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Landscaping & Design/Concrete retaining wall question

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Question
Mark,
I need to build a small retaining wall on the lower side of my house.  It'll be about two feet high at the edge of the house, making a 90-degree turn (curved, not sharp) and going along my driveway.  The total length will be about 23 feet, and at the other end it's only going to be about a foot high.  I am going to put some topsoil behind it, and some sod on top...so it does need to be fairly sturdy.  I would LIKE to build it out of poured concrete, then later on put some faux-stone on it so it'll look a little better.  
My biggest problem is figuring out how to build a mold to include that curved 90-degree turn.  I thought maybe I could use some quarter-inch plywood, and I wanted to know if you thought that would work.  Also, any suggestions or recommendations you might have (even on other forms of construction) would be very welcome.
Warm regards,
David Gardner

Answer
Hello,

Materials you can use include plywood,masonite,bender board (redwood and plastic) and other forms of composite, bendable concrete form material (some claim to have superior bending properties).

If you use plywood,stay with 1/4 inch. This size will be much easier to bend. Wetting the plywood will aid in bending. Construct a frame to mount the plywood or other material to. This could be perhaps pieces made of thicker 1/2 inch strips of plywood or bender board. Bender board comes in 2 x 4 size strips and in lesser sizes. Use spacer sticks to keep the form a uniform width and tie the two sides together with heavy wire or threaded rod. Mount support braces to the sides and to the ends. A frame and bracing is necessary so that no bulges form in the sides of the wall.  Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman



For more comprehensive help check out my website at:

http://www.prestoexperts.com/expert/markland  

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Expertise

Design of landscape structures and design of planting arrangements in the landscape. I usually do not answer questions of a horticultural nature or about growing plants or gardening unless they are related to design. I will answer these questions at my discretion. I will answer maintenance questions at my discretion,usually when they are related to design. I am a landscape designer. I am not a contractor or a gardener. Although I will describe how something is built I do not provide detailed installation or construction instructions. Here are example categories of problems I can help you with: Design of residential walks,low walls,low retaining walls,fences,drainage systems,arbors,plant selection,xeriscapes (low water use landscapes),rain garden design,rain water harvesting,permeable paving,sustainable drainage. No advise on an architectural or engineering level. I DO NOT PERFORM ACTUAL DESIGN WORK THROUGH THIS SITE. I only provide suggestions and advice. For more comprehensive help check out my website at: http://www.prestoexperts.com/expert/markland

Experience

Landscape concept plan for a 30,000 square feet housing site. Involved site recon by pace measurements and photographs and a site analysis and a site analysis report and recommendations and a preliminary cost estimate. Design elements included canopy trees,shrub cover,accent flowers,trash receptacles,benches and planters. Landscape concept plan for a 7,000 square feet site for a community center. Involved site recon by tape measurements and photographs,a site analysis and the creation of 3 conceptual designs for the site. Work was done through a local professional design center. Design elements included tree garden,playground,sitting area,lawn,cooking area,lighting and concrete and brick paving. Landscape concept plan for a 3,000 square feet housing site. Involved site recon by tape measurements and photographs and a site analysis. Concluded in 3 concept designs for the site,shown at a formal presentation,a site analysis and recommendations. Work was done through a community volunteer program. Design elements included decks,a playground and fencing. Briefly as draftsman for landscape designer/gardener. Conceptual landscape design for residence. Involved site recon by tape and pace measurements and site analysis. Design included covered patio area,ground cover and flower beds. Two years experience as draftsman for transportation department in engineering firm and for engineering consultants to phone company. Duties consisted of plotting topography. Survey crew member. General assistant to surveyor. Work was done for U.S. Army and County Highway Department. No instrument work. Duties included tape measurement,holding graduated survey rod and plumb bob for sighting and clearing brush. Marketed Landscape Design Services. Brochure writing,promotional material and marketing graphics.

Education/Credentials
Course in Computer Aided Drafting. 700 hours in AutoCad 2000. 700 hours to date on AutoCad Light 2000. Certificate in Manual Drafting. 1200 hours drafting time. Course in Civil Engineering Technology. (One Semester)

Awards and Honors
From Civil Engineer: I am very impressed with your work and with the obvious thought you have put into the marketing of your venture. It was especially good to see a print of that job we discussed on the phone. I wish you much luck with the venture as I do with your plans for school. Im darn proud of you buddy. And by the way,when I get my license,maybe you will consider me for a consulting job down the road. I hope to get together with Rick sometime soon and I would really like to show him your stuff if its ok with you. From all these questions you ask I get the feeling that you are genuinely interested and have put alot of thought into the idea and process of landscape architecture and if you could possibly afford the cost I would urge you to take some classes in the areas you are most interested in. The subject is not so simple as it appears,mixing science and engineering with art and a certain amount of religion to create a comfortable and pleasing balance between man and nature. A thoughtful soul like yours can do this but it can be a lifes work getting it right.

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