When Do I Need a Retaining Wall?

When Do I Need a Retaining Wall?

When Do I Need a Retaining Wall?

Why and how to make use of retaining walls on your property.

A retaining wall has one primary purpose: to retain. To put it simply, retaining in this context means supporting soil laterally so that it can be kept at two different levels on either side. Such walls can be made out of wood, brick, stone, and just about anything else you’d make a wall from, and they are very useful in landscaping to differentiate and level various parts of a lawn or garden.

Are retaining walls a want or a need? The answer is a mixed one: Often, they are necessary in order to achieve things that you may want to do with your property. Read on to find out when a retaining wall should be used and how to go about it.


Angle of repose

The “angle of repose” of the soil in the area you are working with is the major consideration for whether a retaining wall will be required. This refers to the natural slope of the spoil, which will depend on the type of soil in question, and whether there is vegetation holding it in place. If you would like to make changes that will create a steeper slope than what is naturally occurring—i.e flattening out a section of lawn which in turn means that another section has less space in which to fall—then a retaining wall is needed.

A good retaining wall will hold soil back against its tendency to move downhill and achieve its natural angle of repose. The more soil being held back, the stronger the wall will need to be!


Why build a wall?

There are many reasons a property owner might want to change the natural angle of repose of their land. It can create flatter surfaces on either side of the wall, which is fantastic for lawns, patios, and more stable vegetable or flower gardens. Retaining walls can be used to keep soil back from driveways or away from walls and basements to reduce dampness. They can also create walkable pathways.

Retaining walls can also prevent soil erosion. When land is flattened above or below the retaining wall (or on both sides), runoff is reduced. This means less soil is eroded.


Rules and recommendations for retaining walls

Once you have determined that a retaining wall must be built, the legalities are the next matter of concern. Additionally, if you are undertaking a large project it may pay to consult with an engineer to ensure your plans can be fulfilled safely. You should also check the title document for your property to discover whether there are any restrictions surrounding earthworks—particularly if your property is steeply sloped or near a natural feature like a river or cliff. If you are planning to build your wall from wood, a very common material for retaining walls on residential properties, you should ensure good drainage so that water does not sit in the soil being retained and cause the structure to rot.

Generally, building consent is not required for retaining walls which retain less than one and a half metres (in depth) of ground, if it is not also supporting any additional load. For example, if the retained soil will support a driveway or the ground slopes steeply above the retaining wall, consent is required. If the fall is more than one metre, a safety barrier should also be constructed.

Retaining walls are an extremely useful tool in any landscaper’s arsenal. To be effective in their goals, they should be constructed well—and this is especially important for any wall that is sizeable or supports a significant load of soil. If you’d like help to get your retaining right, contact the Maintain Your Property team. We are experienced in planning, constructing, and maintaining strong and effective retaining walls, and would love to chat with Wellington property owners about this and any other maintenance services for commercial and residential properties.

On The Fence: Painting or Staining?

On The Fence: Painting or Staining?

On The Fence: Painting or Staining?

Should you treat your fence with a lick of paint or splash of stain?

Adding some colour to your fence with paint or a stain can do more than just add an aesthetic advantage. While fences may look pretty, they also serve some very valuable functions: keeping dogs in, keeping unwanted visitors out, providing privacy, and marking property boundaries. To fulfill their life’s purpose effectively, they have to stay standing and remain sturdy.

Painting or staining your fence is a great way to increase its longevity. Damp and moisture are enemies to any bare timber; sealing the structure with one of the many products available will allow it to stay drier and stronger as the seasons and years pass by. Style, of course, is also part of the equation. A rich, dark stain, a black or white hue, or a bold colour on your fence can add kerb appeal and make your yard a more visually pleasing place to be.

Which is better, painting or staining? There’s no simple answer—as is often the case, it depends on what you hope to achieve. Both can provide protection and make your fence look good. We’ve laid out the pros and cons of each to help you decide on your fence treatment.



Painting a fence is generally considered to be more expensive than staining one. The paint is pricier, and an undercoat or other primer may also be required. Stain, however, must be reapplied more often, and a larger volume of it may be used in application. The price difference between the two methods works out to be quite negligible and varies widely according to the quality and brand of the product. However, for the best results it’s a good idea to splash out on good quality outdoor paint or stain.



This, of course, is very subjective. Stain offers a more natural-looking finish, closer to the look of bare timber—although modern stain options include a wider range of colours. Paint can offer a sharper and more vibrant appearance. If you want something very dark, properly white, or brightly coloured, paint will be your best option.

An important thing to consider will be how your chosen treatment will look as it ages. Stains penetrate deeply into wood, which means that as they get older the colour will just start to fade evenly. This gives the fence a pleasantly weathered look.  Paint, on the other hand, can chip and peel, leaving bare patches and an uneven, messier look. As stain can absorb unevenly on rougher surfaces, it is often recommended as a good option for a new fence, while sanding and painting is the preferred treatment for an older one.



Which is easier? Generally speaking, a stain is the simpler of the two options to apply yourself. To prepare the surface, all that’s required is a quick waterblasting or scrub with a stiff brush. Stain can then be applied directly to the fence.

Preparing to paint involves cleaning, sanding, primer, and possibly several coats. As paint is thicker than stain and gives an opaque cover, it is less forgiving and requires a more careful application to achieve the desired look.

Both paint and stain can be finished with a sealant, but in some cases this is not necessary. Check the product you are using to see whether this is recommended.



Both paint and stain offer a fence great protection against the elements. Paint, particularly oil-based paint, tends to provide the best protection against moisture as it forms a thicker coating over the wood. However, this is most effective only when the paint is well-maintained, and the protection factor can reduce quickly as paint chips off.

Stain does not give as much protection but it does penetrate deeper into the wood, which means that it does offer some degree of protection even as it fades. If you are looking for heavy-duty protection, the best course of action would be to paint your fence with oil-based paint and keep on top of the maintenance by touching it up or repainting regularly.

Still on the fence? At the end of the day, both of these methods will protect your fence against the elements and make them look good. And both require regular maintenance for continued effectiveness. For a new fence, staining may win out—but for an older one, painting often gives the best finish and protection.


Maintain Your Property offers home and rental property maintenance services in the Wellington region, making it easy to paint, stain, and maintain your fences. Contact the team to book in a job or discuss the best options for your property.

Should you use composite wood or timber decking?

Should you use composite wood or timber decking?

Should you use composite wood or timber decking?

There’s nothing quite like spending a long, lazy summer afternoon outside on the deck. But long before there are barbecues and platters of cheese and Kiwi onion dip, decisions must be made about something much more fundamental – the deck itself. 

For anyone building a deck from scratch or rebuilding an old, failing deck, a decision must be made about materials. Namely, whether the new deck will be built with traditional timber, or the modern alternative of composite decking. The decision is entirely personal, and should be made once you have a strong idea of the pros and cons of each option. 

To get you started, here’s what you can expect from both composite wood and timber materials in your decking. 

The case for composite

Composite wood is a combination of wood fibres – largely reclaimed timber – and recycled plastic.

Up close, you can usually tell right away that the ‘plank’ you are touching is not real wood, however composite has been designed to look and feel quite similar to the real thing, and it’s much harder to tell when looking at the finished product. 

The fact that no trees are cut down to create composite wood means this is marketed as a highly eco-friendly option. The only downside here is that in using plastics, it may be harder to deal with decades down the track should you ever need to reuse or dispose of your timber, so keep this in mind.

Composite timber offers a variety of other benefits, as well. It functions excellently in all types of New Zealand conditions, from windswept seafronts to hot and dry areas in the north to rainy and chilly spots in the south. It is naturally resistant to mould, bugs, mildew, and rot, and it won’t splinter with age. This material is also designed not to warp, and it takes virtually zero maintenance to keep it looking its best (a quick annual wash with soapy water is all it needs). Finally, composite wood is expected to fade ever so slightly within the first few months of installation, but won’t fade beyond that. This gives it a fantastic staying power, even when faced with countless sunny afternoons. 

The composite wood market in New Zealand is still relatively new, but aside from general awareness of the product, one of the main drawbacks is that it is a higher cost than timber options. 

Talking timber 

Timber is the traditional choice for countless decks around New Zealand, and it’s easy to see why. First, it’s important to note that there are two main types of timber to choose from, hardwoods and treated pine. 

Hardwoods – particularly tropical hardwoods – are exceptionally durable and long lasting. Hardwoods used in New Zealand (such as kwila, mahogany, and vitex) are usually sourced from sustainable plantations, meaning that by using it, you are not contributing to the destruction of wild forest lands. These woods are loved for their natural rich colours, resistance to splintering, and the beautiful feel they give for bare feet. 

The other type of timber commonly used in New Zealand is treated pine. This is the more affordable option of the two timbers (and therefore the most budget-friendly of all decking materials), and is naturally pale in colour, meaning it is up to you to determine whether you paint it, stain it, or simply oil it. 

Treated pine is not as durable as other materials, but regular maintenance can help it last much longer. When you look after it, it can easily last for decades, but you will need to keep an eye out for splintering and discolouration, and use sealants, oils, and other products to keep it looking and feeling great. 


So how do you decide between composite and timber decking? It will likely come down to your budget, style preferences, and willingness (or resistance!) to do regular maintenance work. Chat to the team at Maintain Your Property for our help with building or maintaining your deck. 

Which wood should you use for your deck?

Which wood should you use for your deck?

Which wood should you use for your deck?

Forget the white picket fence, the real New Zealand dream is to have a spacious deck at home for barbeques, drinks, and soaking up the sunshine.

Whether you’re looking to replace existing decking or build one from scratch, one of the biggest considerations is around which timber to use.

There are several popular options, and several ways to go about choosing. For example, a tight budget might rule out some dearer hardwoods, but allow for a treated pine. You may also have to consider the amount of upkeep you are willing to do, and the geographical location, as different woods function better in different environments.

There are three key types of decking in New Zealand, and it will help to get a feel for each of them before you make your final decision.



Hardwoods are some of the most popular decking materials in New Zealand, largely due to the fact that they are extremely resilient – and therefore can handle the highs and lows of New Zealand weather – and durable, but also look, feel, and smell fantastic.

Kwila is often used around the country, as it is low-maintenance, hard-wearing, and has a beautiful red tinge that offers an eye-catching contrast to a lush green backyard.

Vitex is also a popular choice, and with its lighter hues that range from pale yellow to creamy grey, it can offer something a little more modern in terms of appearance.

The final common hardwood is that of tropical hardwoods, such as Fijian mahogany. These timbers are excellent at resisting moisture, insects, decay, and splintering, and offer a wide range of hues suited for any backyard.

Treated pine

Treated pine is quite popular throughout New Zealand homes. Radiata Pine is the timber of choice, and it is treated to resist fungi and decay.

Pine is naturally fairly light in colour, but the benefit of this pale hue is that you can choose your own paint or wood stain to create the look you’re aiming for. It’s also a cost effective timber, and is relatively easy to work with, making it a good choice for those on a budget and DIYers.

Pine will need a little more maintenance than other woods – an annual oil is ideal – but any at-home handyperson can tackle this job with ease.


Wood composites are an option that combines wood fibres and recycled plastic bottles for an environmentally friendly, durable, and maintenance-free deck.

Maintenance-wise, they only need the occasional wash with soapy water, so will not need to be oiled, repainted, or restained over the years. These products don’t tend to warp, splinter, or fade, and even though up close you can tell it’s not 100% timber, it still looks beautiful as a finished product.

Wood composite materials are currently seen as the future of decking, and will undoubtedly become more popular as more people become aware of this option and its array of benefits.

The only real downsides of composite decking is that it is a more expensive option, and there are varying degrees of quality on the market, so it’s best to do some research on the exact type you’re getting before making the investment.

Whether you’ve already made your decision and are ready to build your deck, or if you’re still choosing which wood to use for your deck, Maintain Your Property is here to help. We offer handyman services, building work, exterior care, and more, making us an easy option for getting your deck up and ready to go in time for the first barbeque of the summer.


Get in touch for a free quote to get started.

The Lowdown on Repairing and Maintaining Wooden Window Joinery

The Lowdown on Repairing and Maintaining Wooden Window Joinery

The Lowdown on Repairing and Maintaining Wooden Window Joinery

Windows in their modern form (with glass panes) were first used in England in the early 17th century, and have certainly proven popular since then! They are a crucial part of any home or building and allow light and air in while keeping the elements out. With modern innovations like joinery and double glazing, windows have come a long way and become even more effective in their purpose. As such, it’s important to keep your windows in tip-top shape!

The Maintain Your Property team is often asked to help homeowners get their windows into shape, particularly those with wooden joinery which can swell. The following are a few things to think about when repairs or maintenance are needed—and remember, working with windows requires care and expertise. Generally, it’s best to call in the professionals.

The sticky window issue

Often, the problem that people have with windows is that they are sticking or jamming entirely. There are several reasons this can happen.

The hinges are the mechanisms that allow windows to open and shut, so if your window is sticking they may not be in good working order. A little lubricant may do the trick, but hinges may be broken or rusted beyond repair. We can replace those with quality stainless steel hinges to last a long time.

Timber joinery is often found in older homes—of which there are many in the Wellington region! While it is very attractive and lends any home or building a classic look, it can cause issues with swelling, which makes windows stick or jam. Easing is the term for the procedure used to fix this, but it is tricky to do well—we don’t recommend that the average homeowner attempts to ease their own windows!

The ins and outs of easing

If the hinges are in good condition, swelling is the likely cause of a jammed or sticky window. For this, easing is required—that is, carefully shaving off as little of the timber as possible to free up the window so that it can move smoothly. Less is more is a golden rule that applies to many situations in life, but especially with window repair and easing.

If too much is taken off your timber window frames, you may end up with gaps that become more obvious in summer as the wood dries out and shrinks. The key is to never shave off timber to the point that the weather groove is no longer visible when you open them—as this is what prevents water from working its way into your house.

Priming your timber

Along with easing, there are many maintenance and repair jobs that can be done on timber windows—replacing sections, repainting, mitigation of rot, and more. Whatever it is that is being done, it’s likely that some of the timber will become exposed.

When any work is done on wooden window frames, it’s crucial that exposed wood is primed before being repainted. This prevents more water from soaking in, which will in turn reduce future instances of swelling and rot.

Call in the experts

Messing about with windows can be risky. Unless you have plenty of experience, it’s best to leave the task of easing or repairing your timber windows to the experts!

Maintain Your Property has a team of people with the diverse skills to carry out all kinds of home and property maintenance including window repair. We have been working on homes and properties around the Wellington region since 2012 and can find and carry out a solution to just about any issue. Get a free quote for that job that’s been on your list for a long time!