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Kahluabomb 03-06-2013 02:13 PM

Short retaining walls - grading
New home owner here (and new forum member - long time lurker) with a few questions about some basic yardwork/landscape things.

First - I live in Alabama, the soil in my neighborhood is heavy clay, with lots of rocks interspersed.
My house is on a hill, and the grade is all wrong, so I'm trying to fix some of it.

The front yard is a moderately sloping hill coming towards the house, and there's a few large patches that are really hard packed/rocky and wont grow grass. They don't absorb much water, so most of it just rolls towards the house.

So what I want to do, is put up a small (2ft maybe) retaining wall about 15 feet from the house (where the grade is still headed towards the house) and rough in a flowerbed above it, while regrading the remainder towards the house. And install a french drain system at the base/front of the small wall.

You can see behind the sign, a dark spot under the tree's that just doesn't seem to grow grass. This spot actually continues up to just below where the sign is. I'd like to enlarge the bare spot to make the flowerbed up to there, and am assuming I will need to put in a second small (probably 1ft-1.5ft) wall as the top border - to prevent washout.

With a wall such as this, not really retaining much, are the typical rules for retaining walls necessary? All of the compacting and backfill stuff? I'd like to till most of that part of the yard to get the topsoil loose, then just cut out a path maybe 2ft wide. Lay some smaller gravel and tamp down with a shovel, then start building the wall off of that. My hopes are that by planting enough shade tolerant stuff in the middle, it will prevent too much erosion, and it will give me a rough point to regrade the remaining lawn towards.

The landscape timbers are gone, and I have no issues with removing any and all of the bushes near the house. The plan was to have a load of fill dirt brought, thrown on top of everything near the house, and graded down at roughly 6'' per 10ft. I feel like this will be more DIYable without heavy equipment, and it should definitely be easier than removing soil to regrade.

So anyway, a small retaining wall or possibly a tall garden border. Do I need to go through all the normal steps for building a large retaining wall, or will I be ok with just laying gravel, leveling, and building on top of that with some gravel directly behind the wall for drainage?

Also, if this is a really dumb idea, what can I do to avoid the erosion/impaction from rain. Nothing wants to grow there because of the shade, and I feel like some of my water problems would be abated if there was some sort of root system on the hill to take care of some of the water.

buzzkillb 03-20-2013 08:27 PM

We use these for walls that are under a certain height in Los Angeles. go here and search slough wall, Notice LA doesn't need a permit when the grade is flat above the wall but does require a permit when there is a slope. Go to your local building and safety department and ask. They should be really helpful.

My company would never recommend to infiltrate the ground (french drain) within 10' of a structure, as that is not to building code. Keeping water away from structures is the key.

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