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Retaining Wall on Property Line

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Our goal was to stabilize the loose, rocky soil between our yard (upper) and our neighbor’s (the lower) with a The trick was also to preserve the English laurel trees (Prunus laurocerasus) that were growing exactly on the property line.
Difficulty: Medium
  • retaining wall on property line, concrete masonry, landscape
Build entirely in front of the trees and the much higher level of dirt would probably kill them. Ditto for building behind—we’d sever too many roots.
  • retaining wall on property line, concrete masonry, landscape
Our solution was to straddle them with a high/low bump-out wall. We consulted with our neighbor, who agreed to the plan and allowed us to work from her property.
Here are more nature accommodation ideas: http://goo.gl/SNka7m
  • retaining wall on property line, concrete masonry, landscape
This was our first-ever DIY retaining wall project. We knew getting the first course leveled on a bed of ¾-minus gravel is critical.
  • retaining wall on property line, concrete masonry, landscape
Altogether, we installed over 13 tons of really nice block for a 3-foot-high wall about 65 feet long. It took weeks part-time. Pro estimates ranged from $8,000 to $12,000. We did it ourselves for about $4,000 including gravel and a rented wet saw for cutting blocks.
  • retaining wall on property line, concrete masonry, landscape
We left a 6-inch gap behind the blocks and filled that with pea gravel for drainage. Here's Deb adding gravel.
  • retaining wall on property line, concrete masonry, landscape
Slight miscalculation here. With the wall mostly built, I decided to cut the blocks around one of the trees rather than remove one of the trunks.

To see more: http://goo.gl/4gMLL9

Got a question about this project?

  • Cathy
    Cathy Lakeside, CA
    on Jun 5, 2015

    Anytime you save a beautiful tree you have my vote..love it..looks fab!

  • Cynthia H
    Cynthia H Pittston, PA
    on Jun 15, 2015

    It's so nice to see someone work with the landscape present, such as your trees, to improve things. Too often, the first thing you see with new building is that they cut down all the trees. I know sometimes they are diseased or dangerous and have to be removed. But, when building started occurring in our neighborhood, the trees and lovely lilac bushes were the first thing to go. Then, they brought in tons of dirt and leveled behind us - for the first time, this 100+ house had problems with runoff and we've had to deal with the problem ever since. You are a good neighbor too!

  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson)
    360 Sod (Donna Dixson) Buford, GA
    on Oct 11, 2015

    Did you stabilize the wall against the inevitable root push against it?

  • John Riha
    John Riha Ashland, OR
    on Oct 11, 2015

    Hi Donna-- Those blocks weigh 80 pounds apiece and are interlocking. The roots of the trees you see are already rooting downward. In this situation, I don't anticipate any root disruption. If so, it would be relatively easy to dig out behind these blocks and cut any intrusive roots.

  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson)
    360 Sod (Donna Dixson) Buford, GA
    on Oct 11, 2015

    If the roots go vertical due to the drainage aggregate added, you may have some issues. Even engineered walls are not infallible. It is amazing how much leverage roots and water have.

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