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Retaining Walls: Do It Yourself or Hire a Builder?

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Retaining Walls:  Do It Yourself or Hire a Builder?

© Clint Pino, Cornerstone Retaining Walls, Inc.

There are two main reasons people like to take on DIY projects.  1-They desire the sense of accomplishment & pride that comes from creating something themselves or 2-They want to save money.  Both are legitimate & respectable reasons!  But before embarking on a DIY retaining wall project, there are a few considerations that should be weighed carefully:

1 – Time. As a general rule, DIY projects always take more time than initially estimated, especially when you have no prior experience to draw from.  Building a retaining wall is no exception.  It truly is a learning experience & there is much to learn!  If you are willing to invest hours in research & dedicate days, weeks or even a month or more to the actual building process, then a DIY retaining wall project might be for you.  On the other hand, if you want the project completed in just a few short days, then hiring a professional builder is the way to go.

2 – Money. The theory is that you’ll save money if you build it yourself.  You might be surprised to learn that that is not always the case!  For starters, a professional retaining wall builder often gets contractor pricing on material, which can be a significant savings over the retail prices you would pay.  You also need to consider the monetary value of your time.  When you factor in the amount of time you will spend learning, buying material, obtaining permits, calling for locates, renting equipment & then actually building the retaining wall, you might find that it would be more cost-effective to hire a pro.

3 – Manpower. Building a retaining wall will cause you to sweat!  It is a labor-intensive project that, at the very minimum, requires digging a trench & lifting heavy block, rock or timbers.  Depending on the scope of your project, it might also mean operating heavy machinery, such as a compactor or skid steer.  The do-it-yourselfer will need to have the physical strength to perform these tasks, as well as the ability to carry them out in a safe manner.  If heavy, strenuous work is not your thing, then hiring a builder is the better choice.

4 – Design & Materials. One of the biggest challenges of building a retaining wall actually occurs long before construction begins – and that is creating a design & choosing material.  Is your retaining wall going to be straight or curved?  Will you be integrating pillars, sitting walls, pathways or a patio?  What style & material will best compliment & enhance your existing landscape & surroundings?  Many people find these questions daunting!  But the builder who constructs dozens of retaining walls every year will have a great deal of knowledge, insight & experience to contribute to your project.  A pro can guide you along in the decision making process & offer suggestions based on your needs & desires.  They can also offer advice for any unique factors that might come into play.

A retaining wall can be a fun & rewarding do-it-yourself project, but it certainly is not for everyone.  A small garden wall is a good starting point for the very beginner.  But for larger, more complicated walls, hiring a professional retaining wall builder will very likely save you time, money & frustration in the long run.

Cornerstone Retaining Walls, Inc. is located in Evergreen, CO.  View pictures & get more info at www.CornerstoneRetainingWalls.com or call Clint at 303-564-4175.