Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Construction Part 1: Terracing

 Going from this

To this

wasn't as hard as you'd think (ok, it was hard, but mostly strength wise not difficulty level). I would definitely do some things differently next time but by the time we got to the last level we had a pretty good system in place. 

Obviously, the first step you should take is figuring out the change in elevation (I say you because this wasn't our first step and caused a few problems down the road). You need to do this because it tells you how many vertical feet you are going to have to have terraced. This translates to how tall each level needs to be. When we finally got around to doing this (level 2) we used the "measuring with a line level" method detailed in Sunset's Hillside Landscaping book which was my bible for this project. 

scanned from Hillside Landscaping
As you can see it is pretty straight forward. The most difficult thing was being tall enough to measure the distance between C and B. 
Our Process:
We tied a length of string to the bottom of the fence at the top of the hill and went to the bottom of the hill. Then we raised the string up until the line level (a cute little thing that hooks on to the string) was level and then measured the distance between the ground and the string. We totaled about 80 inches if we wanted to level the whole thing. That means that if we wanted to dig the whole yard out flat we'd have a 6 foot 6 inch retaining wall at the very back. Since Sunset didn't recommend making a wall over 3 feet without a contractor this wasn't going to work for us. We also had an existing staircase to work with so we knew we'd need a few levels. We ended up going with a part terrace part natural slope to get our total height requirements. 

The actual terracing was the most work. Each level needed to be dug out flat before the next step could be made. 

It required moving a whole lot of dirt but I counted it as my workout each day I dug so it all worked out (shoveling gives you killer arms and abs by the way).

Once we had the first level flattened out we built the terrace using 4- 4x4 pressure treated posts and 4- 8X12 lengths of boards. In retrospect I should have done more research on the type of board we should have used but if they rot away in a year I can replace them pretty easily without disturbing the rest of the structure. 

By the second terrace we had come up with this method and it worked well for us. We constructed the whole wood part on the ground, leveled and screwed all the boards into the posts before putting it up. Then we just dug our post holes and dropped the entire structure in. Obviously this was a two person job. (Here's one half done)

This was easier than putting the posts in first for us because leveling the whole thing was really difficult one board at a time and we didn't want to deal with having to bolt the boards to the posts from the front. This way everything is attached but no hardware shows. 

As you can see we ended up with the four levels but I decided to leave the last level more sloping like the natural hillside was. I was worried the terraces would look too modern and stark so we are going to plant the heck out of that back corner and make a nice little jungle in there. Something lush against all that wood like I showed you in this concept post. 

So there you have it. If you plan to do something similar I highly suggest reading Sunset's Hillside Landscaping. I got it at my local library and it is full of ideas and inspiration. 

See you tomorrow to see how we built our fence.


1 comment:

  1. Seriously impressive and seriously hard work!! Well done!