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Old 03-20-2011, 03:01 PM   #1
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Retaining wall for driveway and garage


Greetings. I am new to the forum and will likely be a regular since we are about to undertake building our own home.

We have a plan we created years ago before we fully understood the topography of our lot. The lot is about 2 3/4 acres divided by a public road leaving us around 2 acres on the side where we will build.

The lot is sloped such that the terrain at the back of the house is 4 feet higher than at the front of the house. Given that we would want to fill in the back yard to grade away from the house, we will have to have about 6 feet concrete walls in the back. Given that, it seems to make the most sense to build a walkout basement with a full 100" basement wall on the back.

If we put the walkout basement in, then we have two options for the garage: basement level or main level. The problem we have is that my wife is handicapped and stairs are very difficult for her so we prefer the garage on the main floor.

The basic layout is that the driveway will come in with higher ground to the right hand side and lower ground to the left. The left must be brought up to the right level so the left side of the driveway and garage need a retaining wall.

I think that no matter what, we end up with the garage about 3 feet below the main floor but she can handle that if we have to - that's about what we have to deal with currently. Considering we will have 2 feet deep floor trusses, having the garage 3 feet below the main floor will allow for a one foot stem wall, helping to keep the house dry when the garage gets wet.

This design means we would have to level off that 4 foot slope to the high side and raise it another 2 feet for a total about 6 feet (plus or minus) of soil to be retained along the driveway and garage. The driveway will have about 75 feet of length to build up from street level to a 6 foot high landing zone outside of the garage.

I hope I've painted the picture clearly enough to understand. My question is how to do this? Is it the right thing to do or what ideas do others have for how to tackle this problem.

I guess there is one more option I would also appreciate comments on: a basement under the garage - such that the garage is above open space below. This would simplify the basement grading but still involve the retaining wall for the driveway - which is not as scary as the retaining wall for the garage.

Thoughts?

Thanks,

Dale

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Old 03-21-2011, 05:37 AM   #2
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Retaining wall for driveway and garage


Dale,
You've typed 1000 words to describe your situation, but pictures will tell a whole lot more.
You can load them from a free photo sight, I use http://photobucket.com/

In order to have a basement under a garage, the garage floor will need to be pre-stressed concrete panels....$$$$$
Your house plans may need an Engineers' stamp for that too.

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Old 03-21-2011, 08:34 AM   #3
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Retaining wall for driveway and garage


Four feet of drop on a 2 acre parcel simply doesn't seem adequate for an efficient walk out basement. I'd suggest saving your money by doing a partial exposure, keep the driveway flatter, and consider a zero entry between the garage & house. The no-step entry isn't really very complicated, you just need to plan ahead with the correct materials.
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Old 03-21-2011, 10:37 AM   #4
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Retaining wall for driveway and garage


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Originally Posted by jomama45 View Post
Four feet of drop on a 2 acre parcel simply doesn't seem adequate for an efficient walk out basement. I'd suggest saving your money by doing a partial exposure, keep the driveway flatter, and consider a zero entry between the garage & house. The no-step entry isn't really very complicated, you just need to plan ahead with the correct materials.
It's 4 feet in the 30 feet width of the house. The slope continues up at a slightly higher rate behind the house. So to get the back wall high enough to provide an adequate grade away from the back, I was thinking of a 6 to 7 foot high back wall with back fill to allow an appropriate slope away from the back. So if I end up with 6 or 7 feet, I may as well go to 8 and do the walkout basement.

I am not sure what pictures I could include other than drawings to show the slope. I'm not much of an artist and I have a design program that I am not very good with. I will try to draw this out and post a picture if needed. For now, if I just took a picture of the lot, I don't think it would show much. It would just show grass and a slope up.

My wife is, justifiably, very concerned about the stairs and we are really trying to find a way to do it more like you suggest, jomama. I am trying to find a geotechnical engineer in the area. So far, I have not found one within 75 miles of us.

Thanks,

Dale

Last edited by dalepres; 03-21-2011 at 10:40 AM.
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Old 03-21-2011, 12:04 PM   #5
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Retaining wall for driveway and garage


You may want to consult with an architect. They are trained to develop plans that work with the topography, and meet your special needs such as handicap access. Unless you have architectural training, it is very difficult to custom design a home and get it right. We hired an architect to work with us on a kitchen/deck project, and although we did not ultimately build exactly the way the architect designed it, the interplay of ideas was very useful, and certainly improved the final plan over anything we could have come up with on our own.
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Old 03-21-2011, 08:27 PM   #6
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Retaining wall for driveway and garage


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Originally Posted by Daniel Holzman View Post
You may want to consult with an architect. They are trained to develop plans that work with the topography, and meet your special needs such as handicap access. Unless you have architectural training, it is very difficult to custom design a home and get it right. We hired an architect to work with us on a kitchen/deck project, and although we did not ultimately build exactly the way the architect designed it, the interplay of ideas was very useful, and certainly improved the final plan over anything we could have come up with on our own.
I have been looking for engineers and architects for days with little luck. Finally, this evening, a guy here to give a quote on excavation also gave me the name of an engineering firm from 75 miles away who will work here.

But, in the spirit of DIY, I'd still like to hear DIY ideas here. The "call an engineer" or "call an architect" is pretty much the standard answer on most home-building forums I have seen. That's a pretty good answer all the time but it sort of negates the need for a forum.
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Old 03-21-2011, 09:03 PM   #7
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Retaining wall for driveway and garage


I met with an excavation company this evening. The guy was nice enough to interrupt his dinner to come by.

His suggestion is to cut the slope flat at the natural grade of the lowest portion of the house. Then to cut down the slope going back 10 to 15 feet to provide drainage and put in a small retaining wall at that point. The slope along the length of the house should mean that this wall only goes for about 20 feet and is only about 2 to 3 feet high. I'm thinking backdrop for the barbecue pit here.

I'm waiting to hear from a couple more excavators and have left a message for the engineering company this guy tonight suggested.

Between commuting and working, I won't even see daylight at home until next Saturday but when I can I will get pictures to post before we start but I do still want more opinions and quotes before we turn the first dirt.

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