24 September 2014

Retaining Wall Rebuild

When we purchased our home, we quickly made note of the badly leaning retaining wall to the south of our house.  Something that would definitely need to be addressed but there are so many other things to work on or put improvement money towards that we didn't rank it very high.  That was the case until a 40 foot section fell over during a severe thunderstorm a month or so ago.  It was a huge section that fell and when it fell, it pretty much flopped straight forward and lots of the blocks were still in place, just laying horizontally now instead of the more effective vertical.
So began the process of asking for contractor recommendations, leaving messages, setting up times to have them come look at it, talking them through what we want and then waiting for them to give an estimate.
Amazing, I was able to get Contractor A to come by the day after it happened on Labor Day.  His rebuild plans sounded good but he didn't really have any experience with walls of this size (40' long x 4'-5' high).  Verbal estimate was in the $3000 range. Contractor B was the husband of a work colleague.  He specializes in "hardscapes" (I did not even know that this was the term for landscape jobs that are primarily concrete/block/stone etc.)  His company's website has some great examples of their work and I love having someone who you have a connection to, even if it is slight.  I figure that means less of a chance of them just doing the job to get it done.  His estimate was $2,100, but he said he was booked out until November.  He said he would try and get us worked in early though, possibly in the next 3-4 weeks. Contractor C seemed slightly impressed by the size of the job and said it'd be around a week's worth of work (the other two contractor had estimated 3-4 days) and a cost in the $5000-$6000 range.  Needless to say, we went with Contractor B.  And we were so happy we did!  He gave us a call in two weeks and had an opening and was ready to work on our wall.  It pays to spend the time to get three bids on any sizable job.
Day 1: They arrive around 8 and are gone when I get home around 4.  They have pulled all the limestone blocks out of the walkway and stacked them in the driveway and on the patio.  They have excavated the dirt, widening the walk space considerably and dumped in in a trailer they brought.  They must've called it a day a little early since they were ready to start the rebuild process the following day.  And on Day 2 they started working at 7:00 and didn't let up until 5:30.  They were grinding each block, checking it with a level, grinding again, back and forth until they had a perfect fit.  At the end of Day 2 they had the first few layers of block laid.  Day 3 they started again at 7:00 and they were gone when I got home after work.  They finished the wall, backfilled the space with a foot of clean aggregate (gravel), and put in a piece of tile to help move the water out from behind the wall.  They also improved the look of the walking path in the walkway too, using their saw to trim the bricks and filling the extra space with red gravel.  They powerwashed the limestone wall, getting all the green moss off and making it look like new and they sprayed off the patio and driveway as well.  The owner was there for short while in the mornings but for the most part it was two guys.  That is some hard work and I was happy with the finished product. 

End of Day 1.

End of Day 2.

End of Day 3.

Here's why you need a filtration sock around your tile.  
Without it, your tile fills with silt and can't do it's job.


  1. Now that's how you build a retaining wall... get them to do your other projects too! Love great workmanship.

  2. This is a very interesting blog on a retaining wall building process. The pictures are great and your retaining wall and walkway look beautiful!