How To: Build a Retaining Wall

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Last week we posted a few pictures of our patio space and retaining wall. Clearly, you guys wanted some more details and we're oh-so-happy to provide. Just keep in mind, we're not professional builders and this was a totally fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants project that was guided mainly by gut-feelings and experimentation. In other words: if you're looking for how the pros do it, this isn't it. See the details below the jump...

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When we bought the house, we inherited the dirt pit. We tried using it as an extra parking space for a while, but soon decided it would make a prettier sitting area. We decided that we wanted to build a retaining wall so that the lower and upper area would be more defined.

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First step was to make a loose plan. We knew we wanted a wood wall and that we wanted to reuse as much wood as possible from an old platform we knocked down in the backyard. Of course, we had to buy some wood as the recycled wasn't enough. We made sure to get pressure-treated because it would be going in the ground. We also decided that we would reinforce the structure with rebar stakes.

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Second step was to dig out a trench so that part of the wall would be sunk and provide some stability. We also wanted to include some drainage so that hopefully the wall wouldn't sink! We chatted up our hardware store friends and they guided us to what we needed.

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Next up: buying, measuring and cutting the wood. Our favorite saying from this process? "Measure 50 times, cut once". It's true....

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Once the wood had been cut, we drilled holes in each piece so that the rebar could fit through and "tie" them together. For extra reinforcement, we anchored the wall with several "dead-men".

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We continued the layers until it was the height we wanted, pounded in the rebar stakes (3 feet below the ground!), caulked the seams (4 dozen bottles of caulk or so...) and finished off the top with some redwood fencing as trim.

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The last steps were to seal the entire wall, as much as possible, with several coats of exterior paint and then backfill and level out the area behind the wall. And finally, kick back and enjoy our lovely new backyard!

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