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Would like your input

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by Dirt Boy, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. Dirt Boy

    Dirt Boy LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 489

    I'm new to hardscaping, but have a person interested in "my" idea's for the attached picture.
    Can't see everything, off to the right is a patio (walkout basement opens to the patio), and they would like steps with landings every so often coming from the patio, up and around the retaining wall, and up to the upper level, which is just to the back of the garage and would, I'm thinking, just stop at the top, perhaps go out to the grass.

    I don't know if I'll do it or not, but I would like to stretch my brain around how to go about doing something like this.

    Some of my thoughts were to include a sitting bench somehow into the retaining wall, or build out from it, could incorporate a waterfall feature, etc.

    Guess since it's wintertime, I thought I would throw it out for some of you pro's that might like a little exercise!

    Thanks a bunch

  2. zedosix

    zedosix LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,665

    Quickly, first thing that comes to mind is to remove that eyesore of a retaining wall and incorporate a new set of steps with srw blocks. You may be able to veneer it if its constructed well but would still look weird in my mind. Good luck.
  3. Dirt Boy

    Dirt Boy LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 489

    That's a good idea, I hadn't thought of that. It could be removed I guess as much as desired, and it would give more area to work with.
  4. castle555

    castle555 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 127

    This looks like a pretty good project site -need picture to the right though.
    I've done many yards and lots of elevation changes.
    If you are planning steps, think safety first! You must consider the liability of creating a hazard people are going to use. Over 3' elevation -needs a handrail. People walking steps usually will fall while descending, so when considering a design I always use the 21" formula, a rise and tread total 21" or two rises and tread = 26" or 25"
    For example, best layout for outdoor landscape is 6" rise and 15" run, or 4" rise and 17" run.
    Do not change step height on any flight of stairs (use one formula or the other) and break it up with a landing every five foot of elevation.
    And do not use the typical general contractor building 7" rise and 12" step. It is only for people who don't know any better and/or an emergency application in the landscape -i.e. no other way to get there.
    Landings are best with a two-step pace before descending to the next stair tread.
    You can make a jig out of 1x4 wood to check your rise and run and use it for a guide when you do your construction layout. And, there is always field measurement and adjustment. Start your finish grade measurement level from the patio and go to the top of the wall to determine your steps.

    My advice to you on any wall would be to definitely waterproof it on the house side -use a combination of the Multicoat system, Amerdrain, Meldrain, HLM5000, and/or Drylock for masonry. You do not want any water movement to go into the house. The suggestion to use the wall area for your steps seems to be a good one -least waste of space.
    let us know what you decide and how it turns out.
  5. Dirt Boy

    Dirt Boy LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 489

    Thanks for your input. I am aware of the step rule, and would definitely want to be safe, so thanks for that.
    If you incorporate an hand rail, would it need to be on both sides, or is one side enough? I'm sure you could fall either way, but falling out towards the grass area, (I would think anyway), would be the greater of two evils, due to slope, etc.

    Another question would be: If I did remove the wall, would you build the SRW off of the existing footing, or would I need to take it out as well and build a "normal" base under the SRW?

    Am I in over my head yet?:)
  6. zedosix

    zedosix LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,665

    You definetely need to redo the base, quite likely there is a footing which may creat some issues because your new design is not going to necessarily follow the existing concrete wall. I think if you need to ask then you may be "in over your head". If you have no experience please get proper guidance and help from someone who has done this and knows the "science" of srw block and step construction.
  7. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,576

    Not to sound arrogant. But, please respect that I see things in black and white.

    Ok, when someone comes online for help with a simple design - that tells me they're lacking experience / know how.

    OK, thats what this site is for! We're all here to learn and share. Please don't get angry with me :)

    I know many rootin-tootin cowboys here would love to bust that wall apart. But, I'm not so sure an inexperienced person should be removing that home's retaining wall. #1 if it's poured concrete - then it was poured with the home's primary foundation, all in one pour, meaning there is no seam. #2 We can't see the rest of the home's foundation corners. That exterior retaining wall just MAY be a STRUCTURAL re-inforcement for the back foundation wall.

    A lawsuit could cripple you.

    Best thing to do is veneer the wall with something like Eldorado lick and stick Stone.

  8. castle555

    castle555 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 127

    I think you should keep on going and know what iti is you are getting into.
    I consult with my brother who is a licensed California civil engineer when I get a project with segmented loads and footings, or a swimming pool for instance.
    I think you are going to be okay on this one, but remember the old adage...a little knowledge can be dangerous.

    Imho, it seems the wall is becoming a consideration. Just as previous posters (DVShardscape) have said.
    It was probably poured with the house foundation and is rebar reinforced, also has a substantial foundation to it. 12' deep by 24" wide (guessing)

    zedosix is right and makes some good points about using caution here, and you aren't quite over your head yet.

    Generally, if the wall is working now and it appears to be quite structurally sound as an earth retainer -with no tilting or cracks over 1/16" anywhere, then I would incorporate as much of it as I could in the new design. I cannot see a segmented load by the house on anything you might be thinking of doing there either. The load of the house is on the bottom, not the top of the wall.

    Also make an exploration hole to find out the thickness and depth of the foundation on that wall if you are going to use it, or part of it.
    Even burying it would not hurt if it is sound. I would cut into a portion of the top if needed to make it horizontal, just make sure any steel you contact has 3" of mortar or concrete cover.
    Some of these projects can be quite simple and fun or a nightmare.:hammerhead:
    get all the information you can
  9. pitrack

    pitrack LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,048

    I like the idea of veneering the wall with some type of stone. Make it easy on yourself and just install some steps around the wall and leave the wall there. Get some nice plants to cover up the wall if you do not go the veneer route. I would use nice limestone or similar stone steps, but I am for the all natural look though.

    Good luck let us know what you decide.
  10. Dirt Boy

    Dirt Boy LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 489

    Thanks guys!
    First off, your not going to offend me by suggesting I don't know what I'm doing!! because I'll be the first to admit it:)

    I have minimal experience at this, and my thoughts are along this line: i.e. exercise myself to present some different ideas to customer, and if I think I'm going to be in over my head, point them to someone who could do it, and possibly help them. In this way, I'll learn, and they will still trust my judgment/responsibility for any future work. I would rather they be happy whether I do it or not, not that I don't want to make money doing it!

    You've all brought up some good points that I would not have thought of - Rookie!

    I think I know the people that put the foundation in, good friends, and I would get their input.

    I can tell you some more info that might influence your thoughts also. Away from the house/patio the yard abuts to a lake.
    I'm also learning, thanks to your input, that I should have taken some pic's of, and paid attention to the rest of the back, instead of just focusing on "steps up and around" for fitting it in with the rest of the area.

    Your thoughts about doing away with the wall, or modifying it, got me to thinking that you could make a nice cozy little area there for relaxing or whatever, perhaps some lights, etc. going up the walk.

    I will try and put this together for them, and see what happens. I can tell you it won't be for several months! snow, cold!!

    Regards to all

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