Last summer, we started the project to replace an old railroad tie retaining wall in the back yard by the pool with a new block wall.  By the middle of the summer, we had installed the straight portion of the wall and had a new sidewalk and concrete steps poured next to one end, but we got burnt out before we finished the corner / end of the wall by the new stairs.

Last weekend, we finally decided it was time to tackle the wall again so that it would curve into the hillside by the stairs and look more complete than how we left it at the end of last year.

Here’s what the wall & stairs looked like at the end of the summer last year:

New Retaining Wall - Summer 2010

We’d been putting off finishing the wall imagining that it would be a drawn out project with a lot of re-work to the straight portion of the wall, but it turned out to not be so bad after all.  Chad started by removing a couple of courses from the right end of the wall, then dug out by the steps and re-laid the blocks with a curve so that the wall ended in the hillside.

I managed to forget to take pictures while the re-work of the wall was in progress, but we basically constructed it the same as the rest of the wall with a footing of gravel and paver base to level each block and then backfilling behind the blocks with gravel.  One thing we did do differently to save on work and blocks was that we didn’t dig out the entire portion of the wall around the corner to the depth of the front of the wall.  The first course of blocks on that side common with the stairs is stepped up the hill so that the wall is really only a couple of blocks tall by the top of the stairs.

Here’s a picture of the end result:

The New Corner in the Retaining Wall

Although we’re considering the work on the retaining wall pretty much finished, there are a few things remaining – like cutting and gluing down the cap stones.  We also need to decide if we need all of the blocks in the top row or if we should step down the height of the wall before the corner since the grade behind the wall in that corner is lower than the grade toward the middle of the wall.  If we decide to keep them, we should probably think about bringing in a little fill to bring up the level behind the corner of the wall.  Since this is all minor in comparison to the work to build the rest of the wall, though, we’re still thinking of the project as pretty much complete.

Just like every other project we seem to do, though, this one left us with the thought that the wall looks nice and now some other areas in the back yard are starting to not look so great in comparison.  In this case, we’re feeling like the portion of the yard to the right of the steps is looking a little unbalanced and lacking definition in comparison to the wall on the left.  Here’s a photo that shows the new retaining wall, stairs, and the area to the right of the stairs:

Something's Missing on the Right?

The hill to the right of the stairs really isn’t steep enough to warrant another small retaining wall and, since we bring the riding mower through that way to be able to mow the area around the pool, there really isn’t too much room to spare there for added hardscape that would provide more structure.  Instead, we’re tossing around the idea of turning the right side of the yard into grass (rather than the mix of ground cover, hosta, hydrangea, and weeds that we have today) and then putting a small triangle-ish shaped flower bed on the hill next to the stairs (since it might be a little steep to mow anyway).  In the flower bed, we could put just a couple of hosta with mulch or maybe re-plant some ground cover (pachysandra?) that we could maintain more easily than the mashup of plants on that side of the yard now.

And so, as usual, the completion of one project leads to the start of the next …

Filed Under: Landscaping


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