Retaining Wall Advice

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Forum topic by 7Footer posted 08-01-2013 06:56 PM 5550 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View 7Footer's profile


2575 posts in 3287 days

08-01-2013 06:56 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wall retaining wall stone manor stone block landscape hardscape

I posted this on Home Refurbers because I thought it would be better suited for that site, but I noticed that there are about 1/8th as many people on HR than here on LJ’’s, and when I looked I was the only one online, no one has even viewed the post lol! And I know a lot of you builders probably have experience doing this type of work so I thought maybe someone here can give me some advice. OH and this is why I haven’t had hardly any time in my shop lately, I’m so friggin stupid sometimes, tackling something like this on my own awful, I can’t imagine doing this everyday, moving dirt, rock and stones is brutal, I needed 9 pallets to complete this job and used about 3.5 so far on this wall.

Quick background, I’ve lived in my house for 5 years, have a crappy un-functional backyard and the wife and I decided that this was the summer to make our own version of yard crashers, but I don’t have Ahmed Hassan and a whole crew, so its all me.

I have a small retaining wall in the front of my house that my neighbor built for us a year ago, and thats why we decided to use the same flat face manor stone. I am going to build 3 different walls, and this one is by far the biggest, the other 2 will only be about 2’ tall and don’t have any turns/corners in them.

My question is what I should do to turn the corner, I had a friend over helping me this last weekend and he is a landscaper in central Oregon but he doesn’t do a whole lot of walls like this, he placed all of the stones on the corner and said that is the only way he see’s doing it without mitre cutting each stone to fit. My problem is I don’t want those little gaps in the corner, I want tight seems all the way across just like it is on the straight part of the wall. Weirdest thing is that my wife (who is the most picky and crucial person ever when it comes to remodeling) actually likes it,she thinks it looks really good, and I just dont get it, i think the corner looks like poop. Am I not seeing things right? Because this seems totally wrong to me, even though it will take a lot of time, I feel like the only way to make it look right and clean those seams up is to (1) cut little tiny inserts for each of those little gaps, or (2) remove all the stones on the corner and make the gaps larger so I can cut larger pie-shaped pieces to fit in each gap. —Now I like the actual form or shape of the corner, but I hate the gaps, what is the best way method to turn corners with flat face stones, should I change it and make it a 90 degree turn? I like the rounded corner better but I’m thinking it may be easier to make it a 90 degree.

I found this wall in front of the local library near where I work (right before I found those planes yesterday!) and noticed that they used a combo of the flat face and the radius face stones for the turns and corners, when I drove by it I saw it and thought ‘that looks pretty good actually’ but then when I stopped the car and got up close to take a pic, I completely changed my mind, it looks like crap, it is bigtime crap in my opinion but I’m no landscaper so maybe I’m just missing something there. To me this is like when you see a girl you think is hot but you get up closer and think ‘gooo’! Good from far, far from good.

Thanks and apologies for not knowing which forum to place this in!


8 replies so far

View Sanding2day's profile


1018 posts in 3185 days

#1 posted 08-01-2013 07:04 PM

Personallly I like the gaps as it sits… Not being a landscaping guy I would consider mixing a bag or two of concrete and simply mortaring in the joints if I wanted to eliminate the gaps… This would likely crack/crumble in spots as time went on but I suspect would strengthen the overall wall.

Good luck on the rest of the project and thanks for sharing…

-- Dan

View Brit's profile


8463 posts in 4181 days

#2 posted 08-02-2013 07:35 AM

I’ve done my fair share of walling and to my mind you have two options.

1) You could plant some trailing plants and let them fall over the top of the wall to soften the hard lines. At the bend you could also plant in the cracks between the stones.

2) Use an angle grinder to taper the stones towards the back. It looks like the library used stones that were pre-tapered. That’s OK if you follow the radius that the tapers dictate, but they didn’t and I agree it looks crap. However, there is no reason why you couldn’t angle grind your own taper to suit the particular curve in your wall. If done properly, it can look very nice and is much better than a 90 degree corner IMO.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Bogeyguy's profile


548 posts in 3407 days

#3 posted 08-02-2013 09:19 AM

I agree with you that the gaps in your wall don’t look good and trying to cut slivers and fit in will make it worse and trying to fill the gaps with a mortar/concrete grout will really make it look bad. The library wall doesn’t look to sharp either. Brits second idea is the way to go. From your photo it looks like the wall is completely in place so you will need to take it down to rebuild the radius the correct way. Take down the shorter run, The rest of the wall looks great and you should have the radius looking the same. You may want to rent a saw to cut the angles.

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 3414 days

#4 posted 08-02-2013 09:43 AM

My only qualification is watching the neighbours have something similar built. The guy doing the walling had a saw to cut the angles. The results are very nice.

Good luck. Maybe HD rents them.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View Buckethead's profile


3196 posts in 3207 days

#5 posted 08-02-2013 11:57 AM

Agree with Brit, however I don’t dislike the gaps.

You could also use your circular saw and a diamond blade to remove material from the rear edge. It wouldn’t cut deeply enough to eliminate the gap, but you could cut full depth at the top and bottom, bevel the back, and use a jig to score the front… Remove the remaining material with a cold chisel. (If you don’t have an angle grinder)

Other options might include renting a cutoff saw from your local equipment rental outfit. You could make those cuts quite quickly. Of course this requires dismantling the radius section of wall, but it sounds like you’ve already considered this.

I think you would be very displeased with the results of any attempt to fill the gaps.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View 7Footer's profile


2575 posts in 3287 days

#6 posted 08-02-2013 08:06 PM

Andy yea my friend suggested planting something in the gaps as well, but I think option 2 might be the best as well. And all stones except the top row have tapered sides already, so I don’t think it will be the most difficult thing ever, if they had started the taper closer to the front of the stone I wouldn’t have this problem, but it doesn’t start tapering until about 2-3” back from the front.. I have a diamond tip carbide blade on my circular saw that actually does nice cuts on those stones with little to no water, but it only cuts 4” deep. But I also have a 14” chop saw with a couple of masonry blades but it still won’t make a cut all the way through one of those stones, and it effin’ trips the breaker once I get about 2” into a cut, I’m surprised how well the circular saw performed on the cuts I made the other day. My chisels do okay, but I don’t think that are precise enough for cuts on the radius.

Bogey you really think cutting small slivers for the gaps will make it look worse? I dont know, I think it will look pretty good but even if I glue them into the spots I’m concerned that over time they will break or fall out because they are so small.

Thanks for the feedback all!


View Whitewalls's profile


63 posts in 3312 days

#7 posted 08-03-2013 12:16 AM

We did a knee wall around our patio when we built it, but the block is double sided which “eliminated” the big gaps. But I did have to use a concrete saw to cut some of the edges off to close up the gaps. That was the easiest way of doing it. I tried the cold chisel to try and fracture the block so it had a more rough edge look, but that just gave me busted blocks that were unusable.

Good luck, it looks good so far.

-- Jared, Northern IL

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 4630 days

#8 posted 08-03-2013 01:52 AM

You will have to use a concrete block saw to make the right taper. You can get away with putting too much taper on all but the top course, because those will be hidden, as long as you don’t go overboard with it. I chose a brand that has a taper built in.

On the top course, you will have to fit the blocks more carefully.

Inside curve – note the joint right in the middle of the picture isn’t quite as tight as the others (and ignore the drought-ravaged landscaping):

Outside curve – opposite taper:

The way I did mine was to start at the center of each straight section, work both directions to the beginning of the curve, then “scribe” each block to the previous one just like you’d scribe a backsplash to a wall, say. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with just slightly less than a full-width block right at the apex of the curve. I wasn’t quite that lucky on my inside curve – you can see I’ve got 2 blocks noticeably narrower than the rest at that point.

And, don’t try to use a dry, abrasive disc on the saw. You’ll regret it instantly. Pay the extra to rent a diamond blade, and use the water hookup.

-- "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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