How To Build A Retaining Wall
Figuring out how to build a retaining wall is easy and the results are worth the effort. Take the time to do it right to have a long-lasting wall without any cracks and weeds growing through. A retaining wall can last for several years and some are still seen today from the earlier periods of development. Archaeologists have excavated several retaining walls from long-ago civilizations that are still standing.
To build a retaining wall, you will need:
- Safety glasses
- Work gloves
- Blocks, bricks, railroad ties, or whatever material you are using to make the wall (Interlocking blocks make it easier)
- String and line level
- Wooden stakes
- Soil tamper
- Gravel or rock dust
- Fabric for landscaping (optional)
- Plan the dig and layout. Begin how to build a retaining wall by contacting the local utility office through the city or dial 811 to determine if buried cables and pipes exist within the zone for digging. Do not start digging until this step is completed. Mark the area set aside for digging with either the stakes or string. A garden hose and spray landscape paint works well to mark curved wall boundaries.
- Dig within the lines. Dig within the lines where marked. Dig the trench a little bit wider than the material being used to stack rows. The depth for the trench should be just enough for the first layer of material to be below the ground level. Level the trench as much as possible or dig stepped trenches if the wall is located on a slope. Use the soil tamper to compact the bottom soil in the trench. Be sure to rent or buy a tamper to compact the base gravel to ensure long lasting wall construction.
- Add base material. Use gravel (the sharp kind; smooth gravel will only sink into the soil when compacted) or rock dust to add along the bottom in the trench for how to build a retaining wall. Fill the trench bottom with the gravel or dust material to about four to six inches.
- Compact the material. Use the soil tamper to compact the base material into the trench. This provides a base for the block or other material to sit upon when learning how to build a retaining wall. Make sure the base material is not loose by walking across it.
- Lay the first row. Lay the first row of blocks or other material onto the base material. Align the edges to touch. Level the blocks or other wall material. Use the string to be sure the blocks are level with each other. Take time to get the first row right since it is the starting point of how to make a retaining wall solid and firm to last over time.
- Lay the remaining rows. Lay the next row on top of the first row. Interlock the blocks if you chose to buy these. Stack each block or other material over the other and continue until the wall reaches the desired height. Backfill as the wall is being built. Make sure that the stones look even and are not wobbling while stacking the remaining rows.
- Backfill the area. Spread the fabric for landscaping down before backfilling if a clean wall is desired. Fill the area with gravel around the wall and fill dirt after the layer of gravel. Tamp each level that is filled to compact. Backfill as rows are being stacked on top of the next one until an inch remains from the top. Add topsoil to the top layer of backfill once the last row has been stacked.
Step back and admire the work it took to build the retaining wall. It should be in place for a number of years. Taking the time to learn how to build a retaining wall is simple and can take as little as a few hours to complete.