Thursday, March 21, 2013

Retaining Walls, Tidbits, Roof

I've been trying to figure out what to do with all of the dirt left over from the series of excavation projects for this house over the past 2 years. The piles of dirt in the front and back yards have gotten so large and in-the-way, that it was time to design and create some retaining walls against which to grade the dirt.

Here is the form for a curved retaining wall out front, extending from the foundation pier of the front deck. I built 8 feet of form, poured it, and then moved the form over and poured again to get the full 16 feet of wall.

Here is a very close shot of the PEX tubing that we built into the form, as a "weep hole." These holes will allow water through the wall so that it doesn't build up behind it and cause structural problems over time.

Mike mortared old bricks on top of the wall to match the retaining wall out front along the sidewalk.

The east side of the house presented a challenge, because we had to dig out a portion of the hill alongside it, for the interior floor level to remain the same. The neighbor's driveway is about 2 1/2 feet above the floor level, and runs parallel to the house, about 10 feet away from it. I decided the solution was a big retaining wall.

Here is the east side after initial excavation:

Building forms:

Here the forms are ready for the concrete truck (despite my previous post about how much I preferred hand-mixing concrete to having a truck come, this would have been 243 bags to mix, which I didn't feel physically up to):

Communicating with the driver about how far to inch forward to get the chute in the right place:

And pouring!

We had more than three wheelbarrows of extra concrete at the end (I ordered a bit more than I thought we needed, just in case something went wrong, or my math was off...)

I had thought the previous day about where extra concrete might be helpful, and had decided that a landing at the bottom of the side steps would be nice:

Here is what the finished retaining wall is looking like. You can see "honeycombing" below at the bottom of the wall (the area where the gravel is exposed, and it isn't smooth). This is where the concrete was initially too dry during the pour. I asked the driver to add some water to the mix and it worked a lot better.

You can see the "weep holes" in this wall. They are white PVC pipe - I will cut the ends off so that they are flush with the wall. I like the faceted corner detail, shown below:

The addition isn't in a very pretty state right now, which concrete forms everywhere, and plastic on the roof, and pink foam sheathing contrasting with black tar paper. I'm excited to continue with the beautiful wood siding, and greening the roof, and putting in windows.

I don't have many good photos of the process of putting up the EPDM roof liner, but you can see it hanging over the edge in the next two shots. Immediately below, you can notice the transition from the back porch roof to the EPDM roof. The porch had clear plastic roofing (which you can kind of see in the photo above), but we switched it to metal and extended it so that it overlapped over the EPDM.


  1. Really like the faceted corner. Hope to see more photos for the updates. retaining walls Melbourne

  2. Such a big yard, nice idea! using retaining wall to control the dirt, well attaching the bricks made the wall look better.

    Castlerock Xeriscape

  3. So, you're planning on turning the roof green. You have my support on that! :) However, what kind of design are you planning for the system? Putting up a rooftop garden is one the most affordable solutions. You can also simply add some skylights. But basing on your excitement, I have feeling it would be a complete roof landscaping. Just be wise on what plants to plant. Here’s to a healthy community! :) -->Lenore

  4. Going green is not only what's in, but it's what will best benefit the environment. Roof landscaping will help reduce the heat that hits your roof because of the plants that will cover it. Also, plants excrete oxygen that will also benefit everyone in your household.Bryon Sedillo

  5. I've been thinking about adding retaining walls to my yard, but I'm not sure if I should attempt them myself or higher a professional landscaper to put them in. I am not the most handy person, so I'm leaning towards getting someone else to do it. How easy would you say this project is for the average person?