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Part 2 – Retaining wall almost completed

Roughly two weeks after starting, the retaining wall is nearly completed! Another important milestone on the journey.

I cant state how difficult this job was, and its something that I definitely could never have done myself – certainly a job best left to professionals. The guys worked some big hours in the heat and moved literally tonnes of sleepers, posts and cement to get it done.

The retaining wall has finally given the front yard a bit of shape and some street appeal which it has never had before. Initial observations are that it is an extremely solid structure which will easily take the load of the soil which will be back-filled behind it. I have to catch up sealing the remainder of the wall but ill get to that when I have some free time.

The drainage system has been set behind the full length of wall and is now just awaiting drainage aggregate and back-fill (full details in this post).

Now with all that work completed, the next job will be to install the fence before moving onto the earthworks. 

Whats inside a Concrete Sleeper?

Have you ever wondered whats inside a concrete sleeper? I read that the Canberra Concrete Sleepers are reinforced with steel bars in the middle, but how can you tell if its really inside??? (not that I dont trust them!)

Well, during the work at our place, the landscapers had to cut a couple of sleepers and here is what we found inside:

Steel bars reinforcing the sleeper

There they are, two steel bars right thru the middle of the sleeper. Dense concrete surrounding it leaving little room for water to penetrate the sleeper
(Sealing the sleepers will protect it even more) . Colour is mixed right through the sleeper.

Above you can can see how the sealant was applied(needs another coat) and a cross section of the sleeper. So for all those that were curious to see whats inside a concrete sleeper, there you have it!

Part 2 – Good result from sealing the retaining wall

A few days after applying the sealer, it rained, and here is how it works to repel water away from the cement.

 

It really works, and the water beading on the surface is proof that it isnt soaking into the porous concrete.

 Hopefully this sealant will last a while and ill only have to re-coat the exposed surfaces every few years.

 

Part 2 – Retaining wall drainage

One of the more important, but often overlooked aspects of building a small retaining wall is the drainage. Without appropriate drainage, water will build up behind the wall causing erosion over time and loss of integrity.

  • Our landscapers are starting with a water proof liner on the back of the retaining wall
  • Then 200mm deep of drainage gravel will be installed immediately behind the retaining wall
  • Sitting on top of the drainage gravel will lie a 100mm slotted and socked PVC aggregate pipe which runs the full length of the retaining wall
  • The PVC aggregate pipe will be tested so that water will run down a small slope and exit near the end of our property close to drainage and natural ground run off
  • The aggregate pipe will then finally be covered with more drainage gravel before future soil backfill is delivered

This system is integral to protecting the integrity of the wall for years to come.

The diagram below is a rough example of what will be installed. Note, its not to scale but should have all of the key elements represented

 

Diagram of retaining wall drainage

Part 2 – Sealing the retaining wall

With the retaining wall being made from concrete, it should physically last for 20+ years without any worries or major maintenance required. 

However, a couple of minor issues related to the aesthetics do arise over time with coloured concrete, including:

  1. The colour starts to fade slightly
  2. Efflorescence caused by water and other material(fertilizer etc) can stain the wall

To prevent or reduce the occurrence of the above two issues, I sealed the wall with a concrete sealant purchased from the local hardware store.

 

To prepare, I used a strong bristle scrubbing brush to clean up the dirt that was stuck to the wall. After that was done, I gave all exposed areas two coats of the sealant, making sure I got to every little detail of the wall. I had to do most of it with a long bristle paint brush due to the nature of the patterned surface. I tried using a roller but it was just not getting to all the little nooks of the wall.

Needless to say it took a while, but I think it will be well worth it in the long run.

Here is what it looked like after applying the sealant. The sealant gives the wall a slightly wet look all year around and its not overly shiny. Here it is reflecting some of the light around sunset

 

I was able to apply the sealant while the landscapers were off site. With the weather being very hot and dry, the sealant dried in about 30 minutes allowing the second coat to be applied on the same day.

 

Part 2 – Its starting to take shape

It has been a week or so since starting this second job, and the guys have really got a lot done in a short period of time.

They are almost at the stage where the majority of the sleepers are set in place, and the drainage pipes can be dug in and installed.

The focus of the next few days is to finish the retaining wall and drainage so that they can move on to the framing of the fence.

 

Part 2 – Some good early progress

A few more posts have gone in, which means that they have been installed all the way to around the front of the house.

They have also set some sleepers in place before levelling out and cementing the posts(next few days).

Each one of the sleepers weigh 45KG so its a bit of an effort to get so many set in such a short period of time. Great work so far.

 

Part 2 – The goodies have arrived

Very early this morning a truck unloaded all of the materials needed for the retaining wall. 

This delivery included:

  • 4 pallets of Sleepers (approx 60 sleepers)
  • A crate of post covers and post caps
  • approximately 25 posts, and
  • Cement mix to fix the posts

Soon after delivery, the contractors arrived and they they really got moving with and drilling the remaining post holes and fitting the first few posts.

The next few days will be focused on constructing the retaining wall and installing some of the drainage required. Should be an interesting week!

Part 2 – Lets go!

We have been waiting a very long time for this moment.

Today, our landscapers will be starting the job by running the string lines and starting with the drilling of post holes. By the end of the day the majority of post holes will be completed and in preparation for installation.

First few post holes drilled

A tonne (or 4) of Steel posts and Sleepers are being delivered tomorrow!

Super excited!

Part 2 – Scope creep

In a previous post,  I mentioned that the fence and concrete retaining wall at the side of the property will be installed as the next part of the landscaping work… Well, that plan has now expanded a little!

We will still be performing the works as outlined originally, but the job is growing so that the retaining wall continues the length of the side of the home and all the way around to the front. This increases the amount of retaining walls we will need to approx 50metres

This will allow the front levels to be brought up to match the backyard, giving us a larger usable space in the future.

It is also more economical to do this job in one go as the labour costs go up if we split the job in to 2 parts – bonus!

See the image below that highlights the original scope (green) vs updated scope (blue) 

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