Retaining wall quotes
  Re: (...)
Hey all,

This is a follow on to my previous thread about my retaining wall starting to fall down. (link here). It's pressure treated that is rotting out. 50' long, 5' above ground, with 10' returns on each end. 21' from the house and 11' from the deck footers, holding dirt toward the deck/house.

For what it's worth, no one who has seen the wall thinks that the house or deck would be threatened at all by the wall actually falling over. They implied that I have time to fix it.

We got three quotes from some of the highest rated Angie's List companies in the area that I thought could handle a project like this. I mentioned being interested in doing a segmental block wall, but also wanting to be reasonable on cost. I talked with each contractor about the option of moving the wall 4' further out (thus 2' higher) and/or 10' longer. We really like the idea of doing that so we have a little more flat yard space.

1. I didn't really click with this guy, although I think he could do the work. He seemed to enjoy criticizing the state of my yard. Granted, we're not great at landscaping, but he can keep that to himself. He wanted to go with PT wood. His quote was hand scrawled and lacking in significant details, but his total was $21000 to replace what's there and $25000 to go 4' further out. This does not include railings, fill dirt, or sod (and maybe some other things), but does include drainage.

2. I think this guy would do a good job. He seemed very knowledgable and talked through options. He really wanted to do a cinder block wall on a concrete pad (30"x30") with rebar through everything. $38,000 to replace current wall, or $34000 if I wait until winter. Railings are not included. He can veneer a brick face on the cinder block, but that sounded like about $10-$15K extra.

3. This guy had the best plan laid out and was the easiest to work with, but also the most expensive. He talked through all the drainage plans and everything. He quoted both a cinder block wall and a segmental block wall. The cinder block wall was $46,000 for replacement of what's there to $54000 for 4' further out and 10' longer. The block wall was $61500 to replace what's there to $69,500 for 4' further out and 10' longer. All aspects of the project are included (sod, drainage, railings, etc.).

Thoughts? All of these are WAY higher than I was expecting. I was guessing more like $15K, which I guess was a joke. But since it doesn't sound like the deck/house are in danger if the wall falls, and those prices are super high for a wall we don't even see, I'm toying with the idea of doing it myself (although I really wanted to avoid that, as I already have too many other projects).

I've been reading through installation guides for the various blocks available, trying to get an idea of the work involved. (If anyone has a link to recommended installation guides, please share!). I figure that I could do the wall for about $23K. That includes making it 4' further out, 10' longer, and buying a decent sized truck (used) to haul supplies (gravel, blocks, etc.). That also includes hiring some cheap labor to remove/dispose of the current wall (to save me time), railings, purchase a used vibratory plate compactor, rent a mini-excavator, gravel, fill dirt, geo-grid, drainage, etc. It also includes permits and hiring a structural engineer to develop plans.

Given the size, I figure I would have to move about 100,000 pounds (!) of block. I'd be super buff by the end.

Am I crazy? If you're still reading this long post, you might be. =)

  Re: Retaining wall quotes by OneStaple (Hey all,[br][br]This...)
You could G.C. the job to save some $. I think a poured concrete wall may be the least expensive. You are going to need some plans and they may need to be stamped by a licensed Architect or Structural Engineer, so your first step would be to draw some simple plans. A plan view showing location on your lot, and distance to abutters and other structures. A section view depicting a footing (10" x 20" should be fine on most virgin soil with two, #5 rebar lengthwise),. the wall (A 10" wall should have two or three and horizontals and verticals every 2' or so.), existing and proposed grades, and the railing. Show 3/4 gravel and landscape fabric behind the wall and location of drain holes. Take these to the Building Inspector and ask for advice. You can use the plans to request bids for the work. You can also use them to get a good idea of how much fill you'll need. There are many small contractors that will use their small (not mini) excavator at an hourly rate; and he may haul in stone. ( I've got a good guy that charges me $80/hr. from the time he leaves his shop with a dump truck, trailer, and machine, 'till he leaves my job site.) The smaller Contractors and Sub-Contractors work together all the time. They can refer you to Sub's they like and may tell you who to stay away from. (Some of them won't work with certain others.) They can usually get better pricing from each other as well as from the suppliers.

If you decide to G.C. this project, send me a PM and I'll answer any questions and provide a few tips..
Sign at N.E. Vocational School Cabinetmaking Shop 1976, "Free knowledge given daily... Bring your own container"
  Re: Retaining wall quotes by OneStaple (Hey all,[br][br]This...)
I know a guy who has a supply of rocks he'd like to donate to your cause. Free pickup!
  Re: Re: Retaining wall quotes by EP (I know a guy who has...)
My only comment is HOLY GEEZ THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY FOR A WALL ! ! ! ! !

Have you considered just moving and letting it be the next guy's problem?

Agree that you could GC the thing yourself and knock off about $5K from the top. You'll need to find the individual guys who can do each phase of the job, which once you get started, may not be that big of a deal. As the other poster said, the contractors know other contractors. First you need to find somebody dirt cheap to tear out the old wall. I'd be inclined to do this myself as it matters the least of all the phases. Then you need a guy in there to at least knock the top of the dirt down that was behind your old wall (for safety's sake). Plus, moving 4' out will give you a little room to work. Dig a trench and lay in a foundation or concrete the whole thing (good suggestion). Backfill is fairly simple, fabric & rock. Topsoil over the top. Railing, well, this is a woodworking forum, right? Build a fence. Veneer the concrete wall later if you want to. Although I would look about staining it a color LOML liked.

I think you could do it cheaper than even you think. Buy a truck? No way. Have material delivered. Need to dispose of the old wall? Bring in a dumpster.
  Re: Retaining wall quotes by OneStaple (Hey all,[br][br]This...)
Looking at your cost and weight estimates, it is only $.50/pound.

But is is a surprising amount.
Economics is much harder when you use real money.
  Re: Retaining wall quotes by OneStaple (Hey all,[br][br]This...)
Well, in my location that would be over 100k. No joke.

It really is an exorbitant amount of money. These types of projects are my least favorite...whether you DIY or hire, they cost a ton, and you end up with basically what you had before and having to continually remind yourself that it's now safer/better built than before because the improvement doesn't make a day-to-day difference in your life.
  Re: Re: Retaining wall quotes by EP (I know a guy who has...)
EP said:

I know a guy who has a supply of rocks he'd like to donate to your cause. Free pickup!

Haha! If only he had a way to move them to my place (other than his wife, as suggested in the other thread). And while he's at it, he might as well stack them in a nice line about 7' high and 60' long.

DieselDennis said:

My only comment is HOLY GEEZ THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY FOR A WALL ! ! ! ! !
Buy a truck? No way. Have material delivered. Need to dispose of the old wall? Bring in a dumpster.

My thoughts exactly. I nearly had a heart attack when the quotes started coming in. And this isn't even a wall that we can see from inside the house (other than the top of it). I don't feel like I'll be gaining anything from it like I would if I redid/upgraded a bathroom or kitchen. And the truck would potentially be so I could pick up a load of gravel or blocks at a time instead of having 20 pallets of blocks and a massive pile of gravel in my driveway. The HOA would have fits. I'm trying to figure out alternative ideas though (including borrowing my brother's truck, which is a maybe). Or bribing the HOA. Although I've kind of always wanted a beater truck.

live4ever said:

Well, in my location that would be over 100k. No joke.

Yeah. I live just outside Washington, DC. Prices are higher on everything.

I keep going back and forth between "how hard can this really be?" and "oh my word, this is a massive project". I guess it's massive but relatively straightforward.

  Re: Re: Retaining wall quotes by OneStaple ([blockquote]EP said:...)
Tell ya what...I'll fly out to DC to help you with your wall project if you fly out to Cali to help me with my equally easy and simultaneously daunting retaining wall project.
Pros around here didn't even want the job unless I started making it rain on the spot, so at least you've got that.

  Re: Re: Retaining wall quotes by live4ever (Tell ya what...I'll ...)
Haha, the funny part is that it was the rain that ultimately caused my wall to fail. I'd send you some if I could!

I found another source of blocks that would save me some serious money (roughly $5K for blocks instead of $8K), in part because they're not solid (would be filled with gravel). And they're bigger (1 sq ft face surface area instead of 0.75), so building the wall would be faster. It's a different brand (Anchor's Diamond Pro) from what I initially came up with rough price estimates on. I've been calling all the local sources in the area for all the major brands (Keystone, Versa-lok, Anchor, Allan Block, Unilock, and Techo-Bloc) to figure out the best prices and delivery combos.

So if I get the cheaper blocks and forgo purchasing a truck (assuming I can borrow my brother's when/if necessary), the cost for doing it myself would be closer to $17K. That's $53K cheaper than quote #3 for this type/size of wall (the only quote that actually included segmental blocks).

  Re: Re: Retaining wall quotes by OneStaple (Haha, the funny part...)
Whatever you do, don't overlook the huge value of having the block delivered. I did a relatively small wall and it still took me two loads at HD to bring it all home due to not wanting to exceed max load on my truck. Even when delivered (like on an earlier job) just getting the blocks off the pallet to where they'll be used can make a grown man cry.


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