That time I almost killed my family building a retaining wall… and how you can, too!

Ready to Rock a retaining wall story |

When I first decided to start this blog, I didn’t envision my first project post would be such a whopper of a job.  I thought it would be some cute DIY project that anyone could do with a few spare hours on the weekend.  But life has it’s twists and turns and here we are.  As you saw in our backyard plan here, a big project we had planned for this summer is a retaining wall.  Let me tell you, this project is not for the faint of heart… or really anyone opposed to hard manual labor.  There are a lot of retaining walls in our neighborhood, so when we first got the idea to build the retaining wall to expand our yard, we had a lot of people to talk to.  Everyone seemed to say that it was a big project but totally doable and DIYable if you had someone on your team knew what they were doing.  They were right, the whole concept isn’t mind-blowingly tricky.  But, no one seemed to mention that we would burn about 12 million calories and dig deep for every ounce of energy to finish out the day and then get up the next morning to begin again.  Or go to bed feeling guilty that you dragged your poor family into it!  The whole crew consisted of me, the fiancee, my dad, and my brother who swooped in to save us from death by retaining wall in it’s final construction days.  Let me tell you, it was pretty rough.  Physically, anyway.  But, hey, if there was ever a way to get ripped in 9 days, building a retaining wall is the way to go!  I think we sprouted muscles on top of muscles.


The finished product.  What a beaut!

76 feet of glory


Click through to see our equipment and materials list and read about the phases of the job…

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The backyard plan, stan


#simplycaitsbackyard | the plan |


Minnesota started to pretend to warm up a month or so ago, and I am finally thawing out.  This winter seemed like the longest one ever and I’ve been craving time in the sun.  There’s no better place to kick back, relax, and enjoy an adult beverage or two than your own backyard.  It’s time for a makeover to whip ours into the oasis I know it can be.


We bought our house a year and a half ago, so this will be our second summer in our home.  With my MBA graduation, a trip to Spain, and seven weddings last year, we didn’t have a ton of time (or money!) to spend on sprucing up the backyard.  I’m also a firm believer in not rushing major projects when you don’t have a vision, and since it was our first summer at the house we needed to see what we were working with first. (We bought in December, so we had no idea what our yard looked like without snow!)  Luckily, we didn’t have a whole ton of plants in the yard.  Removing plants and trees from a yard is a lot of work and/or expensive so I was happy to start with a fairly blank slate.  There is some minor landscaping along our side door and a few peony bushes (my favorite!), but other than that it’s open to our imagination.


Here’s what we’re working with and a rough idea of my vision:


#simplycaitsbackyard | before |


#simplycaitsbackyard | before |


#simplycaitsbackyard | before |

And there are a few surprises I didn’t mention… because no backyard is complete without a fire and a water feature am I right?

{Follow me on instagram @caitlinnichol and #simplycaitsbackyard for real time updates on projects… and other random things I do}

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