Dear PoP – Retaining Walls and Room Dividing Walls

“Dear PoP,

We’re looking to re-do our front lawn, and to be consistent with the style of our block and the neighborhood, we’d like to re-build our mostly destroyed retaining wall at the front of our lawn.

I’ve attached a photo of what you’ll find to be a pretty ubiquitous retaining wall style throughout the whole area. I’m looking for 1) where I can find the materials to construct this and/or 2) names of contractors/landscapers who people in the neighborhood have used to do this work before.

Please help me keep our neighborhood’s style and character!”


“Dear PoP,

My friend and I are moving into a one bedroom apartment and we’re hoping to split it into two bedrooms with a fake wall. I know this is popular in NYC and many companies there put up these walls, but I’m not finding any in DC. Can you ask your readers if they know of any companies who set up fake walls and if they’re any good?”

Anyone know where you can purchase a good fake wall? Is it different from drywall? Is this like a pre-assembled wall that you just slip in?

9 Comment

  • ah

    The second request has “firecode violation” written all over it.

    That said, if one were totally satisfied about the safety of it, just get some 2x4s and frame up a wall, and put some drywall on it. Put insulation in the studs so you can keep noisy, um, parties to yourself.

  • Take careful measurements, over-design the frame structure you’ll need, go to the Home Depot and have them cut all the wood to length, splurge on the brackets to make all your joints square, and borrow a friend’s power drill. Once you’ve got the frame up, cover it with a couple sheets of plywood or particle board (the Depot also will cut that for you) and fill it in with expanding foam if you really want to soundproof.

    In an afternoon and for about $100, you’ll have your wall. (At least that’s how we built a very sturdy one in college.) I guess I should add given that I’m now older, more responsible, and property-owning: don’t screw anything into your walls w/o first checking with the landlord.

  • We have had great experiences with Joseph Coner’s Home Services of Washington for landscaping design and ongoing maintenance. He’s very approachable and friendly:(301) 839-1724

  • If its a low retaining wall you’re looking to, its really easy to do yourself. Go to in Rockville, MD and pickout the stone type that you would like. For a pallet of pennsylvania weathered wall stone (which looks like the bottom pic in the middle here ) it runs about $160 plus delivery. A pallet should be more than enough for a one foot high wall 20 feet long.

  • Re: room dividers — Adding walls regardless of whether they are permanent/temporary, load-bearing/non-loadbearing requires a permit from DCRA. A permit can be obtained only with the property owner’s consent. I realize that many people in DC do work like this without the proper permits, but I can tell you as a landlord that I would evict you as quickly as humanly possible in DC if I learned that you had built a wall in my house without my consent.

  • for the second request. Just tack up a tapestry or a curtain to your ceiling. No permit required, and very little more involved.. Or you could look on craigslist or salvage yards for trifold doors and use them as folding screens….

  • That ubiquitous retaining wall picture that a reader sent you…. what is the name of that style? I see it all over DC. For the life of me, I haven’t managed to figure out the name of the style!

  • i like old photos of dc and i’ve noticed that most houses werent built with this style retaining wall. they went up all around the city in the 20’s or 30’s.

    must have been a crazy large project.

    • OP here – thanks for the responses. i’ve been told it’s called Kensington Gneiss, though i haven’t yet found verification of that online.

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