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Early 2017 Vintage 1025R TLB (260/H120)
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello GTT brain trust!!

Long story short, we purchased a house several years ago that was a pig with really nice lipstick. Some of the minor defects we knew going in to it and others, well not so much. One of those that we knew about was the unfinished under deck space that we've been working hard on cleaning up and correcting. The next item on this list is removal of a poorly installed and now slightly leaning retaining wall. Our plan for it is removal and just grading it down with grass and eventually putting in a fence around the area. Currently its large river rock on the top side to an unknown depth and crushed stone on the lower side. We're very much open to suggestions and recommendations from those that have experience in this field.

If this was your mess to clean up with the end game being a fence (likely a split rail) going straight out (basically where the wall is now) how would you do it?

My wife and I thank you in advance!

Photos to follow momentarily!
 

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Early 2017 Vintage 1025R TLB (260/H120)
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
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Matt my friend,
Is that an AC unit around the corner?

Thats quite the grade transition but I’ve seen worse. To remove this and slope it you are looking at positive grade away from the house for water shedding. Totally doable. You’ll have to remove that hump and displace the condenser
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Matt my friend,
Is that an AC unit around the corner?

Thats quite the grade transition but I’ve seen worse. To remove this and slope it you are looking at positive grade away from the house for water shedding. Totally doable. You’ll have to remove that hump and displace the condenser
The hump with mulch on the side can't be touched, that's the sand mound for our septic system. So the grading would be really bringing up the grade below the wall to the level of the wall, maybe a bit lower. The AC unit is further back than it appears in the pic.
 

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Matt,

All houses are pigs with lipstick or as I have heard, a Man with a home is always coming out of the hardware store.

It’s not that tall of a retaining wall nor that long and looks nice. I would take it apart and rebuild it, just better than it was.
 

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I'm with Herm, rebuild...and make it bullet proof! I HATE doing things over, whether it be the next day or 15 years down the road!

I would: Remove existing wall, dig down to frost level (42"?), make a form for poured concrete... 3' base at bottom tapering to 10" wide maybe 6" from finished grade. Pour, backfill with stone for drainage, add top soil and grass seed and kinda done... cuz you can also add a stone veneer/facia to wall face & top for appearance if you'd like. Bob
 

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Matt,
All houses are pigs with lipstick or as I have heard, a Man with a home is always coming out of the hardware store.
It’s not that tall of a retaining wall nor that long and looks nice. I would take it apart and rebuild it, just better than it was.
What he said ↑↑↑ If the bottom side of the blocks used has a retaining lip on them, it appears they do but some people knock them off because they do not like the set back each row gives.

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The wall was put up wrong IMO.
I'd also look into make the wall shorter and straight, maybe even use the extra blocks to make the wall one row higher, use Geogrid.
At the high end the first row should be below ground, cut the bank back ~2ft fill with stone.
 

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A few suggestions: I would try to rebuild it correctly - I think it will make the house better.
  • Consider trying to identify the block manufacturer. It has been my experience they will have installation guides on-line that are fairly easy to follow. Or check w/ local distributors who might have some info.
  • Check local building codes - they vary from county to county in my area. Some areas do not require a permit for walls below a certain height - 4' in my county. They might also require a railing above.
  • Taking it down will likely be straight forward. Most of these walls depend on gravity and some sort of system to "interlock" them together.
  • I'd start by removing all the stone that is visible in the picture & store it if you plan on using it later. Just get it out of the way in case you need to excavate back into the bank.
  • Remove and stack all the caps out of the way. They might be glued in place - I think they can be pried up with a large bar.
  • Remove all the blocks from the top down. They will be heavy. Lure some friends over to help. Sometimes people overachieve by gluing them together. If so, you'll want to scrape all that off at some point.
  • Excavate & rebuild per the manufactures instructions. It appears there are enough blocks to build a nice wall.
  • I would turn the end away from the house the other direction - back into the bank to capture and hold the material above. When turning it, try to use a fairly large radius curve - it will look better and the blocks will fit together more easily. Even if you don't make a full 90 degree turn you should be able to make it better. What we're really trying to avoid is cutting blocks. It takes time and requires special tools. Some manufactures provide special corner blocks for 90 degree turns. Well worth it if you want a 90 degree turn but requires additional planning.
  • You will need clean gravel. You also might need geo-grid as noted above.
  • And drainage - this is key. The water needs a path out. Gravel and perforated pipe are critical. And, see if you can get the downspout connected to the drainage so addition water isn't building up behind the wall. I built a fairly large wall years ago. The engineer recommended connecting the house downspout to the drainage system so the water could move quickly through the wall. I've had no issues in 20+ years. There are varying opinions on having drainage through the face of the wall - this is where the manufacturers' instruction guides are helpful - especially w/ local inspectors. My local code allows for providing the instructions as part of the permitting process - if the instructions don't require it, the local office won't.
  • There will be raging debates about the use of filter cloth to keep dirt out of the gravel. It actually depends on the soil type. As noted above, I took advantage of engineering provided by my local distributor. They noted the clay in my area did not require filter cloth to keep the dirt out of the gravel. And they noted it on the plans they provided. Other soil types will require some type of separation barrier. The purpose of the gravel is to provide a place for the water to migrate quickly down and away from the wall. It basically is a reservoir for excess water. If it becomes "clogged" with soil, it doesn't work as designed and the wall will eventually fail.
  • As you build up, tamp everything down with a plate compactor. They are well worth the rental fee. Set a row in place, backfill per instructions to the top of the row and then tamp it down making multiple passes. You can use a hand tamper for small walls, but it will wear you out and take much longer.
  • You might not think you need reinforcement - normally geo-grid. This is dependent on how much weight you expect to have on top of the wall and the height. If you are planning on driving a car or a tractor on top, take some time to figure this out. For the blocks I've used in the past, the manufacture requires reinforcement every two rows (16" of height) for all walls above 2' if the expectation there will be a vehicle or machine of some sort driven behind it. My tractor weights 2400 lbs w/out the loader and mower - that's a lot of extra weight on a wall.
  • Take extra time on the first row. Make sure it is dead level end to end and front to back. Buy two really good levels - a 4' level for end to end and a shorter one for front to back. Check the level diagonally also. Use the long level to check 3-4 blocks at a time. I try to follow the process used when laying cement blocks.
  • The task might seem daunting - take your time, do your research and it will turn out much, much better.
  • YouTube might help with the process.
If you have specific questions feel free to reach out and good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you everyone for the replies.
 
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IMO if you lose the wall you are going to introduce a lot of water issues. Remove and rebuild the wall maintaining some negative slope to drain the water to the end of the wall. I believe you will find that is the reason for all the gravel behind the wall.
I would rebuild with versa lock they are designed to slope back when done. I have used them on several retaining walls and they work well. backfill with gravel so it drains dirt will settle and push the wall out after some freeze thaw cycles.
 

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Gravel will freeze and swell just like dirt. Remember he’s got a drain field right next to it. I am reticent about a wall because of this. The only way to ensure that a supposed new wall won’t fail is a cast in place concrete wall with drainage behind it and a swail at the top. Introducing a new block wall will involve geotextile fabric barrier, geogrid every lift and structural free draining rock/gravel behind it. At the end of the day there’s nothing wrong with letting the hill (with a drain field atop of it) do it’s thing and slope everything away from it. Either your coercing the water away behind a wall or down a slope it’s the same issue. Watershed.
Don’t overthink it Matt. Get rid of that dilapidated wall and smooth things out. Assess the situation from there
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
@Kbar - I think that's the plan - just get it gone, grade away and modify as needed. That's if I get a chance to get back on the tractor once it comes back from surgery.. This last minute trip to sin city has been almost too productive, I might be perpetually stuck working the side hustle with every free moment for the foreseeable future! Happy wife or happy customers?

Edit: Language substitution.

Edit 2: Thank you everyone for your input, landscaping and hardscaping are zero skill/experience subjects for me and all the feedback and recommendations have been very helpful and educational and depending on what is found, the previous owner wasn't even good enough to do "half-[rear end]" work.
 

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What he said ↑↑↑ If the bottom side of the blocks used has a retaining lip on them, it appears they do but some people knock them off because they do not like the set back each row gives.

View attachment 794596

The wall was put up wrong IMO.
I'd also look into make the wall shorter and straight, maybe even use the extra blocks to make the wall one row higher, use Geogrid.
At the high end the first row should be below ground, cut the bank back ~2ft fill with stone.
Matt this is what I did for my retaining on my bank. Might give you inspiration. Been working for 15 years no problems.
Pete
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
@Design12PF. - This is great- Going to show the Mrs, I doubt she'll go for it, but Thank you!
 
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I am in agreement with everyone that wants you to rebuild it. With the turkey mound right there and having to slope it to grade. I like the boulders and I use them or smaller ones for everything i do.

Seeing as you have the block already it will be easier to use what you have already. Looking at the pics I don't see a drain pipe at the end and he was as lazy as you say, then he probably took the easy way out and didnt build it right.

Good luck!
WB
 
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