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Concrete Bag Retaining Wall Pics


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Jennifer's Forum Posts: 40
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By Jennifer in Ft Worth, TX on 5/14/2007


We just had a large concrete bag retaining wall installed. Thought those considering this might want to see pics. I'm sure it will look better when the bags are off, but it's pretty impressive as is.

Jennifer

See "My construction website" for more pics.


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By Justin in Chandler, AZ on 5/14/2007


Jennifer,

I guess I haven't even heard of this before. Where can I learn more? Do the bags just wear away leaving concrete? It looks pretty cool.

Justin


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By Mark in Provo, UT on 5/14/2007


That's a beautiful retaining wall, and very ingenious. I Googled a good set of instructions to to build one like it: Concrete Bag Retaining Wall.

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By Jennifer in Ft Worth, TX on 5/14/2007


The bags do just wear away. There's rebar through each bag to attach them to the lower layer and they're set back with fabric underneath.

TXI sells the bags and they're called rip rap. It's not necessarily cheaper than concrete from the store. They have two types. One for walls that are created in lakes and streams (stand up to constant water) and others that aren't used for wet situations.

I had hoped to do this myself, but ended up hiring an erosion company to do the work. If my wall had been closer to 4' instead of 10', I'd have hired the labor and done it myself. Watching, they didn't do anything special, but they definitely made it more asthetically pleasing, since they've been doing this for a while.

Jennifer

 


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By Mark in Provo, UT on 5/14/2007


Reading the Rip Rap link you provided, it occurs to me that this is a possible way to build concrete window wells that allow egress from basement bedrooms through their stairstep design.

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By Jon in Ellicott City, MD on 5/15/2007


That's a great idea, Mark!  I'm going to look into doing that for my house. 

 


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By Homewithaview in Mountain View, CA on 6/6/2007


That's just gorgeous! I actually like the color of the bag, but I"m sure the concrete color will also be great. I have a question about the process, though. I've been looking at retaining walls, and the instructions for the interlocking landscape forms found at HD all talk about an underlayer of gravel for drainage, and a waterproofing membrane prior to backfilling. They're also only good for about 3-4 feet high, otherwise you're supposed to dig down for taller walls. 

Did you have to worry about any of that? You noted that your wall was 10' tall, and has rebar, but did they dig below grade to help anchor the wall? I'd probably need one about 6-7 feet high, and I was thinking of just breaking it up into two shorter walls, so that I could DIY, and not have to go to the expense of digging down to get a good support foundation. If there's no real digging involved, just leveling, then it'd be a great alternative. Did they do anything about drainage?

Beautiful wall, and thanks for posting it here!

Jen

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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 6/7/2007


It is not so much the foundation that is the limit on segmental stone retaining walls. The weight of the wall holds them in place, this is not a function of the foundation these walls are bearing on. If you get too high though, you need to tie them back using geofabric, and this is where the complexity comes in via engineering design. Once you introduce too much height, you need to tie back, you need to know how much to tie back, you need to compact properly between layers of fabric, you need to know what you are doing, and in my locale you need an engineering design, permit approval, and inspection.  This is different than concrete retaining wall, the concrete is much stronger and doesn't simply rely on weight. As to these bag concrete pics, these are not used locally.

If you use two separate walls to keep your height down (and avoid engineering design and complexity), be sure to separate them adequately so that they are truly independent walls, and upper wall does not impact the loading on the lower wall. If you separate them by twice the height of the wall, you should be OK. For example, you have seven feet of retaining wall needed, if the first wall is four feet tall, you will want the second wall at least eight feet back.


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By Jennifer in Ft Worth, TX on 6/7/2007


The builder did use the geotextile fabric along the back. Supposedly it drains between the bags and doesn't need the drains along like a solid wall would.

I didn't see them set up the foundation, but I think they had planned to put in some sort of footer. They might have used bags for that part, also. They did do a lot of digging to get things level and have a good base. I don't know if they used gravel underneath or not. They did say they would use longer rebar for the first layer or so. Down four feet, I think they said.

I'm very glad I didn't attempt this. Much better to have someone do the planning, lifting and moving with the size our wall is.

Jennifer


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By Homewithaview in Mountain View, CA on 6/17/2007


Thanks, Kenneth! It's good to get reinforcement that the advice out there on the Internet isn't too far off...

So basically, I have to decide whether I want to pay A LOT more to get 8 extra feet of flat land in my back yard... sigh. I guess it really depends on what the budget looks like AFTER the house is actually done. Thanks again!

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By Jane in Tyler, TX on 1/26/2009


Jennifer,

We live on a hill near Tyler and keep building uphill to get farther away from the road. We love the rip rap walls we are seeing in public areas and in your picture of your home, however find it impossible to find a source for the do-it-yourselfer. I would appreciate if you would share where you purchased your rip rap bags.

Thanks, 

Jane


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By Jennifer in Ft Worth, TX on 1/26/2009


It's been a while, but I think it was directly from TXI. At the time, I think they had concrete bags that were plain, available for this purpose. Possibly Sakrete bags without labels. I know they were delivered to the site.

We did have a crew do the ordering and work. When I first called to find out about cost and delivery, they recommended a person to do the work, since the size was so large.

That company's website is not available now, so I don't know if they are still doing that work.

Good luck. We've started another area with concrete bags from HD. Not the same scale as the other site.

Jennifer


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By Craig in Hayes, TX on 1/28/2009


Saw your pictures last year. I had purchased property on Lake Granbury that has a combination of 30-year-old tie walls and crumbling rock walls.

Got the idea to replace all of these with the stacked bags after seeing your pictures. I have now finished the lower wall at 143-ft long and varying height of 3 to 6 ft. This is along waterline. My next wall will be stepped back about 12 feet and will be approx 8 feet tall and 40 feet long.

Have you had any problems with your walls? Yours are much higher, so I feel confident that if yours are good then I should have no problem.

When I finish I will post pics. I am doing mine myself, as money permits. Have laid about 900 bags so far and about 600 to go.

Craig

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By Jennifer in Ft Worth, TX on 1/29/2009


No problems with the wall, and even the places where it ended, and I was worried there'd be more erosion beside it has held up rather well. Like I said, we need to continue around with a shorter piece, and have done a little placing ourselves where there was bad erosion.

The bags still haven't come off most of the concrete. It's looking a little ragged, but we went to work on the house again, now that we know the support is there.

I'm impressed that you're doing the work yourself. Even the small wall we still need is looking more and more intimidating.

Jennifer

From the metal piece to the right (where the bushes are), all had been eroded away. We gained that much when the wall was put in. We need more landscaping, but it's behind the house, and we rarely go back there.

Almost two yrs later


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By Grant in Blacksburg, VA on 1/29/2009


Somehow I missed this thread earlier... That is just dang cool and I am totally impressed! I would not have thought of this on my own. 

I've got three acres to landscape and a couple of troublesome hillsides that are going to need retaining walls. I can't see any reason why an engineer wouldn't sign off on such a "structural" wall (required for retaining walls of this height in our community). I'm not sure if the neighborhood ARC will go for this, but I personally think it looks wonderful! And I want to showcase alternative, cost-effective building strategies whenever possible. I hope they let me do this. With your beautiful pictures they might be convinced.


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By Grant in Blacksburg, VA on 1/29/2009


I had to google to learn more and stumbled on some additional informational links (thought I'd share):

sciopackaging.com/general.htm

TX DOT specification that describes the alternate use of concrete riprap bags:

ftp://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/ss7358.pdf

 

 


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By Craig in Hayes, TX on 1/29/2009


Thanks Grant, very good info. My property is sloped pretty good and I am leveling yard area. My method is to stack bags in a brick pattern and stagger back approx one inch per row. A engineer friend told me that under four feet needs no additional reinforcement, walls taller than four feet need 3/4 inch rebar driven through every couple of feet to help stabilize from tipping. To step walls back, go 1.5 feet back for each one foot of height. So if you have a wall four feet high, then go back 6 feet before starting a new wall.

As for doing it yourself, great exercise. In a good weekend, I can lay about 150 bags, not including backfill or digging footers. On the wall at the water line, I dug approx. 18 inches deep for a footer and layed the first row side to side.

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By Roy in Grapevine, TX on 2/21/2009


Jennifer I went on the TXI website as was unable to find the pre-packaged 'rip rap' product you used for your retaining wall. Any suggestions how I might locate such an item?

Roy in Grapevine, TX                           

P.S. Thx for the great tip.


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By Craig in Hayes, TX on 2/21/2009


Look at 60-pound bags at Lowe's and Home Depot. The cost is extremely reasonable and if you are buying in quantity, you can get an even better price by having them delivered in truckload quantity. I got mine at Home Depot in Granbury, and prices varied from $2.23 per bag to $2.83 per bag. I have used approximately 1,200 bags to this point.

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By willox in Greensboro, NC on 10/5/2009


It looks great. Thanks a lot for a nice look at concrete bag blocks. I want to do like this in my garden. Can anyone suggest a materials list and probable estimated cost of creating a one-meter-high retaining wall?

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By Stephen in Apple Valley, MN on 10/24/2009


Did you finish your project? I would be interested in hearing and seeing how it turned out!
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By Craig in Hayes, TX on 10/25/2009


Finished all of the lower wall along the water and about two thirds of the upper wall. Here is a pic I took last month before all the rain. I took it from what is now about five feet underwater.

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By Kathy on 4/14/2013


We made a wall of stacked bags last year, and this year some of the bags are crumbling. It's like some of them didn't set up and it is just crumbling out of the ripped bags. Any idea of what we can do to fix them? I don't want to unstack everything, but there are probably about 8 bags that I noticed that are crumbling.

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By Michael in Cave Creek, AZ on 4/16/2013


The best way to permanently repair this situation would be to remove the stacked concrete bags and replace it with an engineered retaining wall that has a footing and reinforcing steel designed to retain the soils on your site for the required height. You may want to talk to the building department in your jurisdiction, an engineer or an experienced concrete or masonry contractor for further guidance.

Concrete normally hardens through a process called hydration when cement interacts with water. To make this happen, most users of cement mix the concrete (cement, aggregate, sand, water, and admixtures) in a mixer or at least in a wheelbarrow with a shovel. 

You simply dry-stacked bags of cement and assumed that they would absorb moisture from the atmosphere, rain, runoff or whatever. This might work in some climates like the Pacific Northwest, but is unlikely to work in a dry area like the west coast or the desert.

If the wall is only a few feet tall and not a safety hazard:

Some things that you could try to do to fix this without taking the wall down would be to hose down the wall on a daily basis and cover it with tarps in an effort to cure at least the outer layers of the concrete bags. This is called water curing. There are no guarantees of success, but with a month of this effort which requires only a minimum amount of work, it might be worth a shot.

To test whether this is at all successful, try to drive a few rebar stakes into the wall before and after you attempt to water cure the wall. If the bags feel like solid concrete, when driving the stakes and penetration is not possible, the repair effort has resulted in well-hydrated concrete bags -- which may or may not be a suitable retaining wall for your site long term. I would view a stacked concrete bag wall similar to a pile of sandbags - a short-term solution.

Once the wall is solid, mix concrete mix and water in a bucket, wheelbarrow or cement mixer and use a trowel to fix the spots where bags have fallen apart.

Good luck with your project.


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By Elizabeth on 4/22/2014


Hello Jennifer - which erosion company did you use ?  I am in Austin and looking for a similar type wall


Thank you!


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By MG in Arlington, TX on 7/4/2014


Jennifer, good work and good looking wall. Meanwhile try to eliminate or minimize the cause of the erosion at the bottom section of the wall.  From the picture you have posted, some of the bags are already being moved. 

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By jimcarrie on 9/26/2017


I see this posted 7 years ago, wondering how is this wall holding up? Any issues? Maintenance? Thinking of doing a 6ft or 2 - 4ft walls but want to be sure they will last my lifetime at least.
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By Joe on 3/25/2018


Thinking about building a wall about 90' long ranging in height from 2-6 feet.  I like the idea of building 2' and then reinforcing with rebar.  My question is how long of a piece of rebar is used at each stage?  I was thinking 5' sections should do it.  That takes the lower levels 3' into the ground, and then ties the remaining levels above either somewhat into the ground or through the entire wall.  Thoughts?
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By Roger in Beverly Hills, CA on 4/4/2019


That's a beautiful retaining wall, and very ingenious.
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