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Confused about retaining wall

2651 Views 11 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Nealtw
Ok bought this house about ten years ago. It has a small sloped back yard with a privacy fence. Over the last couple years I have noticed holes opening under a couple spot under the fence, where cats and other nuisance critters have been getting in. More concerning though, it kinda seemed like my yard was very slowly eroding away back there given the holes. I have to drive around back literally to see what was going on. Well these pics show it. My adjacent neighbor, the builders (I assume) put a railroad tie retaining wall. Further down my neighbors have stone retaining walls as needed. In some spots retaining walls arent needed. Their is a ditch that drops off out back But my house has nothing. Great.

Here is pics:

This is a longer shot of behind my neighbors fence. All these shots are from the BACK of my fence, behind it. Since my back yard is completely enclosed by privacy fence besides a gate at the front, I have to drive back there to look.

Here are some shots of mine. One particular problem area is where it joins to the neighbors as you see by the edge of the railroad ties in their retaining wall in that shot. you can see somebody put some kind of now rotting board to try to hold things in there.

Basically I would think I need a retaining wall back there. I put in for a local quote on the internet and only one guy really got back to me via text. I told him over text maybe 30 feet wall needed. He said 1800. The guy came out to look in person and was all over the place. Basically he said he wouldn't bother with a wall, that due to the roots and fence it wasn't going anywhere. I told him I was concerned with further erosion of my backyard, besides the critters getting in. BTW this whole area is very wet and drains a lot. First he said get some aluminum flashing and put it down in those holes under the fence. Then he changed up and said get some sakrete, put it in there...or something. Really didn't make sense to me, and do what with the sakrete? Then he said get some paving stones and turn them on edge, it wouldn't be pretty but it would stop the erosion. I was confused again, he said he'd quote me 350 to do the paving stone thing and would get in touch next week. 350 was a lot better than 1800 so I said sounds good. As I said he didn't seem interested in doing an actual wall at all once he saw it. Another possible issue is I believe my property ends at the fence line, and behind me/the ditch is somebody else's property. However I assume they wouldn't have any issue with me putting a retaining wall next to a ditch...maybe extending a foot into their huge property behind me that's just a field, and all the neighbors already have one. I would check with them first.

Now I'm confused, I really think long term I need something, some type of barrier. I'm also a total noob and not handy. My thinking is, there's really just a couple stretches that look bad. Deepest spot at the corner is like 16 inches I think. I'm trying to do this as easy as possible. My though was, throw 1-2 rail ties (or maybe landscape timber) in each of the 2-3 problem spots, basically. Been watching a lot of youtubes about retaining walls. The roots there will be a pain to go through, as you see in the pics. Weird thing is just a couple weeks ago people came through and cut the brush behind my fence down, hence those chopped roots in the pics.

So anybody have thoughts? For such relatively short walls do I need to worry about drainage? Is this the way to go? I need to put gravel under the ties, right? And behind them, for drainage? I really assume a drainage tube isn't necessary in such small walls...

Just to clarify my though is to put 1 or 2 railroad ties (or anything if anybody has better idea) in each of the 2-3 areas with gaps under the fence. The worst/deepest area being at the corner in the 2nd pic from top. Spike them down. Probably dig some type of base channel, maybe put gravel in it as I've seen done on youtube, to put them in. Just worried about drainage etc.

Anything you advise, please walk me through step by step like I'm 5. I really wont understand anything advanced.
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No expert here but you need to get someone out their that knows what they are doing. In our area to re-engineer that grade w/ proper drainage, concrete footing etc. would cost thousands of dollars to do correctly so as not to fail in a number of years.
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Do not follow any directions of the person that you talked to.

They are not going to work.

Why would anyone cut the brush by your fence, but not the neighbors?

Often those ditches are city property, and they are supposed to maintain them.

If so, get the city involved , or be fined.

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The neighbor's fence has a more consistent height drop of (2) railroad ties high. Yours looks more like some washout pockets here and there were filled with bricks and pickets on hand, so a full retaining wall doesn't look necessary. I am assuming the grade on your side (which is not shown) is at the bottom of the pickets.

One thing to remember is if you have a strict height maximum, that is measured from the lower grade point, like behind your fence. So a 6' fence on top of a 16" retaining wall is 16" too high if the code is 6'.

The $350 quote to just put some blocks there would need maintenance to restraighten and level them periodically, its really just a prettier version than the leftover stuff you have there now. $350 for the whole length sounds cheap if it includes the materials and cutting through all those roots though.

I'm guessing the erosion is because the grade on your side was filled to level it up to the fence with no regard to the backside "undulations" in grade, so it is washing out from underneath at those spots. If it were me, since they cut down all the sucker trees and brush anyway, I'd cut all the roots at the prop line so I don't have to deal with that on my side, stop/redirect any extra water (if any) from my side causing the erosion, fill the pockets and allow a lesser slope on the backside if I'm able and allowed to access it. Don't know who's ditch or what they plan on doing, but groundcover plants can lessen erosion too.
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Are you sure you need a retaining wall? Gently sloping land does not need one.

Also you do not want a retaining wall that creates a pool of water.

You would need a retaining wall if y ou converted a slope into a reasonably flat upper part and a sharp drop off to what remained at the lower part. The wall keeps the sharp drop off of earh from breaking off or caving in like the end of a glacier falling into the sea.
A "retaining" wall actually has a slope one one side that it is retaining. All you need is a "garden wall" and this would most easily be done with Allen block but least cost would be to dig a trench a foot below grade and put in form boards and rebar and pump in concrete.

For keeping cats out you do have the option of adding "rabbit" fencing below the wood fencing and it comes in a several colors of vinyl cladding.

Cats can easily jump up to the top of the fence and then go down into your yard. Best solution is to buy one of the Have-a-Heart traps and humanely capture the cat and then drive it to a distant animal shelter for disposal.
Thanks for the replies all. I took a few more pics in response to requests. Hopefully they show the situation better

Here is the slope of my back yard. Not sure how well it shows but there is definitely a good slope to it. I would have trouble finding a flat spot to put a blow up pool for kids, etc.

Here are 3 pictures from the house side of the fence. You can see what began my concern, holes opening up under the fence over the years.

Finally here are a couple giving a better view of the ditch behind the fence. Sorry my finger is a little in the way. I doubt the city owns this ditch as you see it's not much of anything.

I mentioned some people coming through and cutting some of the brush/small trees as you see by the chopped up roots. I am going to assume they were whoever owns this property trying to clear brush (it is just a long driveway with a couple houses on the end and a big field directly behind my fence). It is definitely pvt property as there are signs warning such. They cut behind other houses too, I guess just mine had the most brush and small trees. I'm now a little concerned the land in those spots may erode faster now though, without any live small tree roots holding it in place.

I'm really more confused than ever overall about what to do. A retaining wall would be ideal, but it seems like a pretty big, expensive job. Those roots will not be fun to deal with, I dont even know how I'd dig at all with those roots. Part of me wonders if I can just leave it alone.

Some areas, maybe you can see in the pics, dont seem to need any retaining wall. I was thinking maybe I could just try my hand at building a small retaining wall at the corner, where it needs it most, at least for now. Or maybe pay somebody to do only the corner.

I would have to find out who owns it and get permission. I assume they wouldn't have an issue. Worst case I know I could move the fence back a foot or whatever and build the retaining wall on my own property but yeah, that would be a nightmare.
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No matter what you do, you need to check with the local planning and zoning department.

To see who owns the property.

Then discuss with them on a mutual plan to get the go ahead, or don't do anything.

I would use a small excavator to dig that out and install a block retaining wall, with great drainage built in, to stop the erosion.

It always amazes me that developers can get away with building that close to an obvious flood wash.

I still don't see any need for a retaining wall. For one to work there, the ditch (not really a ditch, just a slope) grade would have to be dug out level with the driveway. I really see only a bit more daylight than Joe Blow's fence that has had dogs and rabbits digging under it here and there.

If you want some hardscape there, you can DIY by removing 1 section of fence at a time. Inset 1 or 2 courses of block directly under the fence line. No need to encroach or go on their property. Cutting the sucker tree roots is no problem, but you can't kill their big trees.

Maybe put a gate in while you're at it so you can powerwash the back side too.
It still comes down to your problem with animals coming into your yard and even a perfect wall will not stop cats or racoons from doing this. Only trapping will make it possible to stop them in their tracks and a Have-A- Heart trap can be bought for very little and they last forever.

The only risk is capturing a skunk and it is not difficult to rig a way to use a 10 foot pole to let them out.
It still comes down to your problem with animals coming into your yard and even a perfect wall will not stop cats or racoons from doing this. Only trapping will make it possible to stop them in their tracks and a Have-A- Heart trap can be bought for very little and they last forever.

The only risk is capturing a skunk and it is not difficult to rig a way to use a 10 foot pole to let them out.
That's not the problem just a side effect. I'm more worried about continued erosion. These holes were not there when I moved in ten years ago. They developed, slowly over time. How much worse will things get in another ten years? Already the concrete holding the corner fence and another pole is exposed, due too lack of dirt in the corner (can probably see this in some pics). If the corner pole went, there's no dirt to bury anything in there.
Just fill the spaces with full bags of ready mix
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