Wednesday, 12 June 2013

and so it begins (retaining wall DIY renovation)

Finally. We've begun the monstrous job of replacing our termite eaten retaining walls. (I know some of you will share with me in a loud 'Wahoo!') We started our work in the front yard, because was in need of urgent repair. 

As mentioned in a previous post, we were debating what materials to use. We were originally thinking about building the walls with old brick or stone. After consulting with Kym's dad (a retired architect) and learning about all the extra work that would go into making a brick structure safe, we realised the decision wasn't as simple as we first thought.

We talked a little more about the pro's and con's of different materials and in the end decided on Permapine Sleepers (pine sleepers treated to be 'termite proof'), as it was easy to build with, cheaper, termite proof and relatively safe (chemicals used for Permapine in the past were not great, but the types of chemicals and the levels used today are safer for the soil, local wildlife and people).

After clearing a few more items from our garage (garage makeover update to come soon. Another 'Wahoo!'), we were able to order and store the sleepers. Last weekend, Kym's parents spent a day with us working on our first retaining wall.

The demolition was an eye opener. We knew the walls were in need of repair, but we didn't realise just how fragile they had become! After we demolished the first wall, Kym and his dad began to rebuild with the new materials, while his mum and I demolished the next wall.

We used the original posts as they were (conveniently) made of treated wood, so weren't damaged. They had also been stabilised with concrete by the previous owners, which saved us the work (and worry) of putting in new posts. Can you tell that we love to repurpose, reuse recycle?

After a day's work, we had finished building the first wall and preparing a few other areas for demolition. We are now waiting for our local arborist to cut down a couple of poorly located trees before we continue. Thankfully, we won't be waiting long, and should have one or two more walls built before the end of the month.

Usually I'm a fan of 'naked' wood (remember this?) but in this case (and purely for aesthetics) I'm thinking of painting the walls with something that will match the Colorbond range for any future work to the house (Woodland Grey is my current favourite).

For now, I am just happy to say that we have a retaining wall that actually works!

I promise to keep you posted with this project... It's the most time consuming project we've taken on since buying the house, which reminds me how lucky we are to have owned it for five years with only a few hiccups!

How is your garden in this chilly Adelaide wintertime? (Maybe you aren't in winter at all and live somewhere warm, in which case, I'd love to hear some warm, summer stories!)


  1. I've been thinking about adding retaining walls to my yard, but I'm not sure if I should attempt them myself or higher a professional landscaper to put them in. I am not the most handy person, so I'm leaning towards getting someone else to do it. How easy would you say this project is for the average person?

    1. Hi James, We aren't all that handy either, but are lucky that the in-laws are! I'd say the easiest DIY is the method we're using, with wood sleepers, and in terms of difficulty, it's all quite heavy, so you need at least two people to carry the sleepers around, you'll need a saw in case you need to cut the sleepers to the right length (you may be able to get your local hardware store to do this for you on purchase, if you pre-measure). Assembly was pretty easy, just a bit of drilling. The key is really in the supporting beams- they need to be in a hole about 30% of their height above ground, and with concrete to reinforce- this process is hard work, but simple. I hope this isn't intimidating- if we can do it, I'd say anyone can!


thanks for your comments, I love to hear from you!


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