Building Walls

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I know that the topic of building a wall can lead to many different comments, points of view and political commentary.  This post is not about building that type of wall. 

In our backyard, we have a small retaining wall that was built about 19 years ago. Unfortunately, over the years, the east side of the wall was starting to sag significantly.  

 

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For the past couple of years, I had thought about how to go about fixing the wall.  Having built other retaining wall in my yard (no, I did not build this one!), I knew what needed to be done.  I was just concerned that I may not be able to handle all of the lifting.  Each block weighs 60 pounds, and there were 75 blocks that would need to removed and then replaced.  

Since my two sons at home were busy with finals, and I was unable to find anyone else to hire for my manual labor, I decided to tackle the project by myself. 

At first I set up a ramp system to roll a furniture dolly up and use the dolly to roll each block down the ramp.  This worked okay for the first couple of blocks.  However, I needed to dismantle the ramp and move it over for each block I needed to move.  So, instead I decided to see if I could just lift the blocks.  While they were heavy, that turned out to be much easier than constantly having to set up and move a ramp system.  

While taking down the blocks, I discovered two things that the contractor had done that were wrong.  These two “shortcuts” probably contributed to the wall tipping. 

First, the lowest layer of blocks was placed directly onto soil, no class V gravel nor rock base whatsoever.  So, as a went along, I dug out dirt and then added and tamped down a 2″ layer of gravel below the bottom blocks to provide support for the blocks.  

Second, the contractor did not place any landscape fabric behind the blocks.  The landscape fabric is there to help keep the dirt behind the wall intact and less likely to wash away.  Had they done this, it sure would have made restacking the wall a lot easier.  Unfortunately, without the landscape fabric, when I removed the blocks, the wall of dirt behind would crumble. This made the project so much harder.  I ended up having to work in small sections so that the support for the wall was not removed along the entire length.  

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Starting by the small staircase and slowly worked my way down to the other end.  Yesterday, I spent 12 hours removing the cap stones and blocks and rebuilding the wall.  I did not put the capstone on yesterday.  At the end of the day, I chiseled off the old block adhesive, power washed to top layer of the wall and the underside of the capstones, and left them to dry overnight.

Today, I spent about another 90 minutes securing the capstones in place with block adhesive , repairing the dirt in front of the wall and repositioning the mulch. What a change.  The distance from the apple tree to the front of the retaining wall is 10″ less than when the wall was sagging.

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While I was building the wall, one of my sons came out and spent some time thinking about how much weight I had lifted.  I removed 75 blocks  that were 60# in weight.  These same 75 blocks needed to be reset into the wall.  So the grand total of weight lifted was 9000 pounds.  Surprisingly my back does not hurt today, just a bit of an ache in my butt (yes, I know there is a not so nice way to state that same information that may also relate to how some people would feel about doing a project like this). 

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Big Improvement! And one major yard project done for the spring. 

The weather this weekend was ideal Minnesota Spring weather.  It’s past the time of spring that my allergies are really bad, the humidity was very low, the temperatures were perfect, and there are no bugs out yet!!

All-in-all it was a great weekend spent outdoors.