cheap retaining wall?

azlcd(z8 / TX)September 17, 2006

I want to level my backyard. I'm going to create three terraces, each one about a foot taller than the other. The walls would be between 1 and 2 feet high.

So, what's the cheapest and easiest way? I'd like to do ledgestone, but it looks expensive.

Any ideas out there?

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mister_ubergreen(Z8/9 HouTX)

The cheapest option for any landscaping project like this, AFAIK, is landscaping timbers. They cost about 2 dollars, for an 8 foot section. We've done good sized flowerbed boxes for under 30 dollars. But, yeah, Ledgestone is frightfully expensive, especially if you're doing a large project like what you stated.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 10:55AM
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trsinc(8 TX)

If you want something that you don't have to worry about rotting, although I think many types of timbers will last a long time, you could consider cinder blocks.

I'm making a bunch of raised beds in my back yard out of them. I think they are easier than timbers (no cutting, measuring, mitering, nailing, screwing, etc.) They cost more than timber but they will be there forever.

Once I get them all constructed I'm going to stain them with ironite and them try the buttermilk/dirt thing to age them. I'm not too keen on the plain cinder block look. I'll also plant cascading plants along the edges. These are all ideas that I got from the potager forum and the square foot gardening forum.

And, yeah, any kind of stone is expensive!!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 4:01PM
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rockyn(Austx8b)

Also take a look at the hypertufa forum. Hypertufa is a portlandcement/sand/peatmoss mixture that looks like aged stone.

There was a woman last summer who built a 125' long wall with no previous experience. There are also lots and lots and lots of recipes for different outcomes and photos of people's projects (mainly containers) and technical support answers.

Good luck with this!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 5:33PM
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azlcd(z8 / TX)

thank you for the suggestions. I guess the worst part about the stone is....I live down the street from a quarry! Train loads of stone pass my home every day, but if I want some, I gotta pay up. Not fair!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 8:45PM
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bjs496

Last year when I visited my aunt in Benbrook (SW of FW), I saw a retaining wall in the park that was made by laying bags of concrete mix on top of each other. Over time, the rain hardened the concrete and the paper bags rotted away. What it lacked in attractiveness (not ugly, just not my style), it made up for in cleverness.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 9:41PM
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xericgardening

If you can get some good clay (if you've got clay in your yard, just dig it up), make some wooden frames (about twice the size of a regular brick), mix wet clay with straw, put it in the frames and allow it to bake in the sun. Remove the frames and ...Voila, you have adobe. It's work, but it will probably outlast you and me. It also takes on a beautiful weathered look after time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Desert Gardens

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 11:06PM
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azlcd(z8 / TX)

well, no clay. Maybe cinder block made pretty with the hypertufa stuff?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 10:05PM
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bobestes

mister_ubergreen,

where do you get your $2 landscape timbers? that sounds too good to be true! I've never seen something like that for less than $20!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 10:50AM
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unautre(8B San Antonio TX)

"cinder block"

ugly as sin, looks like the back side of a strip mall, so you need to spend $$$ hiding it, and they aren't cheap. I've looked

btw, cheap most means crappy in few years. sagging and leaning, cracks. The best for reliable, long-lasting wall is on a foundation of reinforced concrete footing.

In the book racks at Home Depot and Lowes, a large number of books cover garden walls, fences, retaining walls, terracing, stone, masonry contstruction.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 5:19PM
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civilmind(8a (Dallas))

How big is your backyard? Are the terraces going to be lawn that will need to be mowed? What's the horizontal distance between each level? Not knowing the answers, the cheapest option is to grade the 1' drop on a 3:1 or 4:1 slope with dirt and just mow it. If you decide to install a wall at the edge of each terrace, and this is a lawn that will have to be mowed, you'll need ramps for the mower to get from one terrace to the next.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 2:04PM
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azlcd(z8 / TX)

The area that needs leveled is about 40' long and 20' deep. It is theoretical lawn right now (1/2 dirt 1/2 grass). Adding two feet at lowest point would just about level it out. HOWEVER, DH doesn't like that plan. He'd rather have 3 little narrow sections, with each part about 1 foot higher than the next. He insists this will be easier (hah!), cheaper (double hah!), and prettier (maybe!).

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 1:23AM
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eastsidegardengrrl

Limestone chop, dry stacked. Cheaper and more "authentic" than fake/cultured "stone", will last forever and not leach chemicals into the soil (unlike treated landscape timbers), and is readily and usually cheaply available all over the Austin area. I edged some beds with limestone chop and some with other materials such as brick, metal edging and timbers and was surprised to see the limestone ended up being the cheapest. Sometimes people list it on Craigslist when they have leftovers from a project.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 2:17PM
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denisew(z8 TX)

Just to let you know that I used the landscape timbers that you get at the big box home improvement stores to create raised beds. These timbers have only been there for about 7 years or so. Many of them are warped or rotting away and now need to be replaced. Since these are along our front sidewalk and down each property line, we're wanting to get something a little more attractive, but having trouble deciding on what to use because (same situation as you) of expense.

I built a small raised bed on the side of my yard using pieces of concrete from the city where they were replacing sections of sidewalk. I just asked the crew if I could take some from a pile they had to the side of where they were working and they said I could take what I wanted - just to be careful. It was free and since it is rough, looks very similar to stone. I suppose if I wanted, I could spray some of that concrete stain on it to look like real stone! But, just like working with stone, it does take time fitting the pieces together.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 7:53PM
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azlcd(z8 / TX)

well we've ruled out cinderblocks, and it sounds like wood won't last very long. sigh.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 10:27PM
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aftermidnight1

Use retaining wall blocks. On sale for .89 each at Menards this week.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 11:39PM
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debndal(8a DFW, TX)

My opinion? If you plan on staying in your house for a long time, and you don't want to have to do the project all over again in a few years, I'd throw out cheap and do it right the first time, even if you have to do it in stages. So, I'd spend the money on whatever kind of stone appeals to you. Your idea with one level would probably be cheapest and the least amount of labor.
This is a minor thing, but if you have grass up next to the stone, it tends to grow up into the crevices between the stones, and trying to weed whack the edge is a pain. My husband complains about it every other week. So keep that in mind as well, especially if you intend to have grass on all levels. I'd also not do a concrete footing unless you KNOW you would never want to change it, and I wouldn't mortar the stone unless you do the concrete footing. I've seen some nice retaining walls in my neighborhood with what they call at HD the Estate Edge stacked stone. It looks best if your walls are each at least 3 stones high, and that would probably mean just one wall in your case.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 12:38AM
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qa4me(9)

Cheap retaining wall?? Let me know.. on second thought don't. I'm in the middle of building a retaining wall started out as an 18" er but has grown to a 24" er on it's way to a 36" er in some areas x 90'. If the wall is going to hold ground.. soil etc. it needs to be reinforced with concrete and rebar. Then there's the cheap cindar block or there's the heavier kind, the mortar and the ledgerstone?? I believe is what you meant. Depending on where you get it, it runs anywhere from about $8.95 to $10.25 a SF for a 6" x 24" panel or if you prefer to piece it together yourself, you can get it for approx. $4.80 a SF. Now if you have a contractor to get it at his cost well then it's about half. there is also some really nice looking manufactured stone out there that looks every bit the stone does at a lowere price. Anyway, our project? A mere $6500. This is in So. Cal. Something to compare anyway. Good luck

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 2:05AM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

There is a retaining wall in Victoria, Texas, that is all broken concrete. This is in 'old' Victoria, and they are quite discriminating about building materials.

The woman who had this wall done is the queen of recycling, however, so I guess she could get away with the concept, which is what you have to overcome in the first place.

This wall is beautyyyy-FULL!

I was so surprised to see it, where it is- Even when it was new, it was pretty. Now, plants have grown in, sprawled over, and softened it, and it really is gorgeous!

All it cost the owner was for labor, the broken concrete was free.

I like to use broken concrete. It does a nice path, edge, or pet rock in the flowerbed.

Janie

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 8:15AM
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missinformation

If you're going to soften it with plants, the broken concrete would work great, and it's not too hard to find and usually free. If you're doing a lawn area with grass coming up to it, I'd go with concrete, even if you have to do it in stages.

Some friends of ours who are landscapers had to build a long retaining wall on their property, and they just stacked quickcrete bags as high as they needed and let them sit there until it rained. The crete hardened in little pillow shapes, the paper eventually rotted away, and it looks really interesting. She tucked a little soil into the little crevices and has a variety of sedums growing out of it. It's really neat looking and definitely something that could be done in stages every time you get a little money for more bags.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 9:03PM
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copanolady

I would really caution against using landscape timbers. I just spent over $1,000 for termite treatment and one landscape timber near my house was crawling with them. I'll never use them again anywhere near my house. Bricks or rocks for me. Just a word of caution.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 8:30PM
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akup_a(7)

My family and I camped at the Dinosaur Valley park in Glen Rose, Texas awhile back. They use the concrete bags along the river banks for retaining walls and for pathways along the banks. It was really neat and fit the landscape very well.
I wonder if you could put a colored pigment in the bag first and then leave it out in the weather to give you a colored stone look?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 2:59PM
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missinformation

How was Dinosaur Valley with all this rain? Bet the fish were biting like mad.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 12:04AM
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akup_a(7)

Sorry missinfo. for the missinformation. "Awhile back" in Texas was a year ago before all this wet stuff came.
Haven't had time to go this year because I'm working 60 hr. weeks due to the rain.
But I did like the pillowy look of the bags for a wall if I could get more color to it.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 8:59AM
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red_geranium

I always thought the cinder-block/grass terracing would be very clean and geometric landscaping but never had the nerve to try it myself. This is how I thought I would do it. First very carefully measure and level the base of a row with gravel, sand, you know......Really set the blocks with tamping them in, leveling as you go and use short rebar in the block holes to permanently keep in place, then fill the hole with potting soil and plant with a cascading herb or whatever. I have seen this in older landscaping idea books and it looked very nice! Wouldn't try to stack them though. The repetition of 3 terraces would be very pleasant viewing.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 11:29PM
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missinformation

We used stacked cinder blocks this way for one of our raised bed gardens, and all of the holes have trailing plants and sedums tucked inside. It's really very pretty.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 10:33PM
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