Retaining Wall Ideas

At my families cabin the retaining wall made of old railroad ties and stone, but over the years, it has fallen apart. Being as it is the cabin, and no ones main home, we want to keep costs down and do the work ourselves is possible.

The wall needs to be around 50’ long and 4’to 5’ tall. And it is on a slope. I was looking into those stone filled cages, but one site said they usually only last 25 years. If that’s true, I’d have to rebuild it when I’m around 60, and I’d rather not have to worry about that.

When the wall was first built, there were old railroad ties in piles on the sides of the tracks and laying in peoples yards along the tracks. So it was easy to get old ties for the wall then. Now they actually clean up the ties they replace.

I don’t think the blocks they sell at Lowes or Home depot are made to hold back loads 4 or 5 feet high (but I could be wrong). And we could step the wall back if needed as well.

So, are those cages a good option? What are other ideas that will hold up over time. THanks for any help.

Properly constructed galvanised gabions should last between 50 and 150 years. The wire cage holds the stone together and if the stones are stacked, rather than just tipped in, they become pretty much permanent. Of course, if the soil is acidic that will shorten the life.

Construction is pretty simple and unskilled. On the other hand it means shifting many tonnes of heavy stone.

If Gabions only lasted 25 years you would not see them all over the place along roads and streets. They are a long time tried and true method and they naturally pass water thru which is a problem with many retaining walls. If you purchase quality brand will be more than a 25 year old solution.

Lean them back in towards the earth a bit and put a filter fabric between the back side and the earth.

I put some in 2 years ago for a 3 foot retaining wall along a drainage swale. I like the look myself.

Depending on the application, “sleepers” that tie the wall into the hillside may be a good idea. Google that term along with retaining wall and you will see pictures of the idea.

I agree with the notion of using gabions. The only other sure method would be to use wood or concrete and then anchor the wall using expandable anchors designed for the task. I contracted just such a solution for a retaining wall on a very precarious slope. But that gets very expensive, which is not what you are looking for.

Thanks guys. The gabion cages do seem like the best option. I was reading a little about them, and I have a question. I think it would be far easer for us to build the wall in sections (like do two 3’ boxes at a time, total of 6’ at a time). Would we be able to tie/attach the gabions of the next section to the first section when the first section is already full of rocks? I’d think there would be space to get wirers in.

And second, if anyone has experience with gabions, how thick of a wall would we need? I see that they come in 3’ and 1.5’ thickness. I will ask the supplier what they recommend, but if I could get an idea now, it would be good.

Thanks guys.

Sure, you can tie them together. I’d use a heavy gauge galvanized tie wire, perhaps #9, which is fairly standard for chain link fencing, and a good set of pliers to twist the wire. Kinda depends on what your cages are made of, but I’m fairly certain it won’t be chicken wire. Since your wall is going to be that tall, I’d go with the 3’ thickness, and anchor them to the ground, if you can.