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Question DetailsAsked on 1/5/2014

What is the cost per running foot for a five foot x 50 ft. retaining wall in Huntsville, Al. Wet and soft soil.

The wall will need top and bottom drains. Customer side is low and neighbor side is approx. 5 ft above customer side.

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1 Answer


Concrete block wall (landscape blocks) cost usually in the $10-20/SF range at that height - concrete more like $30-50/SF. If you are talking a vertical faced wall to save space, I would recommend a cantilevered type concrete wall for your soil conditions - where the base goes back in under the fill to support the wall and keep it from tipping forward under the soil and water load behind it, but also most expensive type - generally $50-80/SF for residential jobs, and requires engineer's design, though in many areas any wall over 3 feet high requires that by code. If you have a bit of space to spare, then a concrete block wall, on proper wide depressed concrete foundation pad and tilted back about 10%, if built with proper drainage and free-draining granular fill (meaning trucked in, in your case probably), would probably do fine, particularly if you can do it as two levels stepped back about 3 feet rather than in one 5' height. Due to soft, wet soil conditions you will probably be toward the high end of price range.

Since you said top drain, I assume you mean you expect water running off the neighbor's land at the wall - so you will need a drain swale behind it and chute or pipes to handle that, plus the normal buried drains behind the base of the wall.

Wood probably not great idea unless you have access to a LOT of old railroad ties so you can do a grid wall, AND it would not cause any damage when it fails in 30-70 years. Other types of wood walls that high would cost a bundle, would tend to tilt forward in soft wet soil, and would probably require a pile driver to drive piles to support it, which is overkill for a 5 foot wall, and life typically 20-30 years at best.

One other thing you could consider is gabions - google them - basically rock filled galvanized wire mesh bins that make a gravity wall, and let water seep through them very readily. Some people like the look, others hate it. Less foundation prep (gravel or crushed rock versus concrete), go in quick, and do not need a lot of excavation behind the wall like other types of retaining walls, which typically require you cut back the slope as far as the wall is high, which could be a problem is you are close to the property line. Not a good choice if shot rock is scarce in your area, like in lower Mississippi or many Gulf Coast areas. Life about 20 years in salt areas, more on order of 50+ otherwise.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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