Asked on Nov 06, 2013

Retaining wall fell down... need some advice please!

Heather D
by Heather D
Hi everyone! The old, stacked stone & mortar retaining wall we had in front of our house fell down after all of the rain we had in the Midwest last week. As you can see by the pics, my house looks like a total crime scene right now with all of the caution tape. I've gotten some bids on re-building the wall, but it's way out of my price range right now. Anyone have any ideas for a cheap(er) solution that would at least get us through the winter? Does my yard look too steep to just round the bank off and leave it? Any advice is greatly appreciated!
After the city street department kindly scooped up the debris and got it off of the sidewalk.
The wall when it first fell.
  15 answers
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Nov 06, 2013
    What materials were you quoted?
  • Heather D Heather D on Nov 06, 2013
    Anywhere from $1500-2200 for a new stacked or poured concrete wall, with drainage. About $500 to clean it up and round off the bank. The smaller rocks can be lifted by two people. I'm just trying to DIY as much as I can..haha
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Nov 06, 2013
    Yeah, those prices are not sounding unreasonable for the work. Can you use a wood product such as treated timbers? (I NEVER recommend using RailRoad ties) Sometimes the treated timbers can be less expensive. You probably could go back in without a wall, and do a jute mesh with a ground cover planting... and round the hill off, but you will lose a lot of your grass area by doing so, and it will be more difficult to maintain. Eventually it would also decay into the sidewalk.
  • Shari Shari on Nov 06, 2013
    Have you thought about checking with your homeowner's insurance to see if they will cover any of the repair?
  • John Felter John Felter on Nov 06, 2013
    I would use landscaping blocks( retaining wall blocks) . U can go 2 1/2 feet tall. Take old out, compact gravel base, bury first row 1/2 block deep ,landscape fabric , drain pipe behind it. Have done several , works better than timbers!
    • See 2 previous
    • John Felter John Felter on Nov 09, 2013
      @Heather D It will be work but yes You can! It will look great and last for years. The blocks have a lip on them that hold them in place. Most important to get first row level then its a matter of just stacking the next rows on! Good luck!
  • Elaine Simmons Elaine Simmons on Nov 06, 2013
    I agree with John but I have to admit when I had a retaining wall where I lived, we went much higher than 2-1/2 feet. We did the gravel base and sand base and the drain pipe though. It has been there for 10 years now and has not moved.
    • John Felter John Felter on Nov 09, 2013
      @Elaine Simmons You can go higher but make sure the blocks you use are rated for the extra height! If you go higher you will need a heavy block that has a pin locking device and these are more expensive!
  • I will simply say, whichever you choose it will be some back breaking work. I don't see rounding or scraping off as an option, especially with the neighbors so I would side with the others - landscape stones - here is a piece I did a while ago, 5 simple rules to live by when doing a wall like that
  • Whichever way you go, make sure to find out what your city codes are for the retaining wall! Some cities have limits on height so check this out first. Drainage is another issue that you need to work in. A retaining wall needs drainage as John F and SLS construction states. You can use hand tools to cut back the hill so you can add drainage and rock. You also will need to know your frost line and dig down to make sure your first row is stable and level. You cannot just set blocks on the ground and expect them to stay especially in your zone. Good luck. and hiring a professional when your neighbors also have retaining walls may not be a bad idea so you have some sort of guarantee that this doesn't happen again.
  • Thomas Thomas on Nov 07, 2013
    From the photo you have posted you might want to step your yard levels starting with the brick planter next to your house. Come out from that brick planter 2'-0" and step down 1'-0" in elevation, again come out 2'-0" more, step down 1'-0" in elevation until your final grade is level with sidewalk! Using treated timber as a retaining for each elevation change. You could also paint the timbers prior to installing them in the ground.
  • Vicki Vicki on Nov 07, 2013
    we do have concrete blocks retaining wall @ end of the driveway. we used rebar rods in the holes of the concrete blocks to hold. they are over 4 feet tall, maybe that will help?
  • Willow Gates Landscaping Willow Gates Landscaping on Nov 07, 2013
    The prices you were quoted weren't unreasonable. An SRW wall (segmented retaining wall, laid with no mortar) must have the following: 6" of compacted 2A modified stone, 6" of block buried below grade, and 12" of clean gravel behind the wall. Perforated drain pipe needs to be buried in the clean stone, exiting just above grade. Water is the enemy of any wall. Your bank doesn't look that steep; if you can find some large boulders that 2 or 3 people can slide into place, that might be a good alternative.
  • H.C. Lawn H.C. Lawn on Nov 08, 2013
    ideal what if put in 3 to 4 post 4x4 pt up right set to 36 inches deep below grade and 2x6 0r 2x10 behind post stain or paint fram it if cost issue pt plywood would buy some time to keep off street
  • Karon Nelson Roberts Karon Nelson Roberts on Nov 08, 2013
    Will your homeowner's insurance cover any part of the repair? Looking at the picture, the wall looks long and to in front of your neighbor...could ya'll split the cost to repair or replace the whole wall. I like the idea of the landscape blocks...make sure you dig down 10-12 inches, use good gravel, drainage pipes, then build up at least 3 & 1/2 to 4 feet. If you don't want to do the back backing shovel work, you could rent a Bobcat for a day or two. Good Luck and Please post pictures when your finish!
    • Heather D Heather D on Nov 08, 2013
      @Karon Nelson Roberts Homeowner's won't help me here. Since the wall fell after a heavy rain, they are classifying it as a flood, and I don't have a flood policy, And unfortunately, I don't think I'll get any help from a neighbor. My property line begins right where the two walls met, so it's all on me! =)
  • Heather D Heather D on Nov 08, 2013
    Thank you everyone for such helpful suggestions. I have shared them with my husband, and we're getting ideas and bids to see what route is best. Thank you!
  • Elaine Simmons Elaine Simmons on Nov 09, 2013
    I sold the home so it is not my worry anymore. I figure if it held for 10 years, it is not likely it would come down.