RR ties are probably your best bet.
Where in Canada are you located?
cheers Bob
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DD_BobK wrote:

bumps, such the the wall slopes against the load forces, are the usual practice here in Baja Ontario (AKA Michigan). The fussy people backfill with gravel and landscaping cloth, to keep dirt from washing through the wall. You can always put a drain tile in the backfill, drained to daylight with Tee fittings poked through holes hammered into the bottom course of block. Hydrostatic pressure or slump should not be much of concern on a wall that short.
--
aem sends...

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-snip-

That's what I did here in NY's frost country. Drain tile, #2 stone backfill & landscape cloth. They aren't cheap- but the end effect is very nice looking. Mine has withstood 7 NY winters without moving a bit.
I used Versa-Lok retaining wall blocks. http://www.versa-lok.com / Wall is 30" high, 25' long & serpentine.
Spend the $30 to get the block lifter- it is worth a million $$.
I was doubtful that the cap blocks would stay with just a double bead of adhesive-- but I walk on them frequently & none have loosened in 7 years.
Jim
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Especially since, if you keep your eyes open or monitor craigslist- like sites, you can often get fill dirt for free and even delivered for free. He'll save so much money, he could pay his neighbors nursery bill several times over.
Also, the idea of having a fence on the downhill side of a retaining wall strikes me as absurd. It's almost as bad as digging a 3 foot deep ditch, and putting a fence in the bottom of if. I would think both the OP and his neighbor would prefer a 6 foot fence that actually provides a near 6 foot barrier rather than a laughable 3 foot (effective) barrier.
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A buddys neighbor has rebuilt his retaing wall 3 times over the last 20 years. spared no expense buying only the best materials:)
he started with poured concrete, moved on to a railroad tie wall replacement and just last year did it agin combining RR ties with cast concrete blocks.
meanwhile my buddy about 30 years ago REMOVED his wall and planrted ground cover, that ended all his work and expense.
so go ahead and build walls, its your back as another friend says
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-snip-

Materials are only part of the problem. Engineering, a sub--base & drainage are important too. [2 of my neighbors have walls that were built higher than mine, with different style blocks, and without drainage or proper footers and they rebuild theirs every couple of years.]
My 7 year old wall shows no signs that it won't last another 30 before needing to be touched. In the meantime, it serves as a bench/step/shelf & attractive landscape.
There is a 130 year old dry-laid stone wall that I admire when I walk the dog. If my wall lasts 1/2 of that it won't be my problem anymore.

My back suffers a lot more from weeding, mowing, or walking on a slope than it did while building that wall.
Jim
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-snip-

Oops- I correct myself. The wall is 158 years old, and was mortared with hydraulic cement. Photos here- http://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker%101
Jim
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Not disagreeing with you at all- if the local conditions allow a banked slope with suitable no-mowing-required ground cover, that is definitely the best way to go. But you can't always do that, like along a driveway cut for a basement garage on split level, or in a terraced subdivision where adding a slope would eliminate the downhill neighbors garden or kid play area. Sometimes retaining walls a a necessary evil. In new construction, you can usually avoid it with proper lot layout and grading, but on an existing house, they are often the only practical solution.
--
aem sends...

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wrote:

Very true...I have a cement retaining wall for a daylight basement on a split level that is starting to lean...Cement wall is not cracked and is solid as hell , it is just falling over...It is about 10 inches thick , 4 feet tall and 15 feet long...Not sure what to do as I don't know if excavating behind it and pushing it back to plumb with an excavator and securing is possible or whether it will have to be busted up , which won't be an easy task , and replaced...Got to get a pro in to look at it sometime...Some things are not DIY...LOL...
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-snip-
So, in my defense, I never built a fence at the bottom of a three foot wall -- it was like that when I got there (in fact I'm not sure if the fence is the legal property boundary, or the retaining wall is... It could be that the fence was built by the neighbors in behind on their property -- I'll have to figure that out before making any final decisions). As far as budget/timeline goes, as cheap and quick as possible, without sacrificing longevity. I'm in Ottawa, where we normally get a LOT of snow (though this year we donated some to our pals down south...)
I like the idea of moving the wall back, and planting the fence into the new retaining wall, though somehow I don't think it will fly with one of the neighbors in particular. Natural slope is not an option, and even if it was, I don't think I'd go for it (loss of usable space, lawn mower woes, etc). Drainage is a factor, and I will plan carefully for that. Since we're changing the fence, we will likely have cement truck access to the whole thing, but I'm a little worried about how well the cement will weather over time. Dry blocks is starting to sound good, though if I recall they're quite pricey.
Thanks for all the suggestions
John
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You wouldn't lose any space with a slope. The fill would be added to your neighbor's property. Then, he can plant stuf on the slope, although I'd offer to pay for his plants, since if he accepts that solution, he'd be saving you a fortune.
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mike wrote:

Most people prefer FLAT back yards. Play area, garden, reducing water load against their house foundation drainage system, etc.
Just sayin'...
-- aem sends...
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Kids can easily fall off walls, a big hazard.
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