When torrential summer storms ripped through Australia's Gold Coast in 2019, one of the casualties was Lauren and Tim's retaining wall. "Half of the wall collapsed, and we had dirt and mud everywhere," says Lauren.
The couple decided it was a perfect opportunity to enhance the backyard with a built-in barbecue and seating area, and to add stairs to the back of their block. Apart from the earthworks, the couple did the entire project themselves over four weekends.
The couple built the retaining wall using durable, 7 Steel “Ezi Retain” galvanised sleeper uprights, and ensured the sleepers were exactly level. “We used the existing intact section of wall as a height guide to work out what the distance needed to be from the top of the new vertical support post to the bottom,” explains Tim.
“When the concrete was set for the six posts, it formed a hard, level base at the correct height for the first sleeper to sit on, and the rest slotted into position.”
Plenty of work went into effective drainage. GRUNT textile membrane was used to line the back of the retaining wall, which was then filled with 40mm aggregate and dirt. Grates were installed at the front, so stormwater is quickly redirected away.
A new outdoor kitchen, constructed around a Jumbuck “Comet Plus” built-in barbecue, is the star attraction. The structure is topped by an acrylic benchtop, which the couple scored second-hand. The benchtop was cut to fit their barbecue and secured into place with Liquid Nails.
A set of wide steps helps break up the expanse of wall and connects with the back of the block. Although you can buy stair stringers off the shelf, the couple made their own.
“For the stair alcove, we screwed sleepers to the retaining wall at the height and depth of each step and in the centre we notched out a sleeper to support each step like a stringer underneath,” explains Tim.
For maximum functionality, the under-bench area was framed up, with doors added to create cabinets for a gas bottle and outdoor toys. For an integrated look, decking boards also clad the built-in bench seat. The most satisfying part of the project was giving all the timber two coats of British Paints “Timber Protect” fence stain in Charcoal, says Lauren.
“It was the final touch that gave the new area and original intact section of the wall a cohesive look, as well as weather protection.”
Take advantage of our easy-to-follow step-by-step guide on how to build a timber retaining wall.
Photography credit: John Downs