A retaining wall to hold up my driveway

We have a retaining wall, readers. It is done, and our neighbours even said it looks great. Phew! It was mildly annoying to live on a construction site for two weeks, but I honestly had more anxiety about what our neighbours would say/do/think about this whole thing….which they would then share with me because they have no beef with speaking their minds. BUT, that didn’t happen. All went well, so let’s get on with the recap.

We left you on day two of construction, where the fence was removed and a sudden downpour of April showers meant the landscapers only worked for the morning on day two and then went somewhere warm and dry for the afternoon. Day three of construction saw snow on the ground, and while it turned into a warm enough day to eventually do some work, I think the crew had already written off the day for working and they did not show up. Oh well.

We lived through the weekend with a construction zone outside out door – large equipment to shimmy around to get to the backyard, and a big wide open gap in the fence network for our yard. That meant little miss Leeloo was not fully contained, and she could not be let outside without adult supervision. We don’t think she’s a flight risk, but she certainly likes to romp and explore, and she’d hop right into the neighbour’s yard for a good sniff if she thought rabbit poops might be there. Every time we let her outside over that first weekend we had to go outside with her, which was a royal pain.

Cut to Monday, day four of construction, and the crew was back with a vengeance.


Mud pit/my driveway.

Monday was the first day the landscapers took over the street with all of their equipment and materials. They were on both sides of the street, and the people-pleaser in me felt terrible about mildly inconveniencing anyone who drove down our street.

The old wooden retaining wall started to come out, small sections at a time. They started at the back of the driveway and cleared a section of the wooden wall, dug down to make room for the new blocks and weeping tile, and then laid in the new wall.


Fresh new dirt hole to be filled with landscaping fabric and weeping tile:


Each block was lifted from the pallet and moved into place with this grabber piece attached to the arm of the backhoe. It was slow-goings.


Monday was also the day that someone from the City of Cambridge complained about the equipment and trucks being on the street. Dan sent me a message while I was work about how the landscapers were told they had to clear everything off the street by 4pm. This sent everyone into a tizzy because they had filed the appropriate permits and paperwork to park on the street. It turns out the landscapers had secured the permits late last year after we confirmed the job with them, and the city changed their permit requirements for 2017 and didn’t tell them. Neat. This meant they did indeed have to tidy up everything by 4pm on Monday, so all the big equipment and the flatbed trucks and the dumpsters had to get hauled away, and a teeny tiny tractor was parallel parked at the end of my driveway (adorable!).

Despite that annoying set-back, the work at the end of day four gave us hope:


Those are real, live blocks in place! The wall is HAPPENING!! The mesh fabric laid across the driveway is called geogrid, and it was installed along the length of the new wall for added stability. This was one of things that put Kerr and Kerr ahead of the other guys when we were getting quotes, because my previous wall was falling over and this stuff helps hold everything in place.

Looking the other direction from the glorious progress made on Monday, you can see there’s still a lot more wall to rip out and replace.


Day five was more of the same, and at the end of the day the progress had stretched to about the halfway point down the driveway.


The view from the neighbour’s side was starting to look pretty good:


And a new shipment of blocks arrived to finish the job.


Day six seemed to kick into high gear. It only dawned on me on Wednesday that this was a short week due to the upcoming Easter holiday weekend, so the landscapers arrived before 8am today and stayed until almost 6pm to make some serious progress.


They’re so close to being done!


And here’s the one that really makes my heart happy – take a look at the wall from the other side:

Thursday, day seven of construction, finished off all the work with another long day. They placed the last few blocks to complete the length of the wall, and spent the rest of the day adding the topper blocks and compacting gravel along the length of the driveway.

finished wall

Again, my favourite thing is walking down the sidewalk to view the wall from the side. She is a thing of beauty.

A little compare and contrast is in order.


Ahhhh, much better!

The final clean-up of the construction site involved fresh dirt filling in the ripped up sections of grass, in the back yard at the end of the driveway and in the front yard where those heavy pallets of blocks sat for a week.

Kerr and Kerr used grass seed on these patches but said they would come back to add sod if it didn’t come in the way it should. So far so good.

Our dirt driveway is the least glamorous part of this whole thing. Wait, there’s also the chewed up edge bits against the house:


We’ll get out there soon and tidy up the insulating foam bits and maybe add a bit of gravel in the low spots. The end of the driveway formed a massive puddle with the all the rain we’ve had for the last two days, so that one needs a bag or two of gravel to fill the divot.

The other outstanding issue is the fence to keep our dog contained. Simon should be coming around this weekend to take a look at the best option to reattach our gate across the driveway, and then build us something on top of the wall to connect to the existing fence. The gate was neatly set aside and sits waiting in the backyard until we can reattach it. Whatever we do to reattach it only needs to hold up for about a year, since we’ll be taking it down again to pave the driveway.


The new section of fence will need to sit on the 20-30 feet at the back end of the new wall, and connect to the neighbour’s existing fence so the wee missus can’t escape.

Future fence for wall and driveway
We paid the final balance on the retaining wall this morning, coming in exactly at the quoted price. We couldn’t be happier with the work Kerr and Kerr did for us, and we would highly recommend them to anyone who needs a big-ass retaining wall. I’m sure they do great work with regular landscaping stuff too.


About joeyandjanice

Two crazy kids trying to make sense of the jumble surrounding making the jump from renting to owning our first home. Join us here as we stumble towards the biggest purchase of our lives.
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2 Responses to A retaining wall to hold up my driveway

  1. Gary says:

    We have almost the identical job to have completed, how long was the wall and how much did this project cost?

    • Hi Gary,
      Our wall runs the length of our property, about 100 feet. We chose to only replace the portion that supports our driveway, which is about 70 feet long. The total amount we paid for demolition of our old driveway, removal of the old wooden retaining wall, and installation of a new Grande block retaining was about $15,000. This did not include refinishing the driveway, as the ground needs to settle for at least a year before we can think about repaving it. Hope that helps with your planning.

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