Author Topic: Newbie laying block and brick  (Read 714 times)

Just Joe

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Newbie laying block and brick
« on: March 06, 2017, 08:49:45 AM »
Hello folks!

I have a sinking retaining wall. I've sought estimates to have it rebuild but with the economy doing well, most of the reputable masons in my area are very busy and unavailable.

So, I want to rebuild it myself.

Wall is only 8 ft long, maybe 5 ft from the foundation to the top. It steps down along a sloped section of driveway. It sunk a bit b/c of a buried gutter drain that needs to be rebuilt. I can take care of that. My plan is to reroute the downspout so this isn't a problem.

I know how to pour the foundation and how deep to dig the foundation.

Can anyone point me to good hints about laying block and brick? Any experiences you can offer?

Thanks. I have one project to finish and then I'll need to start to build this wall.

Fishindude

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Re: Newbie laying block and brick
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2017, 09:16:32 AM »
I've laid enough brick, block & stone personally to be dangerous, certainly not an expert, generally hire it out.
I will tell you that a block retaining wall by itself is not very structurally sound, and the force of the earth against it will push it over, over time.   It will need to be structurally tied to the footing with rebar grouted solid into the vertical cores of the block.  Should also have a drainage tile behind wall so freezing and thawing of soils doesn't push it over.

Brick and block are very simple, modular materials, but getting them properly laid so that things are pleasing to the eye when complete is much harder than it looks.
If you are a good craftsman at other things, you can probably get a decent job if you take your time.

paddedhat

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Re: Newbie laying block and brick
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2017, 10:28:25 AM »
Fishingdude brings up a good point. It's not the wall as much as it's the drainage details behind it. A wall pushes due to water pressure and freezing. Take away the water, the ability to hold the moisture in the backfill, and/or the freezing temps. and the wall will stay upright and functional, potentially forever. Build a totally overdone block wall with an over-sized footer, a ton of rebar in the footer and the wall, fill the cores, and do everything to make it as durable as possible. Now back fill it with nasty clay based fill, and do a poor job of grading, allowing water to pool behind the wall, and the whole thing could be a broken, leaning mess in a few years.  Build another wall without anything but a half way decent footer, no bars, no filled cores, but put a footer drain behind it, backfill with clean 3/4" gravel, cover that with a filter fabric,cap with clay, and then topsoil, properly grade the area behind the wall and it will look good for decades. I have literally seen idiots who managed to kill block walls before the even got done  backfilling them, since they couldn't be bothered to understand any of this.

Poundwise

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Re: Newbie laying block and brick
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2017, 02:42:35 PM »
Some quick thoughts (I looked into doing this myself last year but ended up hiring people to do it):
- you can buy self-locking blocks that are shaped to fit together correctly, and apparently idiot-proof.  Contractor was pushing me towards "Libertystone", for example, but they didn't have the look I wanted (I ended up with stucco over cement block, with a bluestone topper)
- The contractor we picked did just what paddedhat discussed, though he neglected to put a filter fabric (to my annoyance).  It's only been a year, so I don't know how it will hold up, but the new wall shows no movement so far.
- If the retaining wall is over a certain height, you may need to get a permit to rebuild it. We did not need a permit to repair the wall.

Just Joe

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Re: Newbie laying block and brick
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2017, 03:32:28 PM »
My wall is tiny. Only maybe 6 ft long and maybe 4 ft tall. Yes, a drainage problem I think. Thank for the guidance. More information to build upon. Wanted to hire it out and learn from what I saw them do. Hard to find a contractor with the busy real estate market here now.