Retaining wall

The hedge along the driveway was gone so it was time to start digging again and get the retaining wall for the driveway in place.

The driveway obviously needs to end up the same level as the front of the garage floor, and in this case it meant that the driveway had to be lowered by quite a lot. There was also an issue in that the house is on a hill and the driveway of the next door neighbour is therefore higher than mine. couple this with the driveway at the front of the house being level and the road at the other end being on a slope and some smart thinking is going to be required to avoid this being a mess.

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Alongside the building this difference in height will be taken care of by widening the footings of the building and constructing a retaining wall alongside the wall of the building on those footings. An Acco gully drain will be installed along the bottom of the gap to clear any water run off that finds its way in there.

The drawing on the left shows this arrangement and a structural engineer specified the wall we would need for it. Away from the house and along the drive it will need its own foundation.

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Having the specification from the structural engineer we started digging in order to place the concrete for the retaining wall foundation.

Due to the slope there needed to be a step in the foundation and this can be seen in the picture on the left. We also recycled those reinforcing rods from the roof of the outhouse into the foundation to give it added strength.

Also in the picture you can see the electricity cable which was carefully dug around and which has been protected ready for the wall to be built around it.

It is not easy to see the difference in height levels in this picture.

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Following the structural engineer's advice reinforcing rods were placed into the concrete and the concrete blocks were started to be placed.

This was our progress as of the Friday evening and it would be left like this until the Monday morning.

Aware that this constituted a large hole with a row of spikes at the bottom it appeared to be a classic man trap..... we needed to make this a bit safer for the weekend.

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With the neighbour due back from holiday we didn't want him coming home and driving into the hole, or someone walking up the road in the dark and stumbling into it. So, the Heras panels came in useful again and we rigged up some fencing to make it safe.

The picture on the left shows our efforts. You'd need to be pretty determined to miss that and fall in.

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Monday morning and work starts again.

The block laying is completed and the holes in the middle filled with concrete to encase the steel rods.

The wall is then back filled with shingle and finished at the level of the bottom of the concrete of next door's drive to allow him to in-fill the gap with concrete later.

Once we have identified the bricks we need which will match well with the existing house this concrete wall will be faced with them to make it look a bit better than it does now.

Once that is done the top will be capped with a low fence and stone slabs placed along the top to hide the fence post fixings and finish it off.

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Continuing the same construction method the wall was continued alongside the house and past the new garage area.

The slight change here was that rather than a seperate footing for the wall, the footing for the garage was widened to take the wall as well.

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The retaining wall continues past the house and along the side of the dog run area. This area needs to be at the same level as the house floors and so a retaining wall of some type would have been required and it made sense to just continue this one further to do that job.

Here the excavation of the footings for this wall are in progress (being careful to avoid the pipe this time).

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This is the final section of the retaining wall where it continues past the house and along the dog run area. Most of this will disappear once the ground levels are made back up, with only two courses of blocks visible. The plan is to face these with paving slabs laid vertically and to then top with coping stones to finish it off.

You'll also notice that a new section of fence has been made to close up the gap created when the outhouse was removed.

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Whilst waiting for the bricklayers to start on the main walls I thought I'd make a start on facing the retaining wall.

I dug out a reasonable depth of the driveway stone, uncovering quite a few large lumps and bricks as I did so.

I then laid some concrete into the trench to support the bottom of the brick facing and to provide a level surface to start from.

The bricks you can see are where the levels change as I've had to step it up as it goes along to save digging a huge trench and laying loads of bricks that will then simply be buried.

Some major head scratching was involved as I worked out where I needed the steps to keep at least half a course below the driveway level but not going too far down.

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This is the road end of the wall having been started and at the stage where I can now string a line along to lay each course.

I made a 'storey pole' and marked this with the heights of bricks and mortar and used it to make sure that when I laid the bricks I would finish with a full height brick level with the top of the concrete wall

There are probably only going to be about three courses visible once the driveway is finished.

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Here is an 'in progress' shot of the other end, to the left you can see my 'storey pole'.

The wall extends past the front of the garage to, hopefully, give the illusion that it continues all the way along.

I've decided to build some lights into the walls along each side of the driveway, so I need to place some conduit in the wall at this stage to take the cables. By putting in a string line I was able to work out the position for the conduit so the lights should all end up about 300mm above the driveway level.

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After a long pause to continue with other jobs I got back to working on the wall.

The brickwork has been built up along the face of the wall and the brick lights have been incorporated into it.

Cabling is in conduit behind the bricks so the cables can be replaced or added to in future if required.

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With the wall complete work started on fixing the fence post holders in place.

Here you can see the first couple of holders placed in their positions along with the two drills used and the compressor for clearing out the holes. The good old string line also in use to align everything.

My old big SDS drill didn't last the whole job, drilling into damp concrete lead to the drill jamming in one of the holes and the torque of the drill split the gearbox housing. Lesson learned to clear the hole more frequently and a new drill was purchased to replace it. (It took an hour to get the stuck drill bit out)

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With the post holder in place I marked the location of the holes and drilled a shallow 6mm pilot hole with the cordless drill. This was then followed by the SDS to make 12mm holes to a depth of 150mm.

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I have this very useful 'blaster' for the compressor with a copper pipe extension on it.

100psi of air down into the bottom of the hole and everything comes flying out of the top leaving a nice clean hole. Just have to remember not to get my head too close when doing it.

There's more to add to this page once it stops raining and work can continue and I can get more photos.

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Once the new drill arrived I could complete the holes and then fix 150mm lengths of stainless steel threaded bar into each hole using resin.

The bars were inserted through the post holders with the nuts on the top and once in the correct place the nuts were taken off and the post holders lifted clear for the resin to set. This meant they were in the right place with the correct amount of thread above the holder's flange.

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Once the resin had set the posts were inserted into the holders and using washers under each corner as required the post holders were bolted down and aligned to the vertical.

The post level was used for this, as you can see in the picture, and this was then double checked with a standard level.

After fixing the two end posts I strung a line between the top of them and aligned the intermediate ones to that, checking that they were vertical in the other direction also to make sure my panels will fit.

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Because the way the wall was constructed it ended up an awkward size to get capping stones for. One size was exactly the same as the wall and wouldn't overhang, the next size up was too wide. There was also that the wall was narrower alongside the garage.

To deal with this I made my own coping stones from concrete slabs.

I bought some bargain slabs on e-bay and cut them to the required size. Luckily the 600mm slabs could be cut to give me the 350mm and 250mm coping that I required without wastage.

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I cut a slot into the bottom of the front edge of each to act as a drip edge and prevent the water running back onto the face of the wall. The slabs will be laid with a slight fall towards my driveway.

Cutting the slabs was also a great deal cheaper than buying proper concrete coping stones and it only took a few hours to cut them down and tidy up the edges with a diamond cutting disc in the angle grinder.

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Once all the posts were in place the slabs were cut as required to fit around them and mortared onto the top of the wall.

The fence panels were then fixed to the posts with galvanised brackets and screws and a 'gravel' board fixed in the same manner.

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This is the view of the other side.

The original intention was to have a 3ft fence, however, after discussing it with my neighbour I agreed to make it 4ft, hence the slightly strange gravel board arrangement to stretch the height of the panels.

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This shows the transition between the section of wall with the brick facing at the front and that without it alongside the garage.