Help! Paver Sidewalk Cut-out: Erosion Problems. Retaining Wall?

mrmambo(zone 7b; Atlanta, GA)May 22, 2010


I've posted a separate entry in this forum regarding my sidewalk pavers:

Long story short:

I pulled-up and re-laid 18" hex concrete pavers on our city sidewalk due to cracked/broken pavers, uneven surface, etc. It's a sloping hill there, about 4-5%.

As part of this, I had to narrow the sidewalk around a mature pecan tree. I reduced the width there from 6' to 3' to accommodate roots. This left a 3-foot by 15-foot bed around the tree (around 7.5' on either side of the tree). I mulched this area and planted it with hostas and liriope. (shady area)

The problem came with the rain yesterday--I didn't have any kind of border next to the sidewalk pavers. The rain came down the hill, washed-out the mulch, and eroded the sand under some of the pavers, thus compromising the sidewalk.

The question is--can I simply install a wooden border next to the pavers, such as a 1x4 rail or do I need to build a retaining wall and make a level, rather than sloping, bed around the tree to prevent wash-out?

Thanks--rapid replies appreciated, as the rain is returning in a few days!


1. Problem AreaÂFlooded, Before Resetting Pavers

2. SidewalkÂAfter Resetting Pavers, Looking Down (pavers at tree were raised subsequent to this photo)

3. SidewalkÂAfter Resetting Pavers, Looking Up (pavers at tree were raised subsequent to this photo)

4. Plan (Note: bed around tree expanded during construction due to addl. tree roots discovered; now it's approx 3'x15')

5. Sidewalk after rain: mulch washed-out, bed sand at end

6. Sidewalk after rain: top edge, sand & dirt

7. Sidewalk after rain: side edge, erosion, compromised pavers

8. Compromised paver

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This is city land. Anything you do can be ripped out by the city if they don't like what you do. Water careening down a slope is sure to wash out the soil under pavers that are not set in concrete. You don't need a retaining wall to prevent the mulch being washed away by that amount of water. A low concrete or wood edger would do. It would do nothing to prevent the washout of the sidewalk though

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 5:56PM
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I also see a problem with that piece of 2 foot sidewalk. Anyone in a wheelchair or pushing a baby stroller would be stopped dead when they got to that spot. I'll bet there will be complaints to city hall> think you should call the city and let them deal with it.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 1:18PM
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ken_mce(zone 4, NY)

This is a lovely and creative way to deal with one of the classic sidewalk problems. The other posters are correct in that technically it probably is city property and the city can do what it wants.

My experience in similar situations is that the city guys have more work than they can handle, and if I improve something and no one complains, well they have real work to do someplace else. The same goes for the utility companies. In that narrow area, is there room for a stroller or wheelchair to pass through? If so, odds are you're fine. If not, can you widen towards the uphill side, away from the tree?

You might look into switching from sand to small gravel and see if it will resist washing. In this setting I think a masonry edge would look better and hold up longer than wood. However wood will do.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 2:11PM
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mrmambo(zone 7b; Atlanta, GA)

Thanks to all for your feedback; in short:
- the property is City-owned, but the maintenance of same is left to the home owner. The City does not maintain residential sidewalks and generally does not deal with them unless public construction requires it, a homeowner requests assistance, or a formal complaint is lodged.
- the width of 3' is considered standard for sidewalk cut-outs, as far as I can tell. The City of Los Angeles, among other municipalities, approves of this width as a standard minimum for pedestrians, strollers, wheelchairs, etc.
- I decided to try using plastic paver edging, which is held in by metal stakes. This seems to be a standard solution and should provide a solid edge next to the pavers to prevent wash-out.
- I've decided to forego the construction of a retaining wall, as the landscaping is really secondary to the sidewalk pavers. Construction of this terraced "box" is probably an extraordinary effort for what is a public walkway.
- I may use gravel in place of the mulch in the landscaped area, as it should be more resistant to wash-out and allow some dispersion of the water flow.

Thanks again-


    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 2:40PM
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If the pavers don't work out for you, you could try rubber. Our city has used flexible panel sidewalks around trees for years and they work really well with uneven surfaces and above roots like yours.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 1:56PM
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