Getting bids for retaining wall

Just Jane
August 13, 2019

We just had a house built on a lot with one nice tree about 10 feet from the house. That end of the house pad had to be built up about a foot and I want a retaining wall built around the tree to keep fill dirt off of it, like the photo.

I called a local landscaping business and told them what I wanted and was told someone would call me back. A few hours later I got a text from someone there telling me to take pictures and measurements and they would give me a bid.

Is that how it is done now? I don't know how to measure for something like this.

Comments (11)

  • Jim Mat

    Use a garden hose to mark the perimeter, take pictures and measurements.

    Or, ask the company to send out a salesman who you can discuss and design your retaining wall.

    I do not think this is something you do over the internet with measurements and photos. I recommend you continue to get bids.

    Just Jane thanked Jim Mat
  • PRO

    You probably have next to no idea what the landscapers' (the ones you called) design ability is. They may be competent, dismal, or anywhere in between. Yet by calling them and asking for a bid, you are expecting them to design it. Since you have an example for them to copy, they may actually be able to bid it over the phone via pictures. But there's no guarantee that they won't put their own spin on it -- which may or may not please you. And it sounds like you have more limited space than what is shown in the picture. If you wish to be certain about the outcome, you need to discuss the details with them (or with another company) and have someone create a plan ... even if it is something simple and quick. We don't know what all your options are, but you could start with the quote over the phone and go from there. Keep in mind that adjustments to the quote might change once you get farther into it and they see the site in person.

    If you want more info about the process, you should show us a photo of the area.

  • mad_gallica

    This is a picture of what I like to call the World's Smallest Retaining Wall

    It is about 10 inches tall, and 24 inches wide. I built it all by myself, with stone I found on the property. Incredible, but true:-) If it fails, it may kill a chipmunk.

    If your numbers are accurate, by the time you have a reasonable drainage slope away from the house, you are looking at a retaining wall shorter than this one. If you are seriously willing to pay for it, I expect someone will be willing to build it. However, I can think of a lot of better uses for that money - including buying food for chipmunks.

  • canamrider07 .

    Send in the information and get the quote. It's a good starting point. Then get a couple more quotes, talk to the contractors ask questions.

  • PRO
    Revolutionary Gardens

    If new construction was done 10 feet from a tree, and there wasn't a tree preservation plan in place (snow fence, wood chips over the root zone) , I'd call an arborist first to assess compaction and other construction damage, especially to the roots.

    I wouldn't give a price on anything involving grading and walls without seeing it in person. They may just be blowing you off, in which case I'd keep making calls until you find a company willing to come out and take a look. Not only is telling the customer to take measurements bad customer service, it's just dumb to estimate on data you can't be sure of.

  • PRO

    It’s the Tom Reber method of qualifying sketchy customers.

    If a customer won’t pay for design work up front to give to a contractor, then the burden of providing enough information for a ballpark is on them. They have to have SOME involvement and investment besides just picking up the phone and dialing. Or they aren’t serious prospects.

    The contractor asks them to send inspiration pictures, site pictures, and a few rough measurements. The contractor ballparks it to a range based on past similar projects, say $1600-$2600. If they agree that the ballpark is doable, then the customer pays a consult fee to have the on site inspection and actual accurate cost projection. That qualifies out the clueless ones who think it’s “just” a $500 job.

    Customers who have no investment of time or money in the project, who are only looking for the low bid, and not job quality or contractor reputation, aren’t worth wasting time for a site visit. This weeds them out. Yes. Its what the smarter more successful contractors are doing rather than running all over town for nothing.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    This is actually a simple DIY job in a weekend with the retaining wall blocks.My husband ans son built a huge 4’ high by 60’ long wall in a week end Just google retaining wall blocks to get some ideas For somereason I can’t post pictures right now.

    Just Jane thanked Patricia Colwell Consulting
  • PRO
    Revolutionary Gardens

    Yeah no. I prequalify my leads HARD, because we're not the cheapest and we're not for everyone, but we're talking about a small tree well here. This is what we charge for a crew day, this is what your materials would likely run, you're between $X and Y, does that fit your expectations and budget? If you get them to send you a photo of existing conditions before you return the call, that's maybe 3-5 minutes on the phone to determine if a site visit is warranted. Texting a prospect and saying send me this and this and sure I'll get back to you is unprofessional, and I wouldn't tolerate it as an employer OR as a customer. Most of our projects are large and complex and start with a design process, but I'm never going to turn my nose up at a tidy little 1-2 day project. They're a nice mental break, and this is a relationship business. I've had plenty of little jobs lead to big ones.

    As far as retaining wall blocks - ew, no. OP posted a photo of an actually attractive small wall with natural stone. Concrete lego blocks aren't remotely comparable.

    Just Jane thanked Revolutionary Gardens
  • Just Jane

    I like that stone wall too. I would have posted a block wall if I could have found one.

  • PRO
    Mystic Pools, LLC

    I agree with Rev Gardens. Small jobs are nice and do provide a break plus, they do lead to future work-sometimes that client's friends.

    With you on Lego walls-ugh!. Those are for office parks.

    We use natural stone materials all the time. They are timeless.

  • PRO

    Lego walls, or any block material is made for a level installation and would not have anywhere near the same character as what's in the inspiration picture. The top of the natural stone wall in the picture flows with the grade, and blocks could not do this (so would not look good for this scheme!)

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