For those who are unaware of what railroad tie retaining walls are, these walls are made with evergreen railroad ties. The wood is saturated in a preservative called creosote which is also used on telephone poles. Even if the railroad ties are completely or partially buried in soil, they can last for decades. Installing a railroad tie retaining wall in your backyard not only gives your yard an aesthetic look, but it also helps to stop an existing hill from sliding. With a railroad tie retaining wall, you can use up any empty spaces in your backyard and provide it with a new look. A railroad tie retaining wall is perfect for backyard landscaping ideas, as the wood is sturdy because it comes from real railroads, the color is neutral (no worries about disturbing your yard’s overall appearance), and have exceptional stability.
Building Railroad Tie Retaining Wall
Before you even consider the idea of how to build a wood retaining wall, visit your community’s building department to check if you can go through with the project. Many construction codes need a permit before any structure (weight and height wise) can be erected. If the slope in your backyard requires a higher wall (some codes only permit walls up to 3 feet), you can hire a landscape contractor. If you’d like to handle this home improvement project yourself, you can just terrace the slope with 2 or more lower retaining walls. This way, you can give the entire wall a creative look.
Now comes the part where we’ll discuss about the tools needed for the railroad tie retaining wall construction. Following is a list of all the tools and materials you’ll need for this project.
- Railroad ties, salvaged
- ½ inch diameter reinforcing bar, 16-inch & 18-inch
- Chain saw
- Deadman anchors
- Landscape fabric
Step #1: To order the correct amount of supplies required, measuring the correct number of railroad ties is important. To get an estimate, you need to measure the number of linear length in feet and the number of ranks that you require. Let’s say if the wall is over 2 ranks tall (linear feet), then you will require deadman anchors about every 8 feet. You also need to account for the errors, warped ties, and cut ends while measuring.
Step #2: Make sure you wear gloves at all times while working (the wood is chemically treated, has rough edges, and splinters). The amount of reinforcing bar required needs to be measured. To tie the ends of each railroad ties with the bottom ones, you’ll require the 16-inch pieces, and to tie the ends of the bottom ties to the ground, you’ll require the 18-inch pieces. Before you bury the 18-inch pieces of reinforcing bar, place it perpendicular at the far end. This will keep the deadheads from sliding out of the ground.
Step #3: To start building the wall, you may be thinking about different settings and placements. For more ideas, you can go online and browse through images in order to find creative railroad tie retaining wall ideas. This way, you’ll have an understanding of how you should go about it, instead of stopping and wasting time thinking about it.
Step #4: From the current slope in your yard, remove the soil by digging it further away from its original place. The reason, when your railroad tie retaining wall is being installed, you will require the space in order to get it exactly in place. Later, you can easily backfill the soil once the wall is ready. After removing the soil, level the ground for the wall and compact the soil properly. This will give the wall a uniform base during construction.
Step #5: Take the chain saw to cut the railroad ties to the appropriate lengths you measured. To keep the reinforcing bar from getting disturbed from its place, offset the ends of the ties. Place the 1st rank (level of ties) directly over the ground which you leveled before. With the 18-inch reinforcing bar, tie the ends of the ties inside the soil. Now place the 2nd rank and tie the ends of the ties with the 16-inch reinforcing bar with the 1st rank.
Step #6: As you go higher up the ranks, you need to add the deadman anchors at every 8 feet. Before you install the reinforcing bar inside the soil, hammer the length or the bar perpendicular through the extreme end of each anchor. Fix the closer end of the rank below and spike it inside the railroad tie below with the 16-inch reinforcing bar piece. Counterbalance each rank so that the anchors or the ties don’t overlap one another.
Step #7: Once you’ve finished placing all the railroad ties in place according to your landscaping aesthetics, it’s time to backfill the soil. But before that, you’ll have to staple a layer of landscape fabric behind the wall. This will keep the soil from entering the gaps in the ties.
Step #8: For providing good drainage and improving your retaining wall’s lifespan, place a layer of gravel behind the wall as well. After which, fill the rest of the area with the soil you had shoveled away earlier. Try not to use expansive clay here, instead of soil, as it will only push the wall from its place. Viola, now you know how to build a railroad tie retaining wall all by yourself.
As constructing the wall is a tedious process and can seriously tire you, ask someone in your family or a friend to help you out. You’ll get done sooner and get some helpful insights from them as well. If you intend to get some professional help and want to find out the railroad tie retaining wall cost, you can get in touch with the contractors in your area. Get an estimate from them and compare it with the amount of time and money you’ll be putting in if you plan to do it yourself.