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.
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.
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!
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
Please come visit http://www.househomerepair.com
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.
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...
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
Where in Canada are you located?
Tamped gravel footer, and the dry-stack blocks with the ridges or raised
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
My back suffers a lot more from weeding, mowing, or walking on a slope
than it did while building that wall.
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
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...
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
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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