I spent Memorial Day weekend breaking ground on the leveling part of this project. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my hands on decent railroad ties until I had already spent the money on something less important like food. There are railroad ties a-plenty now, but I’m madly preparing for our new baby in the fall and haven’t considered getting back to work on this project yet.
I did, however, get some of the foundation laid with what ties I had and an order of 1 yd³ of drainage gravel delivered. It might have been a ½ yd³ (I should find out for sure since this bit of information could be very important to those who would like to attempt this project).
The site is approximately 16’ x 15’ and has a grade of about 10°. It’s the flattest area available to us, though it has almost a 3’ wall at the far edge of the 15’ length. I began by digging out the 16’ trench; 14” deep and 18” wide. This took a tremendous amount of time and effort. Using a mattock and shovel, I spent two days mostly digging trenches in Georgia’s red clay. The gravel filled in half of my 16’ trench and I worked to level it such that my cross ties would lie flat. Once adequately leveled, I hammered 4’ rebar through the ties, deep into the earth. This provides the foundation on which I can build the rest of the retaining wall. I also dug a trench perpendicular to this one for the first of four dead-men that would further anchor the foundation. These trenches are more difficult to dig because you’re digging into the hillside, making the whole considerably deeper. You have much less room to work a shovel and mattock in such a confined space. Regardless, I finished the trench and worked at length to level this bit as well. Laying a single cross tie into this spot and anchoring it with another 4’ length of rebar provided the second dead-man (me being the first). It’s also secured to the footer with a 1’ piece of rebar hammered through the two ties. In retrospect, I probably should have put in a gravel base on the dead-men as well, but the gravel was pretty expensive, and I was done digging ditches for a little while.
When I get started again on this project, I have three more ditches to dig for the remaining dead-men. After they’re placed, it’s a relatively simple matter of stacking the cross ties and anchoring each one to the one below it. It’s also important to note that you need to stack them towards the hillside. I’m offsetting each row by about an inch. The second row (the row containing dead-men) will have gaps between its units for drainage. These gaps are backed by an aluminum mesh to keep the gravel from escaping.
As a closing thought, I should mention that what you’ve read has very little to do with a “lumberjock.” It’s all for what will eventually require some real woodworking skills, and that’s the reason it’s being posted here. In the spirit of the board however, I did task myself with cutting the railroad ties with a handsaw. I don’t own a circular saw big enough to get through the wood, and a friend is still borrowing my chainsaw. Alas, the handsaw was the last option.
-- It takes a viking to raze a village. &mdash Blog'r: http://www.gradin.com