Retaining Wall For Small Ravaged Yard

retaining wall designs

retaining wall designs

This is a retaining wall question regarding heights and design.


I have a small yard in a cookie-cutter subdivision. But, it has a large hill encompassing 3/4 of it. There is maybe 8-10 ft. of semi-level yard before the slope begins. The yard is about 40ft wide by about 60 or 70ft deep.

My thought was to do one large wall across the yard about 5 feet tall. This way I can have a couple of fruit trees and garden up top - safe from dogs and kids. But, the landscaper that came out has recommended (2) 3ft. walls in a curved terrace form.

I think that would work. But I just can't seem to picture it or let go of my destruction-proof garden. I am in Ky, so the dirt is clay and there are drainage issues in my lower yard. I just don't know what to or where to find good resources on this. Thank you.

Naomi

ANSWER

Hi Naomi,
A five foot high wall is quite high, while (2) 3 foot walls are not so massive. However, the advantage of one wall, is that you are creating one large level area (behind the wall). Two walls create more of a terraced look, and you are also involved with a specific planting design between the walls...plus more maintenance of the garden.

I did a quick sketch for you showing the differences between using one or two retaining walls. It is not to scale, but shows the different wall scenarios. The scribbly item is a person showing general height relationships.

Note that the five foot wall provides a larger space on the upper level.

A five foot wall should be engineered and is more complicated to build as it is a much taller structure. In addition, you have to be sure to have either fencing on top or very deep planting beds to prevent anyone from falling over the wall. This is usually required by the township or city.

The best thing would be for it to be drawn out for you, to scale based on your property elevations and dimensions. This can be an elevation drawing like I did, but more accurate...even with the plants shown. Also, probably a drawing of curved walls in plan view as the alternative would be helpful.

The drainage issues in the lower section of your yard should also be addressed by your landscaper. Ask him how he is going to solve this problem. It might be a swale, a lawn drain, etc. It's possible that when the retaining wall is done, it will help, but this should be determined ahead of time by knowing the "after elevations" and where the water will drain to.

Btw, if you send me certain site info, I can do an accurate elevation for you. Otherwise I hope this info has been helpful!

Susan

Comments for Retaining Wall For Small Ravaged Yard

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Landscape Retaining Wall Sizes and Drains
by: Susan

Thanks for your comment. I tend to agree that typcially two lower retaining walls are better than one.

Another option would be to create two smaller walls and space them quite far apart...rather than terracing the area.

Naomi mentioned that the property is flat for 8 to 10 feet and then extends back for another 60 to 70 feet. So there are a few options.

One ideas would be to leave the 8 to 10' area alone and create the first 3' high retaining wall at the start of the slope. Then, instead of creating a small terraced bed of about 3' deep, the area above the wall could be quite deep...say about 20 to 30'. The second wall could then have another nice large area behind it of about 30 to 40'.

Or...the 8 to 10' flat area could be extended , creating a larger level are near the house.

Areas between the walls could be relatively flat, or they could have a slight slope to them.

Drainage pipe should be installed behind the wall(s). You can read more about that here:

Retaining Wall Drainage

It was mentioned that the level area near the house had a drainage problem. Here is where a swale could be created, or else a lawn drain with the land pitched towards the drain. Lower down in the drain would be a pipe that would lead the water away.

After saying all of this, sometimes a large wall can create a real feeling of enclosure. I can see lots of plants up against it, along with perhaps even a water feature.

Susan

Retaining Wall
by: James Comiskey

I would agree with dividing the slope with two walls. From a visual point of view it would look less harsh than one big wall. The two flat surfaces can be planted up to hide the walls even more. You might even have enough room to plant your fruit trees here but you shuld discuss this with your landscaper.
As mentioned you need to take safety into account, 5ft is a long way to fall. And as also mentioned less engineering would be required with two walls. You should also discuss the economics of both options with your landscaper.
As for the drainage I would imagine you need land drains behind the wall, but I have never carried out any projects in your area so discuss with your landscaper. A grass swale or a depression in the hard surface beside the wall may a good option for the drainage on the lower surface.

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"Susan,  what a pleasure it was to work with you.  You made me feel like I was your only client - responding late at night and always so quickly!  Your design is amazing and we only hope we can do justice to it when we plant.  You have such fantastic ideas and you are so open to suggestions and changes.  Loved working with you - now if you could only come to Canada and plant it!!!"
Helen, Ontario-Canada 

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