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Old 05-03-2009, 07:09 AM   #1
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Help deciding on type of retaining wall

I am going to be putting in a 3 foot high retaining wall, which will have a linered pond behind it (~ 10'x20').

My original plan was to put a CMU block wall and face it with natural stone, but I have been reading most places that segmented retaining walls are usually easier, cheaper, and better than CMU block walls.

The problem is that I really want a look of natural stone.

Would it be possible to put a nearly vertical 3 foot segmented retaining wall in and then mortar natural stone on the face of it? Or would this ruin the drainage and structural integrity of the segmented retaining wall?

edit: Also, I should mention that I don't have large enough stones or large enough quantity of natural stones to build the entire wall out of them.

Last edited by bignateyk; 05-03-2009 at 07:11 AM.
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Old 05-04-2009, 07:08 AM   #2
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There are a lot of factors in choosing a wall type for a DIY project. Climate is one of the most important. Areas that have a deep frost line make all masonry types very expensive due to the depth of footing required. In this case SRW or dry stack walls are probably more appropriate. But both of these wall types require equipment or skills that most homeowners don't have.

SRW construction seems simple; buy the blocks, flatten the ground, and stack them up. It don't work that way. To be stable and look good the supplier's directions have to be followed to the letter. Some expensive equipment is needed to do the job right. The pro contractor will have a precision instrument to achieve the perfect grade for the first course of block. The homeowner has a four foot level and almost kills himself setting and resetting blocks until he finally says "good enough". A plate compactor is essential for doing the base and the backfill. You can rent one but the expense for a slow project done DIY gets out of hand. Then to get the finished look of well fitted caps requires a masonry saw. All things considered, the best blocks are expensive, skill is needed, and special equipment is essential.

Dry stack is more of a DIY type project compared to SRW. What’s needed here is skill and a strong back. Many homeowners have been successful with 2 foot high walls. By the time you get to a 3 ft wall the amount of stone needed is massive. How good it looks is a function of how patient the homeowner is in selecting each stone as the wall gets built. It's a slow process.

In mild climates one might choose a masonry wall type. Many homeowners will think first of a CMU wall. In my area many walls have been built with the standard 8 x 8 x 16 block. Over time almost all of these walls fail. All masonry walls need an adequate footer. And it is essential that all CMU walls have rebar ties from the footer to the wall as well as concrete fill of the block voids with both vertical and horizontal reinforcement. When homeowner doesn’t do this the wall falls down. I've always thought that by the time you add up the expense and trouble to do it right it's easier to just do a poured in place wall.

For some reason, poured in place concrete seems to frighten many people. In reality, the tools and skills needed are a good match to that of many DIY folks. That is, if you can get a concrete truck to the wall location. And where appearance is important, a stone or thin brick veneer can be applied. There are some things to learn before starting a concrete wall, but it ain't rock science.
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Old 05-04-2009, 10:17 AM   #3
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I dug an old hot tub shell 22" into the ground, then I'm going up 2 rows of block for my pond. To go up 3' high is more work & more pressure against the walls
Tamping can be achieved with a tamping tool from HD/Lowes
Getting the base level eliminates any need to restack
A line level is commonly used to achive this over a distance-even by Pro's
I'd rethink a wall that high
Can you dig down at all?

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