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tdrumm 03-19-2011 08:26 PM

Retaining Wall Demolition --HOW?
Hi everyone! This is the first of what I am sure will be many posts. We just bought and old house and would love to tear out the retaining wall in the back yard. The problem is, we have no idea how to go about this. The stats:

Retaining wall is 28" high x 56 feet long, running the width of the back yard.
Retaining wall is cinder block, filled with rebar and concrete.
Access to back yard is only 4' wide.

We would like to remove the retaining wall and much of the dirt behind it, and build a new wall (same height) further back on our property -- gaining valuable yard space in a tiny back yard.

Any ideas on how we can break that retaining wall out of there?


Fantastic 03-19-2011 09:40 PM

Could you post some pics?

I've had the privilege of redoing 2 retaining walls so far in life.

The ones I've done were fairly simple construction and pretty much took some sledge and jack hammering to remove it.

Curious: do you see any drain holes on the back side?(the non retaining side)

concretemasonry 03-19-2011 10:00 PM

If it is reinforced, you will encounter vertical reinforcement and some concrete footings. A lot of sweat and sledge hammers will work. Some kind of jackhammer will make it faster and if it poorly built, it could even be easier.

If the the footings are deep enough you may be able fill over the area.

The biggest problem will be getting everything (old block, steel, concrete, etc) out of the area and moving in the new materials. You may be able to find someone with a mini powered piece of equipment to do both in 2 stages (removal and rebuilding).

For just a low 28" high wall, a reinforced wall would be a big problem and costly. Look into segmental retaining walls block (SRWs) that do not need a concrete footing and can be installed your own pace. There a 4 major sites on the internet that have excellent site with ideas, photos, details and installation. - They are commonly used internationally in walls up to 40' high with no concrete footings or mortar.


epson 03-19-2011 10:18 PM

Well first you have to evaluate the condition of your current retaining wall. Check to see how stable the wall is and if there might be a danger of the wall collapsing on you when you begin to remove the wall sections. Also examine the stability of the earth behind the retaining wall as well. If you are not sure with the removal or stability call a professional for help if it appears that the wall or the earth behind the wall may collapse when you attempt demolition.
If you are confident enough that it wonít collapse then you can start removing any loose sections of the retaining wall and pry the remaining sections of retaining wall loose by using the flat edge of a crow bar between the mortar joints. You will also need a sledgehammer or if you prefer rent a jackhammer to break up the wall.

concretemasonry 03-19-2011 10:49 PM

The wall is only 28" high.

You have to be pretty short or laying on you back to fear collapse on top of you. - Unless ther is a huge slope above to a neighboring moutain.

If be if it might have a 4' deep footing (measured from the low side) and you were in the bottom of the removal area (which is unlikely if equipment was used).


epson 03-19-2011 10:58 PM

Must have missed the height partÖ :whistling2:

tdrumm 03-20-2011 01:01 AM

The wall is only 28 inches high, so we aren't worried about collapse, we just need it out. We've gone at it with a sledge and it won't budge. Again, it is filled with concrete and rebar. I should mention that I weigh 108 lbs and my husband is a nuclear engineer (not known for their brawn).

Is there a piece of equipment that we can rent that will make this possible? We'll want something that can handle the wall as well as the footing, as well as digging out the dirt behind the wall so it can be pushed back.

Not so much interested in how to replace it right now, much more concerned with getting it out. Any ideas?


oh'mike 03-20-2011 07:16 AM

A little skid steer (Bobcat) with a jack hammer attachment could make short work of that.

Or a mini excavator (back hoe)--

The mini-ex could dig the new footings,if needed.

Either are available at a good rental company----go for a ride,look at the rental place--they are fun.

epson 03-20-2011 11:38 AM

Yeah I was also thinking about using the bobcat and back hoe and didnít ask the question if you had room to use them. It would really make your work a lot easier and defiantly faster. Donít forget to rent a bin to put your waste in.

Bondo 03-20-2011 11:53 AM


Access to back yard is only 4' wide.

Ayuh,... With only a 4' wide access,...
You're pretty limited...
A jackhammer to bust it up, 'n wheelbarrows to remove it from site...

tdrumm 03-20-2011 12:50 PM


Originally Posted by Bondo (Post 613189)
Ayuh,... With only a 4' wide access,...
You're pretty limited...
A jackhammer to bust it up, 'n wheelbarrows to remove it from site...

Again, the problem with that is I am the one that will be doing this and I weigh 108 lbs. I do know they have small skid steers (36" wide), but I don't know really what a skid steer is. I'm really completely green at this. In our last house, I installed a wall, french drain and all, but I've never had to do any demo. I called for an estimate, and basically, they want anywhere from $1800 to $2200 to take this sucker out. Then another $5k to put it back in.

There is plenty of room to maneuver in the back yard, just not a lot of space to get anything back there.

In a perfect world, I would also like to bust up the existing patio, planters and sidewalks and replace everything myself with pavers.

I just wonder, with it being just me working on this most of the time, will the machine rental fees eat up what I save by doing it myself?

epson 03-20-2011 01:32 PM

Well if you are the only one who is going to be doing this job and depending on how long you take to do the demolition the rental fees might eat up what you intend to save on this project. In this case I would suggest for you looking into bowering/ purchasing the tools required to do the job like a crow bar, sledgehammer, rotary hammer drill, grinder to cut re-bar, wheel barrel to haul your debris and a dumpster.
Then roll up your sleeves have gloves and safety glasses and go at it at your own pace until you have it all done.
What can I tell yeah, itís gonna take you awhile to do it all yourself if you canít get any machines back there to help with the processÖ

Fantastic 03-20-2011 02:32 PM

Another idea: Do you know anyone who could help you with running the a skid steer? If they have the time to help a good days work on breaking up the wall and clearing debris would put you well ahead of the "by hand demolition". A combination of both might be what's needed to save you time, money and more importantly, your back

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