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Retaining wall design questions

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by Bigbladesblazin, May 8, 2008.

  1. Bigbladesblazin

    Bigbladesblazin LawnSite Member
    Posts: 5

    Good day, all.
    Really enjoy reading your blogs and advice on this site. thx.
    A good friend of mine owns a landscaping company up here in the great white north, and we have a neighbor that needs some work done and/or advice.
    She has a 1 level house with a finished basement.
    The issue she has is in the basement. She has a Patio door that leads to a 'sunken' stone deck, with 3 3' retaining walls with steps. from the walls to the backyard grass, there is a 45degree slope of grass/dirt.
    Does any one have any pics or ideas, Im thinking about some timber levels or flower beds to eliminate the slope (less pressure on stone retaining walls) -
    Any help would be appreciated..
  2. Bigbladesblazin

    Bigbladesblazin LawnSite Member
    Posts: 5

    Can anyone help me with some ideas on what to do with this mess in the backyard:

    Please and thank you ./.

  3. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    I would put in a fire-escape well around the Sliding door, and then fill in the whole thing with dirt.

    Or go as far as dig the whole thing out and do a well-built retaining wall that was well enginered.

    The place looks dangerous, any kids around????

    Holy smoke, I just looked at the pic closer. I seen the young one in the background, the fence looks sloppy as they could easily go through it.
  4. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,943

    That has "call an engineer" written ALL over it. I kind of agree with White Gardens- I think the 100% best solution would be to change the patio to a parged and waterproofed concrete stairwell, and raise the backyard up to a usable grade.

    But you didn't ask that, so I'm sure that's not realistic with the budget. So, addressing your question, the existing walls are clearly not appropriate for the conditions. You can't really do a whole lot in that little area that's going to fix the problem. If it were me, I'd tell the homeowner that the choice is to have me remove the walls and replace with an appropriate solution, or call the next name in the yellow pages.

    And how do builders get away with this crap? Kills me.
  5. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    So what do you think, would it cost more money to try and rebuild the walls effectivly or do you think the concrete stairwell is the beter cost choice. The way I see it is that they would come out the same. Just thinking of who and what your paying for.

    Any thoughts Papercutter.
  6. mrusk

    mrusk LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,260

    Block up the door. Tar the foundation. A few loads of dirt and the backyard will be useable. If you keep the door, the backyard will always be unuseable.
  7. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    Oh yes, but in order to list a house with a usable basement or extra bedroom then it needs a fire escape. If not you loose a bedroom and depending on market value, 5-25,000 in equity.
  8. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,943

    I think you're looking at too much expense to redo the retaining walls properly if you're keeping the same footprint, because you've got a pretty darn useless backyard. If it were my client, I'd strongly recommend that they do the stairwell and raise the grade. You're looking at a small linear footage of wall- 4 feet out from the house, then whatever distance parallel to the house to get the treads to get to grade. It's really not that much block and steel. I get that they probably liked the solution that they have because it lets light into the finished basement, but you have no yard, you must feel like you're sitting at the bottom of a toilet, and if they try to sell that house a buyer's going to look at that backyard and get back in the car. If you keep the patio footprint but raise the walls to raise the grade, you now have a patio that is less pleasant to sit on and that functions as a trap for unsuspecting kids.

    Rusk's solution works for the yard, but cuts the functionality of the house. In all the remodels and additions I've designed, I don't know as that I've ever removed a door. I think I've only ever added doors. Plus if it's a finished basement, you're just adding dollars to the project to make it pretty on the inside when you're done.
  9. Bigbladesblazin

    Bigbladesblazin LawnSite Member
    Posts: 5

    thanks so much for the feedback , I knew a Photo of this would help with suggestions.
    I think I will get an engineer to make an estimate with the staircase suggestion.
    as a footnote- she actually thinks its actually quite pleasant sitting in the "toilet bowl' believe it or not. its pretty cool in the summer and in the winter it cuts the wind, it also blocks the annoying neighbors looking in .....
    should we use poured concrete or blocks and reinforcement bars?
    I want to make sure I ask the engineer teh correct questions and not have the lady lose her shirt over this .....
  10. senatorcongressman

    senatorcongressman LawnSite Member
    from WDC
    Posts: 40

    The wall looks bowed and I don't think thats on purpose. I wonder if there is any drainage? I don't think you can relieve any of the pressure behind the wall with a timber terrace, the setback needs to be at least twice the height and there isn't enough room. Plantings might make it look nicer, but won't help with the underlying problem.

    Re-do is best course. Maybe swap the slider for a single door + window, and built steps out toward the camera man with a 4' high wall to the left, then a sunken path returning along side the new steps away from the camera, a 3' high wall to the left. 4 more steps should get you to grade somewhere near the hopper window. From there, a patio or deck to the end of the house. This way you still get light down there and have room for plantings.

    Cheapest solution is probably fill it all in and use a pre-fab window well.

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