Sunday, June 21, 2015

That Time We Built a Block Wall

Today I'm sharing one of the bigger projects that we have completed lately.  It's just part of the work that we have been doing to the front yard, but this is a big part of the overall plan.  This week, we installed a retaining wall to help with a slope in our front yard.  I'll also share the border I installed a few weeks ago in a second flower bed.

First, let me share a before picture of our front yard:

You might be able to tell that our driveway has a major slope toward the house, and the flowerbed slopes toward the driveway.  This is a problem when it rains because it tends to send all of the water heading for the garage door.  No good.

You'll have to excuse my lack of in-progress pictures, but there are plenty of tutorials online for how to install a block border/wall.  It involves digging a trench for a stone base, then sand for leveling, then lots of stacking/checking level as you go.  Here's the one mid-way photo:

The after photos:
First, here is the small border that I put in a few weeks ago:


If you are wondering why the rhododendron is sitting outside of the flower bed- I do plan to remove it, but I'm waiting until later in the year.  A few reasons for this: the plants I planted in the bed are really small, and I didn't want the house to look totally bare, the rhododendron was in bloom when I finished and it looked beautiful, and a robin had made a home out of it.  So, that part will come later.


Here's the final project (minus a little bit of mulch if you are really observant):

If you look really closely at the light above our front door, you might be able to notice our other robin's nest.  She's been squawking at us all spring every time we leave the house, but we finally got a peek at the babies this week:

Just for fun, here's the oldest picture I could find of the front of our house:

And here's the current:

You'll have to use your imagination a little bit- our grass is not in great shape because of all of the work we have done, but overall the front yard is a lot less overgrown.  Once our plants recover from being transplanted in June (not ideal), it will start to look a little better too.

A few tips for building something similar:

- If you are going higher than a couple feet, consider hiring a pro.  The weight of the soil that the wall is holding back is tremendous once you get above a couple feet, so you'll want to make sure it's right.  Also, if you are building a wall as opposed to a border, check to see if your township requires a permit.

- You'll need a crushed stone base and sand for leveling.  Look into buying these in bulk- even if you would need to have it delivered, you may still save a lot of money over buying the bagged stuff.  For example, in our area, bagged stone was about $4 a bag, while a half ton was less than $20.  Since this project took about a ton of stone, it made a huge difference to buy in bulk.

- If you are able to haul the supplies yourself, make sure you check the payload rating of your truck/trailer.  A pallet of the blocks like we bought weighs about 3000 lbs.

- Do this in the fall if you can- especially if you are planning to plant bulbs for the spring.  I had to dig up a lot of the plants to fill back in with dirt, and June is not really the best time to do it.  My perennials will not look great this year, but next year they should come back just fine.

I hope to check in soon with a few more summery updates!