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Forum topic by Holbs posted 04-30-2020 11:54 PM 815 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Holbs

2363 posts in 2838 days


04-30-2020 11:54 PM

One day I’ll be able to finish my Roubo build I started last summer. Just about finished with my emergency home surveillance (16 camera’s) and DSC alarm system (door/window/motion/glass break sensors) and associated programming.
But alas… a new emergency popped up. Severe wind storm came through and blew over my entire backyard fencing:
(dang it…I even rotated it 90 degrees before uploading…but still squirrely)

Always hated this fence when I bought this house back in 2010. So….cheap & standard & ugly. The fence sits up top a wooden retaining wall of 3’. All have to go. Instead of doing a 1 for 1 swap out with new cheap & standard & ugly wood… was thinking when the insurance check comes in, I should upgrade. Was taking a gander at retaining wall masonry blocks and other fence designs.
I have roughly 75’ length of back fence and retaining wall, 10’ shared common fence with one neighbor, 15’ shared common fence with other neighbor.
If anyone has experience with retaining walls for yards, pro’s & con’s of masonry blocks vs treated wood would be helpful in some decision making.
And of course, fencing designs. Kinda of leaning towards what the fence created by Brent at FenceWorkshop LJ member did back in 2012:

The retaining wall. Are 4’ and under masonry block retaining walls super spendy? There is one place here in Reno, NV that I found that sells them, but are currently closed so can not ask just yet. Was told to stay away from BORG store blocks as they are more designed for flower beds. I only gots a $4k budget for this project (could stretch it further but takes away from other projects).

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"


23 replies so far

View ibewjon's profile

ibewjon

1781 posts in 3602 days


#1 posted 05-01-2020 01:48 AM

Wood rots. Treated wood rots. My grape arbor posts set in washed gravel to drain, not concrete. Eight years, rotted. Concrete is almost forever. There are glue together blocks, fiberglass peg together blocks, and blocks with an overhanging lip to prevent tipping. The lipped blocks create a wall that is angled back. I like these, not liking the idea of glue below grade, even on one side. Mine are from Menards and Home Depot. You just need a good crushed stone or other base to start from.

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Kelly

3050 posts in 3753 days


#2 posted 05-01-2020 02:00 AM

I built a 25’ long, two foot tall retaining wall for our lower parking lot of a commercial building using railroad ties. They have to be taking a beating, thirty years later, but the pavement up to it doesn’t look any worse for the wear, YET.

I appreciate the [relatively] new blocks that stack, with each one moving back just a bit from the one under it. Unlike the wall above, they don’t require tie-backs to hold the wall in place.

As to fencing, I’ve replaced several. The ones I didn’t have to replace were in stirrups mounted in concrete, keeping the wood up out of the rot zone.

As to big box blocks, just guessing, but it sounds like someone is BSing. I know of many 4’ walls using them and they are stable enough to hold back a lot of dirt. Still, it would be nice to support the small guy, and they may give you a better price.

I think that 4k budget is going to get beat on really hard, but is doable, if you are doing most the labor on the fence.

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Holbs

2363 posts in 2838 days


#3 posted 05-01-2020 02:59 AM

@ibewjon I very well might get the BORG blocks. I have things to think about but this retaining wall is 100% utilitarian as no one will see it. I have 3’ space behind my fence to backyard neighbor fence, separated by a City Of Reno flood control runoff channel.

@kelly… any fence I install would have to survive 50mph+ wind gusts. I would of thought posts 2 or 3’ deep with concrete and gravel have more wind resistance than bolted via mounted stirrups?

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

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corelz125

1419 posts in 1785 days


#4 posted 05-01-2020 03:05 AM

Plan on spending a long time at the house? Or leaving in 10 years? Long term can’t go wrong with concrete but I don’t think your budget will get you to far.

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Kelly

3050 posts in 3753 days


#5 posted 05-01-2020 03:07 AM

The first to blow down on the coast are the wood buried in ground or concrete, because of rot issues.

On the positive side, if you pour concrete around posts, you do not have to dig the concrete up to replace the posts.

I used a Sawsall and long blade to, first, cut all the boards free of the lower 2x, then the top. If I pound them off, nearly every board would have to be replaced, due to splitting. By cutting them free, every one could be re-used.

As to the 4×4 in the concrete, I used a BIG drill and auger and spade bits to chew up what was left of the rotted 4x. Then I vacuumed the debris too small to pull out out. That allowed me to drop the new 4x in, PROVIDING the moisture content wasn’t too high (then I had to shave it).

If you were concerned about wind, you could make decorative, ninety degree “out riggers,” that come off the fence about two feet, which I planned on installing on my own fence, to give it more strength against the occasional over 50 mph wind.

Doing these things saved my customers thousands and got me several insurance jobs.

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ibewjon

1781 posts in 3602 days


#6 posted 05-01-2020 01:24 PM

My grandfather hand poured over one hundred 6” x 6” ,x 6’ concrete posts. They have been in over 60 years. No rot, no wind issues.

View OnhillWW's profile

OnhillWW

247 posts in 2041 days


#7 posted 05-01-2020 03:06 PM

I really can’t address the wood fence issue but I have built literally hundreds of feet worth of block retaining walls. Some as high as 7 feet tall. A 4’ tall wall is not that tall but it is not for the faint of heart. Regarding the BORG blocks I echo the recommendation that they are only useful for ornamental, short walls. 90% of the walls I built were out of a product called Keystone – https://www.keystonewalls.com/products/structural-retaining-walls/keystone-standard/keystone-standard-tri-plane – These are commercial blocks and weigh in at 80-90 lbs each. They now offer many variations of their blocks, my experience is with the block in the link. Constructing a wall that will last takes a good deal of care to get everything just right. The most important thing is getting the base material correct, flat, compacted and out of the correct material. This is vital to the rest of the wall. Once you have the first course of block laid it is a bit like legos in that they more or less just get placed on top of one another. This will be true of any masonry block that you go with. The Keystone blocks can be stacked vertically or with a set back for each coarse. The blocks interlock with fiberglass dowels into one set of holes either for vertical or setback construction. These walls will last many lifetimes if constructed to manufacturers guidelines and every wall I laid is as good today as it was when I installed them some over 25 years ago. They are expensive but they last. I could never construct a wall from them today. Every base block must be placed, checked for level, removed, grade adjusted, replaced and checked at least once or twice and that is very tough on the back, knees and they tear your hands to shreds if your not wearing gloves. The dealer will be able to spec how many of each type of block you will need ( there are deep, shallow, solid and void versions as well as caps stones. You may also need to use a mesh grid, snow fence like material totie the wall into the bank to keep it from moving. I can’t remember how many courses are allowed w/o the deadman material. Also, what ever block you use you need to bury at least 1/2 – 1 full block of the first course blocks to keep the wall from pushing out. Up here we get tremendous forces on walls from freezing, you don’t need to worry about that so my guess is a shallower bury of the first coarse.
A long post and I really have not scratched the surface on how to do it right.

I also have used tons of RR ties, but they were all creosote ties and I’m not sure that you can get those now ( these were only available as reclaimed ties from track renovations). Much easier to build a wall from but great care is needed when cutting, drilling and handling these as the creosote can burn your skin and eyes. You drill 5/8” holes between courses and drive rebar in the holes to tie each coarse to the one below. Again the success of the wall is all predicated on the effort that goes in to the bedding and laying of the 1st coarse.

You really need to get the wall correct if you are going to then install a fence atop it as the fence posts will exert a lot of force on the retaining wall, especially if they are installed close to the wall as they will be set into virgin backfill which is not going to offer the kind of strength that holes drilled into solid undisturbed soil will offer.

Good luck.

-- Cheap is expensive! - my Dad

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Kelly

3050 posts in 3753 days


#8 posted 05-01-2020 03:14 PM

Lot of good info OnhillWW. Thanks for the corrections on the big box blocks vs others.

On RR ties, your rebar approach is how I went, and I was generous in my use. Cars and trucks have parked on the paved surface they support for twenty years.

As a side note, for the tie-backs, I just bent rebar so it would go in a concrete block and a RR tie. The concrete blocks were about four feet back.

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Kelly

3050 posts in 3753 days


#9 posted 05-01-2020 03:18 PM

That’s an idea. One could go with PVC pipe and bar for a quick, cheap pour.


My grandfather hand poured over one hundred 6” x 6” ,x 6 concrete posts. They have been in over 60 years. No rot, no wind issues.

- ibewjon


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Kelly

3050 posts in 3753 days


#10 posted 05-01-2020 03:22 PM

Again, as noted in my post above, if the old fence was in concrete, you don’t have to disturb the soil. A stout drill and some bits and extensions (which I forgot to mention) will allow you to break up and stir up the rotted wood for removal, to allow you to reuse them.

I also kept an tulip bulb auger in my fence tool collection. It was perfect for stirring the really rotted posts, since it was, about, 4” in diameter. What was stirred up vacuumed out with a shop vac nicely.

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Holbs

2363 posts in 2838 days


#11 posted 05-02-2020 12:27 AM

After taking a gander at block wall price tags (the 90lb commercial block versions and the 40lbs HD/Lowe versions)... I can not venture down the block wall path as they are well outside of my budget. Remember, this is an all-of-a-sudden project, not planned nor saved up for. I would have to do a 75’x4’ wall and that comes out to over $3k at minimum. And probably require a city permit (as I read, under 4’ just need permit. Over 4’ needs to be done via general contractor).

The old 2005’ish fence/retaining wall is/was timber. The 2”x12” retaining wall itself is still sound, the fence posts are what went bye bye. And only 25’ bent over, the other 50’ still solid (guess I forgot to mention that part… 25’ of my fence bent over, all 75’ of my neighbor fence bent over…I still have 50’ of solid footing fence).
Either way, pretty much decided to redo my entire 75’ retaining wall with new timber. Researching what works and what does not. Seems #1 selection is cedar, #2 Southern Yellow Pine treated, #3 Douglas Fir treated, #4 Hem Fir treated. BORG stores only carry Hem Fir. Cedar is WAY TOO spendy for posts, local lumber yard carries douglas fir. If I select the above fencing project (Louvered panels), I will go 4” x 6” x 12’ posts set 4’ apart. Existing fence was 4” x 4” x 12” posts at 6’ apart.

Lots of opinions that conflict with each other in regards to which species is best for posts, to use concrete or gravel or tar. Reminds me of Saw Stop discussions, here :) Due to the high wind gusts (Reno, NV is nearly 5,000 feet above sea level in the Sierra Mountains so wind is a factor) and using 12’ post length, I think concrete is a must.

If I were to live in this house for the next 75 years, had children and wife, I would go blocks. But since I am 50 with no kids and only girlfriends… I probably will not be here in 20-25 years to see the timber rot :)

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View Kelly's profile

Kelly

3050 posts in 3753 days


#12 posted 05-02-2020 01:00 AM

Keep in mind, cedar is great for fighting rot, while the tree is a alive. Once it’s chopped down, it’s just wood and you’d get three to five years on the coast. That goes QUICK. You get a few more years out of treated wood.

View OnhillWW's profile

OnhillWW

247 posts in 2041 days


#13 posted 05-02-2020 03:06 AM

Be sure that whichever wood you select for posts, that it is rated for ground contact most modern pressure treated is not.
Good luck

-- Cheap is expensive! - my Dad

View corelz125's profile

corelz125

1419 posts in 1785 days


#14 posted 05-02-2020 04:21 AM

Black Locust your best bet

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5925 posts in 4052 days


#15 posted 05-02-2020 08:51 PM

If this is a common privacy fence between two neighbors, should you not consult your neighbor as to the type and style of fence to mutually agree on? Neighbors usually share the cost of the fence.

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