The Q&A Archives: Terrace a hillside

Question: I have the general idea on how to terrace the back yard hill, but I don't know what materials to use. My thought was big lumber like railroad ties, but was told they are not available. We need about a 3-tier, each 2 foot tall. The hill is very steep, but just the beginning of the hill on other property above ours. Thank you for any thoughts. Teresa

Answer: Numerous materials are available for building terraces. Treated wood is often used because of several advantages: it is easy to work with, blends well with plants, and is often less expensive than other materials. There are many types of treated wood on the market--from railroad ties to landscaping timbers. These materials will last for years. While there has been some concern about using these treated materials around plants, studies by Texas A&M University and the Southwest Research Institute concluded that these materials are not harmful to gardens or people when used as recommended. Other materials for terraces include bricks, rocks, concrete blocks, and similar masonry materials. Some masonry materials are made specifically for walls and terraces and can be more easily installed by a homeowner than other materials such as field stone and brick. Most stone or masonry products tend to be more expensive than wood. You might want to check with your local utility company. Sometimes old telephone poles are stockpiled and available for a minimal fee. Choose the material you think will look best in your landscape and have a great time with your project!

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