Garden higher than house
Have just bought a house and the garden is much higher than the house. There is a (bulging) 8 foot high restraining wall which when built probably held the garden 6 foot away from the kitchen window but is now less than 4 foot back at some places. Overgrown stone flags lead you straight up to the top of the restraining wall; then a zigzag path back and forth across the garden leads you up to the (overgrown) lawn at garden level.
There is no fencing and significant drops and I have a (accident-prone) 5 year old child. What to do? Is digging it all up and moving it back an option bearing in mind there is no access to the site except through the house and very little money in the bank.
Could I just put up some fences for now? If so: what should I be checking the tradesman is doing to make sure they are safe?
I agree ... you need professional advice ... don't just try to 'dig it up and move it back' .... the water table is likely to be higher than the level of your home and you could end up with serious flooding/damp problems affecting your house and those of any neighbours.
Last edited: 22 June 2017 07:51:32
Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.
As has already been said, you need to get professional advice on the wall and get it soon. The problem isn't going to go away and it's unlikely that the ground behind the wall is stable. I would think that at the very least, part of that retaining wall is going to have to be rebuilt and that isn't a quick, easy or cheap job. It is certainly not a job you should try to do for yourself or you could end up under 8' of soil. You say the wall it 8' high and then seem to be saying that the garden actually continues to slope upwards. How high above the lowest ground level is the top of the garden?
How to select a tradesman? Ask other people locally, try 'Trusted Trader' or similar sites and ask for detail of other similar work they have done. DO NOT simply go for the cheapest quote even if money is tight.
Sorry to say this, but it looks as if you have dived into the house purchase without properly assessing the issues and are now paying the price - literally.
Are these significant drops over the retaining wall? I'm surprised the wall hasn't broken before now to be honest! Certainly if the movement is very gradual, I would think you could remove any immediate pressure behind it quickly and easily enough by digging it out. It's a little difficult to tell exactly what it looks like behind your house, a photo would be useful in order to gauge the extent.
The replies on here are a little scaremongering, though, I wouldn't panic that you've bought a wreck, it's just a retaining wall and is easily fixed.
As for a fence a retaining wall with a fence on top of it might look awful. You may be able to dig down behind the wall so that the top portion of the (repaired) retaining wall also acts as a 'fence'. For the immediate future though, perhaps it would be prudent not to allow your child to be on his own in the garden. Failing that might a bamboo and string 'fence' a few feet back from the wall be enough to keep him away from the edge?
the concerning thing you said was a bulging 8 foot high retaining wall that close to your house!
you need to get that looked at ASAP, just in case the worst happens and the wall fails and your garden ends up inside your house!
Thank you for all your replies. The retaining is an extremely solid stone wall, probably over 100 years old so I don't think it is likely to fall down any time soon! I did have a full survey done which highlighted the lack of fencing but did not refer to any risks of collapse. The builders I have working in the house similarly do not think it is a problem (though they are not experts in garden landscaping.)
Sorry I do not have any photos but will try to get over there to take some in the next few days.
Really need an affordable solution as it would be heart-braking to finally have a garden and have to tell my little girl she can't play in it because it is not safe.
Without photo's it is difficult to really understand just how bad the wall is. Irrespective of how old it is I would be concerned about a bulge of that size, that close to the house. Surveys generally restrict themselves to the state of the house, unless anything is considered an immediate danger to the property. Can you contact the surveyor to ask them what their opinion of the wall is?
I understand your concern about a 5 year old and an 8 foot drop. A barrier of some sort is really needed to ensure that she can't stray accidentally too close to the edge. Maybe planting some small shrubs as a demarcation between where she is and isn't allowed would do the job. Setting them back 3 or 4 feet from the edge might do it. At least it would give her a reminder when she's playing.
Notwithstanding the concerns about the wall itself, I suggest you fence an area of the overgrown lawn as far from the wall edge as is possible while still keeping a usable play space (you don't say how big the garden is at the top). The cheapest way to make a reasonably sturdy fence is to get someone to bang in posts (buy them from a farm suppliers) and then nail on two rails, one at the top of the posts, at about 1100mm from the ground and one about halfway up. Then get a roll of stock fence (also from a farm supplier) and fix it to the post and rail fence. This arrangement can keep cows in so should be up to the job of containing a 5 year old. Get a gate with a safety catch on the outside so the child inside can't reach it to open it.
You don't want to be banging the posts in close to the wall, hence the need for a wide as a possible gap. Then plant a border of shrubs and stuff behind the fence in the 'zig zag garden' so in the long term, when they grow up, the fence will disappear from view. Teach your little one to WALK on the steps and then he/she can run as much as they want inside the fenced area, but you'll probably have to supervise the walk to and from the garden until they are old enough to have got the hang of it or your funds allow you to put up a nice handrail.
Last edited: 22 June 2017 14:45:33
I was going to mention that the fences are often electrified to keep cattle in, but thought better of it.