Inside the Innovation House

We pulled out all the stops to bring the latest home tech features to our Innovation Home. See the 16 coolest things from the home and be amazed by how smart one home can be.

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Bathroom Countertop Ideas

Good-looking countertops -- whether made of marble, limestone, or concrete -- create high-functioning bathrooms that spill over with style. These popular countertop materials are sure to inspire a bathroom remodel.

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Find Your Dream Backyard

Whether you dream of sunning by a state-of-the-art pool or strolling through a simple cottage garden, there's an outdoor oasis with your name written all over it. Take this quiz to find out where you really belong.

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DIY Patio Ideas

Want to boost the beauty and usefulness of your outdoor spaces? Put one of these inspiring DIY patio ideas to work in your landscape.

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Easy Fireplace Upgrades

Does your fireplace need a facelift? Check out these 20 ideas for updating your fireplace with easy-to-apply embellishments and simple-to-make constructions.

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8 Cutting-Edge Exterior Features

The wow-factor of the Innovation Home starts with great curb appeal. See the eight things that make the home's exterior stand out.

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Budget Curb Appeal

Be the best home on the block for less. These budget curb appeal updates will show you how.

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Popular in Home Improvement

Timber Retaining Wall

A pleasing decorative feature that's an asset to any yard, it's also a serious retaining wall that will stop an existing hill from sliding, or provide strong support for new landscaping.

Check with your community's building department before setting out to build a retaining wall. Many codes require a permit for any structure that holds back what amounts to thousands of pounds of earth, and most limit the height of an amateur-built retaining wall to 3 feet. If your slope needs a higher wall or requires extensive grading, call in a masonry or landscape contractor -- or terrace the slope with two or more lower retaining walls.

Getting Ready:

In addition to the usual carpentry and digging tools, you will want a baby sledge for hammering the 12-inch spikes. (If you have trouble driving these without bending them, consider predrilling holes.) Consider renting a chain saw: Cutting 6x6s with a circular saw requires several passes. In addition, a chain saw will let you trim the timbers in place. If your slope is extremely irregular or large areas need cutting, consider hiring an earthmover. Be sure to install the drainage gravel and pipe as indicated, or water pressure (a massive amount can build up) will eventually cause the wall to buckle.

What You Need:

  • Landscaping timbers or salvaged railroad ties
  • 3-inch perforated plastic drainpipe
  • Gravel
  • 12-inch spikes
  • Filter fabric or tar paper
  • Construction adhesive

1. Plan your wall. Plan how your retaining wall will fit together, particularly the locations of the deadmen along the third course. Dig back any irregularities on the slope, allowing for at least 8 inches of backfill. Trench T-shaped cavities for the deadmen.

2. Prepare trenches. Excavate a level trench that is 9 inches wide and an average of 6 inches deep. If necessary, dig behind the trench, so that there will be at least 8 inches for the drainpipe and gravel. Dig trenches for the deadmen. Spread 2 inches of gravel (more if you have soggy conditions) in the bottom of the trench.

3. Lay the first course of timbers. These and all the other timbers should be level along their length, but should have a 1/4-inch pitch to lean the wall into the hill. Apply construction adhesive between courses for added bonding and to keep water from seeping through them. Add the second course, attaching it with spikes every 3 to 4 feet. With the third course, install deadmen with cross ties.

4. Finish. Install your remaining pieces, and provide drainage. Install the drainpipe (pitched 1/8 inch per foot) on the gravel bed. Backfill with gravel up to the top of the second course. Cover the gravel with filter fabric (or tar paper) and finish backfilling with soil.


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