Long post, but I need serious help please!!

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by g-scapes, Sep 13, 2004.

  1. g-scapes

    g-scapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 17

    This is a long one, but I want to give as much info as I can for good help. I am in my first year here, and do a mixture of mowing and landscaping...pretty much whatever is thrown my way as long as it is for the right price. I have been referred to a guy who could have the job that I need badly. Lots of work, but the reward would be that I could purchase equipment. I do this part-time, but would like to go full-time next spring. Here is the situation, and please give any advice you have. Guy has a back yard that at one point was terraced because it goes pretty much straight up hill. He has a first level that is at the level of his house and that is about 20-25 feet deep, then a 4 1/2 foot tall stone wall. Whoever did the wall didn't dry stack it, they mortared every stone in place, so it will be a pain to get out. Okay, so above the first wall is a muddy area that is about 30 feet deep and maybe around 100' long. Then there is the next stone wall, maybe another 4 1/2 feet tall, but it only goes 1/3 of the way up this next hill, so the mud above wall on the slope slides down. Above this slope is a grass path, about a car width deep, which is the third level, then another hill up to the top level. The top level is where the kids play, and it is high...you are above the roofline of the house up there, but everything else is so muddy that the kids can't play any lower. So, he has a huge mess on his hands, and step one is to remove that whole second level, bring it down to the level of the first level so grass can be planted and the kids can have an actual backyard. It works out to about 200 cubic yards of topsoil that would need to be removed, and then that second stone wall would have to also be extended down about 5 or 6 feet. I need some help on a couple of things....how to cheaply remove that much soil, and also how to go about making the big wall. Should the wall actually be a couple of different terraces closer together so that it wouldn't be a 14 foot high stone wall? What kind of estimate should I give him for the removal of all of that soil, and for building either one tall wall, or two shorter walls. The wall would end up being around 100' long. What kinds of things might I not be factoring in also? Please, I am ready for any and all advice!!
     
  2. stxkyboy

    stxkyboy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 222

    You are in way way over your head...that is my advice.
     
  3. g-scapes

    g-scapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 17

    I figured that some would say that, and I can't really say that they are wrong. I have built many stone walls, so it isn't that part of the job that concerns me really. If need be, I am friends with a really good stone mason who can jump in and lend a hand, it is just the dirt removal that is troubling me right now. Any ideas oh what would be the most inexpensive way to remove the soil? Thanks for your input.
     
  4. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    I think you will need an engineer and a bunch of permits to build the wall. you are talking about holding alot and I mean alot of weight back. So its not just a matter of building a wall, its a matter of safty so better check with building or engineering dept before proceeding. And to remove the soil on a hill like what your talking about you will need an excavator! Where are you going to put it? Trucking fees need to be figured in. I also think your in over your head, this is a major under taking you would be starting and not an easy one for someone that only does this part time

    Mac
     
  5. GreenMonster

    GreenMonster LawnSite Silver Member
    from NH
    Posts: 2,702

    This sounds like a very complicated project and difficult site to work with. If you think you are going to address any of it "cheaply", I think you'll be asking for big trouble. Shortcuts will likely come back to hurt you on a project of this magnitude.

    As far as the walls go, I'm having a hard time drawing a mental picture of the site based on your explanation. However, you do need to include a couple very important structural issues in the design. First, a wall 14' tall is going to require some kind of reinforcement. I'm more familiar with SRW's, and I'm not sure how it is done with rock walls. Maybe in the batter (setback). I have seen tall rock walls built with very large bases that taper up to a smaller width at the top.

    It already sounds like there are drainage issues at this site. Make sure you have drainage, swales, and anything else needed to properly divert you water and prevent hydrostatic pressure behind the walls.

    If you do terrace the walls, your walls need to have a certain setback from one to the next, so that the lower wall does not bear the weight of the one behind it. For SRW, the second wall is typically set back twice the height of the first. So, if you have a 4' wall, the next terrace should be back at least 8'.

    I think your best course of action would be to involve a qualified engineer and contractor with experience in a job this size. It would be a good opportunity for you to learn and gain valuable experience. I really don't think you want to learn on something this involved.

    edit: I was posting the same time as Mac, and I agree with everything he said as well!
     
  6. g-scapes

    g-scapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 17

    Yeah, I figured that there would be lots of permits. When he bought the house he had several hundred yards of topsoil removed just to be able to terrace the backyard, and he could only find one excavating company that would do it because of the severity of the slope. So, all else fails, I could call them and see if they could do it. The slope is no where close to what it used to be, so I would think that there would be more options. There is a Target being built just down the road with a "fill dirt wanted" sign up, so I thought that I would get that number and call them, see what arrangements could be made. Have you guys ever dealt with that kind of situation?
     
  7. g-scapes

    g-scapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 17

    Thanks GreenMonster. I think that this is a valuable learning opportunity, but not something that I will do as a trial by error type thing. The only thing that I wanted to do cheaply was remove the dirt...I would imagine that the cost of the wall will be extraordinary. One idea that I toyed with for the stability of the wall was to use some of those, well, for lack of a better word, those cages that you see filled with rocks along highways that are prone to landslides. There is a quarry right down the road where I could get that kind of stuff rather inexpensive, and I would think that if you had a few layers of that behind your actual stone wall, that would be a great deal of support. This isn't a project that I want to pass up, even if I have to contract lots of stuff out. I can just see too much learning potential in this. Thanks for your replies guys, I really appreciate them, and keep em coming.
     
  8. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    [QUOTE]One idea that I toyed with for the stability of the wall was to use some of those, well, for lack of a better word, those cages that you see filled with rocks along highways that are prone to landslides.[/QUOTE]

    That may very well work but can you get a permit for such a structure? Thats why you will have to get an engineer to design what kind of "WALL" that needs to be built. If you build a wall of the magnitude your talking about without having an engineer design it and it should fail and some one gets hurt you can't buy enough insurence to cover your azz. 1st stop needs to be the building dept.to find out what you will need to under take this prodject.

    Mac
     
  9. g-scapes

    g-scapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 17

    Okay, so we all agree that there is a really good chance that permits and an engineer will probably need to be involved. That along might scare the homeowner enough to changes his plan to something more manageable. If he decides not to, what kind of price tag should I put on a wall like that? The excavation and wall are just the beginning of a HUGE project, but it is the hardest step. The rest is planting and grading and hardscape stuff like a flagstone patio and a gazebo and play area for his kids, that kind of stuff, so there is so much potential for more, it just seems to be this first step that is scaring away all of the other landscape companies, or so I heard. A realtor I work with passed this guy along to me, and the realtor told me that the homeowner has been getting estimates in the $30K range, but I don't know how accurate that is coming through a few different mouths.
     
  10. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    If he decides not to, what kind of price tag should I put on a wall like that? The excavation and wall are just the beginning of a HUGE project, but it is the hardest step.

    On a wall like what? :dizzy: Until you know what kind of a retaining structure is needed and what excavation needs to be done you can not set a price! If the guy been getting estimates in the 30k range, which does not sound unreasonable there a reason for it, The project is not to hard for ALL the other contractors [as the degree of difficulty goes up so does the price of having it completed] so the cost to the home owner is probably way more than he's willing to spend.

    Mac
     

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