How to Build a Retaining Wall

You don’t need to be a master craftsman or carpenter to build a retaining wall. As long as you have the tools and have some plans, you’ll be able to make one without too much trouble.

Required Tools and Materials

Building materials (stones, bricks or cement blocks)
Rake
Mallet
Tape measure
Gravel
Stone chisel (if you’re going to use stones)
Shovel
Hosepipe
String
Concrete mixture
Mortar

Step 1

Take out any plants or pots in the area. Remove any rocks and grass. If you haven’t done it already, use the tape measure / string to determine the wall’s size. Dig a hole 12” deep. The height of the wall needs to be half the base.

If you don’t have a measuring tape, use the hosepipe instead to gauge the dimensions. Before you build a retaining wall, remove some of the soil; be careful you don’t dig too much and weaken the foundation.

Step 2

When digging is finished, add a layer of gravel. This will be the drainage of the wall.

Step 3

Now you can start piling up the stones. If you’re using bricks, overlap them for additional strength. Put mortar in between the gaps. If you’re using interlocking blocks, insert gravel between the spaces.

You can use a mallet to help you with the arrangement. If you’re going to use cement blocks, pour cement mix when you get to the final layer. You can add some plants on top of the wall.

Tips and Warnings

You can build a retaining wall in a terrace like manner. You can make each row 3 ft high. You can make as many as needed. This terrace like structure is best suited for deep areas.

Check city ordinances for any restrictions on the height / length of retaining walls. If the wall is small, you can probably finish the task in a day. If it’s big, schedule breaks so you don’t get tired.

Notes on Using Natural Stones

If you’re going to use stones, make sure to get the right type and amount. To get the right amount, multiply the height by the length of the wall. Add a few more stones to the figure you come up with so you’ve got some reserves.

When you start digging, make it slightly wider than the stone you’re going to put in. You can make a hole about 6” deep if you build a retaining wall using stones. You’ll want to use a level to keep the hole even. You can add the layers of stone now. Hammer the stones to make sure they’re all level.

For each side and every other row, the stone needs to be cut in half. Do this by scoring the stone’s sides and hitting it with a hammer. Set these stones in their proper location Add the other stones to complete the layer. Repeat the process until you get the height you want. Finally, shovel some dirt around the trenches.

Whatever materials you use to build a retaining wall, the planning stage is critical. Make sure you know the exact dimensions so you work more precisely.

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