Tuesday, May 20, 2008

One more before and after

Last summer


1:30 p.m. Day 2

Holy moses, these guys work fast.

View from the north

Wall up close

The concrete block for the retaining wall comes from an Omaha company, Watkins, which has a showroom with helpful staff and lists of contractors.

We're using the Vertica Pro straight edge, which is designed for big walls.

Each one of these suckers is a foot square and weighs 115 pounds.

I chose the standard gray because I thought it fit best in the neighborhood, where most retaining walls are old concrete or stacked limestone. Brown tones looked too suburban.

The bottom layer is sand for drainage. The black netting is geogrid, which helps stabilize the soil.

This underground drainage pipe leads out the rear of the wall, where a concrete flume drains to the alley. The downspouts on this side of the house also will drain underground.

Let's not lose sight of the goal here with all these details ...

This is how it's looking for passersby.

Dying to know more? See Watkins' instruction sheet on how to build a wall with Vertica Pro blocks.

End of Day 1

A major retaining wall project makes a bit of a mess.

Sand and gravel in the street

The neighbors are letting the contractors work from their empty lot to the north of the house. Well, it used to be empty.

Left side of lot, seen from front porch of flip
Sand on the left, garbage concrete on right

Center of lot

Stacks of block waiting installation

Right side of lot

Top view of wall on right, equipment in the background

It's 6:48 a.m. on Day 2.

I can tell from the diesel rumble that they're here already.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Noon Day 1

It's noon on Day 1 of the retaining wall project.

The early-morning backhoe was the fun part.

Now they are painstakingly scraping the dirt away from the foundation.

They've created a trench for the concrete blocks to sit in and are starting to fill it with gravel (for draining I presume).

This looks worth every penny I'm paying.

They've got two Bobcats, a backhoe, dump trucks taking out scrap and bringing in gravel ... with the rumble of heavy equipment around, it's like having my own Ax Men crew.

Uh, you don't watch Ax Men?

Wall comes tumbling down

The last project is under way.

Linhart Construction is replacing a 100-foot long timber retaining wall on the north side of the property.

About a decade ago, the wall was built wrong, with undersized timbers and no supportive "dead men," by a contractor who bailed halfway through the project.

The wall was bowing more than a foot in spots. The interior dirt eroded into sharp slopes. The house already leans a little to this side.
It will be replaced with a concrete block wall, 100 feet long and about 5 feet high, with a second-tier wall in the front.

The wall, topped by a classy PVC drainage system

I hired Linhart because the company does major construction all the time.

This was a small project in their book.

My initial contract called for the project to be delayed until after Oct. 1, 2007, when a tax was lifted on repair work. That saved $1,500. I shaved off another chunk by planning to re-seed the neighbor's lot myself.

That got it down to $15,500.

Then winter came early and hung around, followed by regular rainshowers this spring.
I sold the house with a stipulation that I would pay for and continue to oversee this project.

Linhart called last week to say they would start at 7 a.m. Monday and wrap up by Wednesday.

I could hear the chug of a truck coming around the corner at 7 almost on the dot.

A backhoe peeled apart the wall, making the timber look like matchsticks and crackle as they split.

By 7:30 a.m., the wall was gone.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Closing on a house is a little anticlimactic for the seller.

You sign the paperwork a few days in advance, and someone eventually calls to tell you your check is ready.

In this case, the buyer had already moved in, so there was no official key handover.

However, it's thrilling to log onto my online mortgage account and see ...


MUD sent FINAL BILL last week.

It's not officially over, though.

The large retaining wall project is scheduled for next week. I am paying for and overseeing that project, as well as seeding the neighbor's lawn that will get torn up in the process.