Combined Garden Modular Seating / Retaining Wall / Storage

6 Materials
3 Days
EDIT For all those who are saying it will rot, read the post
1. the framing is H4 (the stuff they make fence posts and telegraph poles from -- yes it will rot but not in my life time
2. The panels are MARINE GRADE ply - they build boats from that!!
3. The rest is decking - that is designed to be outside !! ;-)
4. I built it in Oct 2015 and no rot so far
I had a large pile of spoil and topsoil from the build of our pool and wanted to put in some seating and storage as well as a retaining wall. So I thought why not combine the lot!
This was constructed using 4x2 and decking timber along with plywood sheeting, however it could be built from pallets (I just am too idle to dismantle that many pallets)
Firstly I had to dig out the area I wanted, this involved moving approx 12 cubic meters of sandysoil and clay. Unfortunately due to limited access this had to be done by hand and whellbarrow Fun!!
I made the frames ot of 4x2, initially I was going to have 4 seats but after looking at it it I decided that 6 would look better so 7 frames. Each frame had 1x1200 mm, 1x650mm,1x570mm,1x520mm and 1x530mm which had 5 degree angles as shown for the seat back
Assemble the frames, I used 100mm nails (fine carpentry skills there!)
Put in position and brace, note that the "feet" of the frames are buried to give the required sturdiness for a retaining wall
Start panelling out with decking timber
18mm marine ply for seat base cut to fit and screwed in position
12mm ply for seat backs before backfilling screwed into place
Plastic sheet stapled to 12mm ply as rot barrier and backfilled
Arms/drink rests screwed from underneath ( I put in the cushion squabs and then cut the arms to fit to ensure snug fit) The squabs were boat squabs from a local yacht chandler
Access to storage cut out with oscillating saw/jigsaw hole in centre to assist removal
Corner supports screwed in place, I only put one access per 3 seats in but may decide to put more later
Uprights put on to conceal screws
And thats it done, just need to tidy the area in front (a little more digging) and am going to put a fire pit in them plant
Here is a link to the finished area>

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Frequently asked questions

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  13 questions
    • Monica Monica on Nov 15, 2015
      Probably back filled it like you would other retaining walls. That is what I would do.
    • Stephen Taylor Stephen Taylor on Nov 15, 2015
      @RUTHANN PECK the back is lined with marine ply (H4 rated, in fact all the timber is pressure treated H4) and has a plastic layer stapled to it (as detailed in the build if you read it!) before backfilling. Although it is down as a retaining wall, the soil is compacted sand which hardly moves at all after being dug
    • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Nov 17, 2015
      What a neat project and a whole lot of work.
  • Tanya Tanya on Aug 24, 2017
    Love it what did the materials run you? I'm pretty sure Marine wood is expensive plus I wouldn't know where to buy it at. I'm in Ga...
    • Stephen Taylor Stephen Taylor on Aug 24, 2017
      The 4x2 works out about $3 per meter and the marine ply is about $85 a sheet (8x4 feet (1200 x2400 mm) will be a lot cheaper in the US at a big box store though
    • Debbie Fulton Debbie Fulton on Apr 22, 2018

      You can pain all wood with something like Bull waterproofing primer. That will help. Also when you dig out for feet, pour concrete into holes, attach metal anchors to concrete before it dries. Attach the feet to anchors.

  • Mcgypsy9 Mcgypsy9 on Apr 22, 2018

    Stephen...this is the first time I’ve come across this on Hometalk and I am very impressed. How long did it take for you to dig out that wall? Did you do that all by hand? Not only do I love your bench but I love your other bench too! It’s 2 years later...has anything changed? Is this holding up well? How does your fire pit look? Would love for you to share some pictures. The area of land you bought is breathtaking!

  • Jeffrey Schmid Jeffrey Schmid on Apr 22, 2018

    How water tight are your compartments ( I would they would be ok for articles what don't matter if they get damp?) Did you have to drill any holes for dampness or water build up? ****

    • Katrina Katrina on Apr 22, 2018

      These are not safe for items that need to remain moisture free.

    • Katrina Katrina on Apr 22, 2018

      I have noticed what appears to be Weed Block surrounding the structure. At least the compartments will be free of dirt!

    • Stephen Taylor Stephen Taylor on Apr 24, 2018

      I would be happy keeping garden tools in there but not fabric etc I use it as a stowage for my LPG cylinders and petrol for the mowers as I would prefer not to have those in the garage. If the caught fire here the worst that would happen is the seats burn instead of my house burning down

  • Lifestyles Homes Lifestyles Homes on Apr 22, 2018

    Did you put pea gravel in the backfill’s void before topping w/ dirt to relieve the hydrostatic water pressure of solid mud that would push against the plywood? This would be like “weep holes” in a masonry retaining wall or a French Drain.

    • Katrina Katrina on Apr 22, 2018

      It *appears* that nothing was done for this issue. I have not even seen permeable membrane wrap for breathing on the plywood.

      Like you, I see problems in the future.

    • Katrina Katrina on Apr 22, 2018

      It does look like there is some Weed Block surrounding the structure.

    • Bonnie Bonnie on Apr 22, 2018

      Photo #9 -

      "Plastic sheet stapled to 12mm ply as rot barrier and backfilled"

    • Stephen Taylor Stephen Taylor on Apr 22, 2018

      As above, there is plastic protecting the wood and the ply is marine grade, as yet (some 2 years from building) there is no rot

    • Katrina Katrina on Apr 23, 2018

      I did notice that it was stated as Marine Grade. After the comment of weed block, and in bed.

      Where I live (my camp is on the Atlantic Ocean), there is no way that marine grade wrap would protect that from rot. However, sea spray and freeze thaw plays into all of this.

      Pea gravel and more measures including pressure treated wood and concrete are needed.

      Your location makes you special!

      I love Kiwis and greatly miss my family who immigrated to your country.

  • Lifestyles Homes Lifestyles Homes on Apr 22, 2018

    Did you put pea gravel in the backfill’s void before topping w/ dirt to relieve the hydrostatic water pressure of solid mud that would push against the plywood? This would be like “weep holes” in a masonry retaining wall or a French Drain.

  • Charlene Charlene on Apr 22, 2018

    Looks awesome now, but what is going to keep the water form sitting and causing the wood to rot?

    • Stephen Taylor Stephen Taylor on Apr 22, 2018

      The base and back have a plastic sheet between them and the soil and the wood is H4 and marine grade ply, so far (2+ years) there is no rot, the area in front was later dug out and planted (see my firepit post) and is free draining as it is lower than the seating

  • Debra Ridley Hurst Debra Ridley Hurst on Apr 22, 2018

    Very inventive and gorgeous. Is that a chicken??

    • Stephen Taylor Stephen Taylor on Apr 22, 2018

      Thanks and yes have about 40 chooks, 20 geese, 20 ducks, 8 sheep,2 goats, 2 dogs and about 20 fish

  • Denise Denise on Apr 23, 2018

    What happens when you get a lot of rain the wall will collapse

    • Stephen Taylor Stephen Taylor on Apr 23, 2018

      Well it has been standing over 2years now and we had a cat 2 hurricane pass through last week with no damage so it probably is pretty safe!

  • Sherry Heflin Sherry Heflin on May 18, 2020

    I want one..........PLEASE.....THANK YOU.....WOW.....LOVE IT.....

  • Aural Tebra Aural Tebra on May 20, 2020

    How many pallets would I need to build this? We live on a trust on a bluff. I want to landscape the bluff so my eldercare folks and family can safely fish in the river below.

  • Tina Meisenhalder Tina Meisenhalder on May 19, 2021

    How about the math in English instead of mm. I maybe old, but please use English. Thank you

    • Suzie Suzie on May 19, 2021

      mm IS English - at least in the UK :-)

    • Stephen Taylor Stephen Taylor on May 19, 2021

      How about you get with the rest of the world and adopt metric! I'm English and we went metric in the 70s, I built the shed next to this from American plans and had to convert everything 1 inch is 25mm

  • Erin Erin on May 19, 2021

    Is that a chicken in the last photo?


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