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Retaining wall ideas?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by kevinmoelk, Jul 5, 2007.

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  1. kevinmoelk

    kevinmoelk New Member

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    Howdy folks. Well, now that the new fence is nearly complete I am researching retaining walls. I've constructed those concrete block walls before, but really never liked the look of them, at least what is offered at the local home centers. Railroad ties are absolutely out of the question.

    Cost is not a huge barrier, but I don't want to spend the money for a professionally built stone wall either. So I guess you could say I want to go middle of the road. The run of the wall will be straight, with some steps somewhere along the length and maybe a planter or two. Nothing super fancy. By the way, the retaining wall will be roughly 2.5 feet high. Construction skills, tools, etc. shouldn't be much of a problem.

    I'm considering some alternatives such as an earthship wall or perhaps an earthbag wall however these options are extremely time consuming. Another option may be to construct a block wall then face it with real stone, brick, stucco, or maybe even cedar. Help me brainstorm folks! Thanks in advance.

    -Kevin

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  2. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Kevin...
    ....I'll hazzard a guess by your opening statement that ties are either way to 'rustic' (redneck'ish) or you don't want to 'play with hazzardous waste'...What are your thoughts on pressure treated 'dimensional lumber'...??? Either 4x4's or 6x6's??? Installation would be 'fairly quick and simple'...just a little imagination required. Seeing as you are a regular here at the hearth, I imagine you own a chainsaw (making the cutting easier). An electricians auger bit, a few pieces of re-bar and you would be 'stylin'...
    Depending on how you set it up....you could always incorporate the retaing wall into a flat stone 'dry wall' later in the future. They are a little tricky to build, but after awhile you get the hang of it.

    Flat stone (for building 'dry walls' ) is fairly easy to find in MOST locales'...just gotta know where to look. Asking the highway department is always a good place to start..."rock cuts for roadways" provide the best 'harvest' for flat stone...especially in the spring. Built a few walls that way... ;)
  3. jqgs214

    jqgs214 Minister of Fire

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    is the backside of the wall fairly level or a big slope?? At 2.5' you could probably drystack any number of types of stone. Just make sure you have a solid base (some tamped DG works well) all long and the wall is slightly tilted into the earth 10-15deg it should not have a problem holding back that depth as long as the slope behind it is not to severe to be compromised by erosion.
  4. Gunner

    Gunner New Member

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    Here is a job we did using "armour stone" It is my favorite look for a retaining wall. At 2.5ft it will be no problem 2 large rows (16" tall stones) will look nice. You can make it flow with the existing lines of the property, set the stones tight to each other or leave space between rows for planting if you like.

    Construction is fairly easy as long as the access is good. Tools needed a tree dolly which can be rented and a 4ft pinch bar. The stones are very heavy but suprisingly easy to move if you work smart, at most you are just rolling them over.

    The key is to get "blocky" or squared off stones. I like them just abit bigger than a milk crate, for easy handling but it will look best if you match the size of stone to the overall project. Set the first row a few inches into the ground and pick stones that fit well together, if there are gaps between stones the edge of one can be set behind the other. Put filter cloth or landscape fabric behind each row and you will have no erosion.

    The pic is not the best, the bench is in the way but it will give you an idea. This job is almost 10 yrs old, it's my mothers house.

    You can google image "armour stone" for more pics.

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  5. jpl1nh

    jpl1nh Minister of Fire

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    Gunner, beautiful job, much like what I would like to do here in my backyard in NH which is already covered with granite terminal morrain boulders. What is "armour stone"?
  6. kevinmoelk

    kevinmoelk New Member

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    Wapato WA, in the Yakima Valley of Central WA
    Thanks for the replies folks. Keyman, lmao, not that RR ties are too rustic, I actually like the look of them, but I have 2 problems with them. One, it's damned difficult to find ones I think would be worthy of any construction project. Most of the ones I've seen for sale around here are junk. The second concern is that I live on a well, and the retaining wall will be in an area with 4 large dogs, one of which has a penchant for chewing on wood. I'm guessing you know the dangers of cresote, so I won't elaborate. Redneck? Well, considering the 7 trucks I own, I probably fall into that category a little bit ;)

    I've thought about using PT wood, but for the comparable cost, I'd rather have stone or concrete. Speed of construction would be the biggest advantage using wood or a prefab system, but I want to be happy with the results. I'd rather spend an extra month building and be happy I did over the next ten years. Flat stone would indeed be beautiful, but I don't have any stone on my property, though I could collect locally. Still not sure if the stone would hold back the earth unless the stones themselves were large, read below.

    Wxman, good question. Although the retaining wall will only hold back 2.5 feet of dirt, the slope it will hold is quite substantial. It's about at a 3% grade and continues up an orchard hill roughly 1/2 mile until the orchard stops and the slope then proceeds up a small mtn bump I'm guessing is roughly a 35% grade. While the orchard itself holds the grade just fine, the space between the orchard and my level back yard (that is what the retaining wall will ultimately hold back) is roughly 55 feet long and 16 feet wide. The old retaining wall which was constructed of 4x4 posts set in the ground spaced 6 feet apart then covered with cedar boards is leaning badly. I think this is primarily because of the absence of any sort of drainage, but it's clear as the wall has fallen over the soil behind it has dropped down several inches. I'll try and get some pictures up tomorrow. Good tip on the angle of the wall, I'll keep that in mind.

    Gunner, very impressive work. The steps alone are awesome. Such large stones would be a real burden for me personally. I've got a bad back, and generally avoid lifting anything more than 60lbs if I can. I could use chains, my engine hoist, or just roll them around I'm sure and get the job done with some help from friends, but I think for my health I'll stick to a lighter construction technique.

    Since you guys have me thinking about stones... has anyone done any slip-form masonry? I'm thinking that may be the solution for my project. A google search will yield pictures if you are unfamiliar with the technique.

    Thanks for brainstorming with me. As some of you may remember when I put my stove in last year that I'm a meticulous planner, but once I decide on something I'll forge ahead full steam. Thanks again for your help and ideas.

    -Kevin
  7. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz Minister of Fire

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    Wrench, how about pre cast slabs, then put cultured stone on the top & face?
  8. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Might be a failure from appearance, but what about simple poured concrete? Dig a good foundation, then build forms - 2-3' wide at the base tapering up to about a foot at the top, maybe throw in some rebar for luck, and fill with concrete - either hand mixed or bring in a truck... You could always stone face later if you felt the need. I've also seen some designs that cast in drain pipes, or build in graveled drainage under paths under the wall.

    When I was growing up we had a summer cottage on a lake, and different folks used all sorts of different wall techniques to keep their land from washing away, it seemed that the poured concrete folks were rebuilding the least often.

    Gooserider
  9. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    JP....

    "armour stone" in this neck of the woods is reffered to as "Rip-Rap"...
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