Well, since you all liked EzJack's block wall project...

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Project by JJohnston posted 10-03-2009 08:27 PM 3874 views 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

....Here’s mine.

The lots along my street are cut into the side of a shallow hill, so the backyards slope up toward the back wall. I decided to reclaim some level area by cutting into the slope and putting in a retaining wall along the back. The raised area would make a perfect planter.

I wound up using around 200 of the main course blocks. At 80 lb each, that means 8 tons of block. There are about 70 cap blocks. This project was a monumental amount of work. My parents and brother put in a lot of effort helping me. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them, and I don’t think I would be able to do it again now. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.


1. Here you can see the foundation trench and the first 2 courses. The foundation consists of 6 or 8” of “base course”. It’s great stuff. Once it’s compacted properly, it’s as dense and hard as concrete. On top of that is a trim layer of sand, trowelled smooth and level. I made sure to do this part right, so much so that my dad and brother started calling me The Pharoah.

2. Getting close to getting the blockwork done here. That’s me, doing the weightlifter’s squat, setting one of those 80 lb behemoths down, while my brother “helps”.

3. Main courses completed. Backfill completed. After the top is swept and washed, the cap blocks can go on. If you look closely at the patio, you’ll see the Bobcat tracks. Arrgh!!

4. Cap blocks are on, the spoils left over from cutting into the slope have been disposed of, and the fine grading is done. This is the first good look at how the finished product will look. You can also see the original slope over toward the corner. I estimate I removed about 20 cubic yards of dirt.

5. Here we’re digging the fake streambed (“arroyo” in this part of the country) and lining it with cobbles. I’ve left a section undug so I can get around with the tractor loaded with rocks. That section will be dug and rocked last.

6. Here’s a recent shot showing what the finished product looks like a couple of years later. Landscapes around here are “xeric” – low water consumption. Lots of rocks and desert plants.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

13 comments so far

View DigitalFabber's profile


95 posts in 4615 days

#1 posted 10-03-2009 08:58 PM

That is a great project … very nicely done. It is always so much more rewarding when you do a job yourself.

-- Factory in a box ...

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4798 days

#2 posted 10-03-2009 09:09 PM

looks real nice ,
i don’t suppose they will let you ,
do something with that cinder-block wall ?

great job !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View ladiesman217's profile


74 posts in 4671 days

#3 posted 10-03-2009 10:25 PM

Wow! That is one hell of a transformation-you did a kick ass job!

-- Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

View littlecope's profile


3152 posts in 4959 days

#4 posted 10-03-2009 10:27 PM

You guys did a great job, JJ!! I did landscaping for a couple years and that would have taken the whole crew, with all the equipment, about a back-breaking week, at least, to do! Really nice work… :)

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View Innovator's profile


3589 posts in 4870 days

#5 posted 10-03-2009 10:46 PM

Now thats some job!

-- Whether You Think You Can or You Think You Can't, YOU ARE RIGHT!!!

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 4748 days

#6 posted 10-04-2009 03:19 AM

Thanks, all. It took us pretty much an entire summer, working 1 to 1.5 (weekend) days per week. I kept the local equiment rental business afloat, using a Bobcat or tractor most of those weekends.

David, I don’t know what I’d do with the wall. I might plant some more trumpet vines, and build some more of the simple trellises. Some people along the street have done paint, stain or stucco, and it just doesn’t look right, because the adjacent yards don’t have anything.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Jim Crockett (USN Retired)'s profile

Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 5190 days

#7 posted 10-04-2009 04:23 AM

re: block wall. Find someone with artistic talent and turn them loose to paint a mural depicting the current scenery?

-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

View a1Jim's profile


118322 posts in 5034 days

#8 posted 10-04-2009 04:27 AM

View WillInTheMill's profile


54 posts in 4633 days

#9 posted 10-04-2009 02:13 PM

Looks great! It brings me fond memories of walking around my backyard in Tucson with a jug of RoundUp spraying for weeds. They love that gravel!

-- Will, Tampa, FL

View EzJack's profile


458 posts in 4627 days

#10 posted 10-09-2009 09:22 AM

Nice job! Yeah that will crack your bones and numb your hands.

-- Ain't better or worse than any other woodpecker in the woods.

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 5047 days

#11 posted 10-11-2009 06:38 PM

Great project. Nice landscaping work!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View dakremer's profile


2771 posts in 4548 days

#12 posted 06-25-2010 10:27 PM

thats crazy to think of a backyard without grass!! haha!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 4748 days

#13 posted 06-26-2010 02:22 AM

There was no grass there when the pictures were taken, but there’s some now, between the shed and the patio, where the shadow of the shed is in the 5th picture. It’s a small patch, about 400 square feet.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

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