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What can I do with my retaining wall?

My new yard (yes, first house!!) backs up to a large wood retaining wall... the house behind ours is about 6 feet above, so the retaining wall holds its back yard. I imagine its been there forever... it is made of thick wood beams that are well worn.

I'm wondering if anyone has tips on what I can do to hide the wall, without compromising the little space I have in the yard. It is an urban yard, and I'd really love to make the most of it, considering not everyone is lucky enough to have the outside space!

I was hoping I could drill small planters into it with hanging plants...if not... maybe trellises?

The yard gets partial sun and no idea is too crazy! I LOVE COLOR.

Re: What can I do with my retaining wall?

Congrats on buying your 1st home. That's good news.

What I don't like in your situation is the fact that an old worn out wood retaining wall is holding 6' of dirt. Go to your neighbor and call his attention to this risky situation. Politely try to convince him to replace this wall with a real masonry retaining wall. Offer to pay half.

After you have a solid wall, you can plan on decorating it.

Re: What can I do with my retaining wall?

The wood beams are extremely thick - We are probably not going to try to pay to get the wall replaced, since it looks to be incredibly well built and strong. I'm just looking to make it appear nicer!

Re: What can I do with my retaining wall?

Treat it like a wood fence. You can clean the wood if it needs it and/or stain it if you want to. You could add furring strips, plywood and lath and then stone over it, just make sure the wood can breath.

You can add trellises and plants that you like and I don't see any reason why you can't hang planters. I'm not sure I would use hanging planters, I think that planters that look like sconces would look better, but its up to you.

The only thing you need to be careful of is trapping moisture against the wood. So if you choose to go with a sconce like planter, use a spacer so that air can flow behind it.

Re: What can I do with my retaining wall?

Before you start doing anything I would find out who owns that wall. If you don't own it and you start drilling holes into it to hang some pots that could be an expensive fix.

Also, The boards might look solid on the top or in certain sections of the wall, but they could be infested with termites or carpenter ants. When you bought the house did the home inspector say anything about the wall?

Re: What can I do with my retaining wall?

I was thinking about sconce-type planters, but I am now thinking I'd rather not drill holes in it because we don't own it.

The inspector said the wall is in good condition - The previous owners had the house for 7 years and never heard a word about it. They also had very plain taste and didn't care to do anything with the outside space. I might just lean trellises on it.

Who typically owns a large retaining wall? The house is obviously built on a hill, and our back yard is cut to be level... no one seems to know when the wall was put there.

Re: What can I do with my retaining wall?

Congratulations on your new home.
Here's my two cents.... isn't there anything in the house that needs work of a higher priority? Your wall is outside the house, plant some ivy and let it climb and hide the wood wall. In the meantime, focus in the interior and foundation landscaping.... better bang for the buck. That wall project can end up very time consuming. Good luck.

Re: What can I do with my retaining wall?

There is a TON to be done.. I was just looking for creative suggestions to cover or make prettier... I don't need it to be expensive. And YES, there is plenty to be done. The house is 130 years old!

Here is a pic to help...

Re: What can I do with my retaining wall?

The retaining wall will belong to the person who's property it's on. If it is on the property line, it is owned jointly, even if only one person paid for it.

Re: What can I do with my retaining wall?

I would put up trellises or lattice and plant clematis and let them go wild, they get very full and look very nice when in bloom.

Re: What can I do with my retaining wall?

I think the wall looks great the way it is!

I love the stonework and the general appearance of the yard; I hold with the other posters who note a potential problem with any fence modifications, where exactly is the boundary line between the 2 properties, who put up the fence, was the boundary line ever surveyed, and local laws pertaining to all of the above.

I urge you to talk to one of the clerks at your local city hall, or the town lawyer (often called a city soliciter) to determine which laws and local ordinances apply to your particular situation.

In some towns, how long a fence (it looks like the pressure treated beams are a part of the wall/property line/fence) has been in place, & who installed it & maintains it determines the property line between the 2 properties.

Property lot dimensions are originally laid out when the town is incorporated, and amended when property sales (partial & full) are transacted---but that could have been many decades or centuries ago, in some cases----often, much of this info is contained in the DEED that you received at the time you bought your property----read it.

Issues over wood beams and fences are almost always resolved without 3rd party involvement if the 2 property owners take the trouble to talk to each other in a friendly way so that both parties understand that their interests are not being threatened.

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