How Do You Install Retaining Wall Blocks

A retaining wall is a great way to add structure and shape to your yard. It can help you manage soil erosion, prevent flooding, and create a beautiful backdrop for plants, trees, or flowers. For this post we’ll be covering the installation of segmental retaining walls (SRWs). Segmental retaining walls are modular blocks that are stacked on top of each other without mortar. They’re usually dry-stacked (without mortar) but can also be mortared as well. They come in many styles and colors to suit your needs and aesthetic preferences. SRWs are typically placed on top of a bed of compacted gravel or crushed stone. This provides drainage so that the wall doesn’t get damaged by standing water, plus it makes the blocks easier to install.

Step1: Gather Materials

Materials needed for building a retaining wall:

  • Retaining wall blocks or stones (each block must be the same size and have the same color)
  • Waterproof cement, such as Portland cement or mortar
  • Plastic sheeting to protect the materials from rain, snow and wind. You can use old sheets or buy new ones. If you’re using old sheets, make sure they’re clean and dry before putting them down on top of your materials. If you want to buy new ones, then look for plastic sheeting that has been treated with UV protection so that it doesn’t get damaged by sunlight

Step2: Clear Out the Area

Step 2: Clear Out the Area

In order to install retaining wall blocks, you need to clear out the area you will be working with. You need to remove any vegetation, sod and rocks. You also have to remove any debris and topsoil as well. Make sure that the area is level and free of roots so it doesn’t cause problems down the road when installing your new retaining wall block structure. Also make sure there are no rocks or debris in this area before starting your project because they can damage the bricks or other types of materials used in construction projects like this one.

Step3: Place Batterboards and Stringers

  • Place the Batterboards

Now you’re going to set the batterboards, which are boards that you’ll use as a guide for installing your blocks. These should be placed at the top and bottom of your wall every 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 m), with one on either side of the stringers in between them. You can make these out of 2-by-4s or other lumber that’s appropriate for your project. Make sure they are flush with each other and secure them into place using nails or screws so they don’t move around while you’re putting up block after block.

  • Place Stringers

Next comes stringing: placing straight 2-by-4s down each side of your block wall to ensure that it is straight while you’re building it up from bottom to top (or left to right). This step is critical if you want a nice looking retaining wall that doesn’t wobble or lean too much! You’ll need some good tape measure skills here because getting these right will make all the difference between a good looking finished product and something where things look off when viewed from afar.”

Step4: Dig Trench

After you have finished laying out your retaining wall blocks on the ground, it’s time to dig a trench. The depth of the trench will depend on how tall your retaining wall will be, so use this formula:

Height of Retaining Wall = Length of Block + 1/2″

So if you are going to build a 4′-tall (48″) retaining wall, then your ditch should be 48″ long plus 1/2″ extra (49″). The width will also vary depending on how wide each block is; however, this isn’t something that can be calculated because it depends entirely on what type of block you’re using. If possible, measure the blocks before beginning and make sure they are all the same width—this will make it much easier for you down the road.

Step5: Cut Blocks to Size if Needed

If you find that the blocks are not the right size, use a circular saw to cut them down. Make sure to wear safety gear and use a masonry blade. Cut along the lines on each side of the block (as shown in Figure 5). Make sure to cut all of your blocks this way so they are all uniform in size.

Step6: Re-Check Positioning, Prepare for Leveling and Backfilling

Check that the blocks are level.

Check that the blocks are square, plumb and straight.

Check that they are positioned correctly. If you need to adjust the position of a block or two, do it now before backfilling starts.

Step7: Apply Leveling Sand, Place First Course and Make Necessary Adjustments

This is where the rubber meets the road. When you’re installing your first course, it’s important to make sure that it’s level and straight.

The leveling sand will help you get started on this step. After applying it to your base surface, place your blocks onto their final resting places and make necessary adjustments as needed until they are perfectly aligned with each other and with your desired slope/height.

Once you’ve achieved proper alignment, begin setting blocks by driving them into position using a rubber mallet or hammer—not too hard, though—and tapping them gently into place with a block setter (or any other blunt-ended object).

Step8: Lay Remaining Courses of Blocks and Backfill with Gravel

  • Fill the remaining courses of blocks with gravel, using a shovel or a pneumatic tamper.
  • Use a level to make sure they’re level.
  • If you’re using a shovel, use it to push the gravel into the trench.
  • If you’re using a tamper (which is probably more effective), tamp down on each course of stones as you go along until all gaps are filled in and no loose material remains. Then move on to the next course, but stop before tamping it down completely—you’ll want those spaces between your blocks filled in later by backfilling with soil that will settle into those gaps over time (see Step 9).

A retaining wall is a great way to add structure and shape to your yard.

A retaining wall is a great way to add structure and shape to your yard. You can use it to create a patio, garden, or walkway.


Hopefully this has helped you understand the steps involved with installing retaining wall blocks. A retaining wall is a great way to add structure and shape to your yard, and can serve as a functional solution for preventing soil erosion or keeping undesirable items out of your lawn. The best thing about building a retaining wall is it isn’t too difficult of a job, as long as you take the proper safety precautions and use quality materials like interlocking blocks that are designed to hold up against pressure over time. As always, even if you aren’t an expert bricklayer yourself, hiring someone else with experience will make any project much easier

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