Replacing rotten wood retaining wall and steps with brick

Reply

  #1  
Old 07-13-15, 01:13 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 160
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Replacing rotten wood retaining wall and steps with brick

I would appreciate you guys taking a look at a few pictures and telling me whether this is a project I should do myself, or leave to a pro.

Here's the deal: My yard slopes down around both sides of my house toward the back yard. At those corners, a series of steps was built a long time ago using landscape timbers and some sort of flagstone. Timbers and sometimes rocks are also used to build rough terraces of the dirt in the areas between the steps and the foundation.

Here are the pics:

Name:  photo 1 (1).jpg
Views: 13100
Size:  50.8 KB

Name:  photo 2 (1).jpg
Views: 7487
Size:  50.7 KB

The wood is rotting and the areas just generally look really ugly. I killed off all the groundcover on the slopes in preparation for redoing the areas. I'd like to tear it all out and use retaining wall bricks both to build the steps (in the same place and height as old steps, more or less) plus make a few curvy terraces between the steps and foundation, too. I'm thinking I would retain the flagstone for the tops of the steps but use the bricks to form the sides and fronts of the steps.

Is this doable for a complete novice like me who's only experience is being pretty decent with Legos when I was a kid? I'm not worried about the heavy lifting and digging - I'm worried about royally mucking this up, settling, etc.

Oh, and by the way, the big rocks along the edges of the concrete patio are staying put.
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 07-13-15, 01:18 PM
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: WI/MN
Posts: 19,308
Received 47 Votes on 44 Posts
If you're fine with some heavy lifting, this is definitely a DIY project.
 
  #3  
Old 07-13-15, 02:05 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 160
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Ok, but how should I build it? The details of building the steps pose the biggest puzzle for me. I was thinking each step should be outlined all four sides in brick. Then the front edge "riser" of the step above should be stacked on top of the back edge of the step below it, right? Then just fill in some soil / gravel / and sand in the middle of each step for the flagstones?

So each step would only be one row high (plus the two-row overlap between each step). Is that structurally sound? Do the bricks need to be fixed together in any way?

How do I properly prepare the bed for these steps to avoid them settling or falling apart?
 
  #4  
Old 07-14-15, 05:56 AM
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: NC, USA
Posts: 20,806
Received 193 Votes on 179 Posts
Landscaping like that is certainly a DIY job. Like Stickshift mentioned... be prepared for heavy lifting. When talking retaining walls and dirt you often talk in tons not pounds.

Bricks or anything mortared together is probably the most difficult and possibly expensive as it requires a foundation or footer to provide support. You can look at dry stack retaining wall blocks. I don't mean the 20 or 30 pound ones found at home centers. I mean contact a masonry supply company and look into engineered products intended for structural retaining walls. The blocks are larger and heavier but that combined with proper installation can yield permanent results.

The biggest problem I run into is people that think cheap and easy and only on the surface. 80% of the work is below grade and out of sight. The base is often the area people skip over because it's hard work and because it's out of sight so they figure it's not important but it's the key to having it last and look good for more than a year.
 
  #5  
Old 07-14-15, 09:34 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 160
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Right. That's why I'm not sure this is a DIY project without any training in how to properly lay the bricks or design the whole project. Like I said, my current experience is Legos.

I'm not even sure what sort of bricks to use. My local stores carry lots of different sizes and shapes. The somewhat wedge-shaped retaining wall bricks look nice and I believe they have a flange on the back that helps one row stay in place atop another row. But I'm not sure how that works when building steps such as what I would need.

Should each step be two rows thick (one row buried in the ground) for better stability, or is that overkill? Or maybe just one row of bricks with the thinner "caps" epoxied on top?

What's the proper bed for the bricks - sand, gravel, both?
 
  #6  
Old 07-14-15, 11:23 AM
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: NC, USA
Posts: 20,806
Received 193 Votes on 179 Posts
Search online for how paver patios and engineered block retaining walls are constructed. Some instructions will cover specifically how to do steps but all will cover the base foundation layers and compaction. The nice thing about dry stacking for a retaining wall, steps or walkway is it is easy to do the job in small more manageable steps. You might decide to tackle one step per weekend. Since there are no big concrete pours there is no requirement for big areas to be done at once.
 
  #7  
Old 07-19-15, 09:56 AM
BridgeMan45's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 3,196
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
What you are calling bricks are not really bricks at all. You should use retaining wall, dry-stack paver blocks--as already mentioned, cheap ones from apron/vest stores will not perform as well as heavier, commercial-quality units.
 
  #8  
Old 07-19-15, 03:16 PM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Louisville KY
Posts: 578
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Just do some Google searches for stackable retaining wall block manufacturers. Most of them have websites and available literature to show you exactly how to build what you are trying to do. It's really quite simple once you have the basic plan.
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description: