Complete Projects: Retaining Wall in Buena Vista

February 13, 2013:

This project brings us to the Buena Vista neighborhood in San Francisco.  We’ll be replacing this wall with something much stronger.   A concrete wall is of course the most durable lasting 80 plus years but if budget is a factor, pressure treated (PT) timber is the way to go. But not all PT walls are constructed equally as you can see.  With the support post being the weakest link, failure occurs here in most instances.  Specifically, either the post rots out or the concrete footing will start destabilizing due insufficient depth and girth.


Tamate Landscaping - Old Retaining Wall

Day 1, old wall is removed and area excavated.

Tamate Landscaping - Old Retaining Wall Removal

So how do you make a standard pressure treated 15 plus year wall into a 30 plus year wall?  More concrete and substitute pressure treated posts with steel I-beams.  Here you see the steel post dropped into a hole 4′ deep by 2′ wide.  1/2 cubic yard of concrete will secure the post for a very long time.

Tamate Landscaping - Steel Support Beams for Retaining wall

Tamate Landscaping - Steel Support Beams for Retaining wall

Tamate Landscaping - Steel Support Beams for Retaining wall

As we excavate the post holes, soil is loaded onto the trailer for dumping and concrete mix brought up.

Tamate Landscaping - Soil and Concrete Loading

All with five gallon buckets.  A typical San Francisco project due to limited access.

Tamate Landscaping - Soil and Concrete Loading by Bucket

End of Day 3.

Tamate Landscaping - Support Structure for Retaining Wall

One very important process when working with pressure treated lumber is to seal all ends that have been cut.  When pressure treated material is manufactured, the chemical that protects it from rot, termites etc. is only injected about 20 percent into the surface ,at best.  Any cuts would leave that area open to intrusion of the elements.  Here we use “copper green” to seal it up.

Mira Drain.

Project Complete: February 2013, Buena Vista, San Francisco California.



Got something to say? Feel free, I want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

  1. Luis Alvarado says:

    Nice job on the wall. If you don’t mind me asking but where did you get the material for the steel T ?

    I’m looking for something like this for my backyard.


  2. Mike says:

    Hi I was just curious about the i-beams used – how wide and are they galvanized? Also, the wood, what size are they and how much between i-beams. Thanks.

  3. Jaime Broersma says:

    This looks great! I am looking at doing a shorter version of this for a parking spot in my backyard. What size H beam did you use? What size lumber planks? Thanks!

  4. Hillary Lehr says:

    Hello! Your website is so helpful! I love the look of this retaining wall but I can’t seem to figure out where to buy those steel I-beams that are only 1.5 or 2′ tall. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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