How To Build A Brick And Mortar Retaining Wall

A brick and mortar retaining wall is a wall that is used for supporting soil laterally, so that it can be retained at different levels on the two sides. It makes it possible for landscaping to be done on steep slopes, and also serves as a functional feature to control erosion. This article gives you an overview of the materials you need, explains the process involved from start to finish and also provides you with a helpful materials list at the end.

What You Will Need

To build a brick and mortar retaining wall, you will need:

  • Bricks
  • Mortar mix (enough to fill the gap between two bricks)
  • Trowel for spreading the mortar mix on each brick face, as well as for mixing it in a bucket. The trowel should have an angled edge for spreading mortar more easily.
  • Bucket for mixing your mortar mix with water. Make sure it has a wide opening so that it’s easy to get your hands in there when making adjustments to your mixture ratio of wet : dry by adding more or less water than what’s recommended on the package label. You can also use this bucket as storage space while working with your bricks and mortar so they don’t get mixed up with anything else in your garage/shed/workshop area.

Step 1 Excavation

Excavation is the process of digging out soil or other materials from a site. The depth, width, length and size of your excavation will depend on your design. For example, if you have a large retaining wall project that requires several yards worth of concrete blocks to be laid around an area’s perimeter, you may want to dig out the ground at least three feet deep so that there is enough room for the blocks themselves and their mortar joints (the spaces between them) without having anything protrude above ground level.

If you are building a small retaining wall around your backyard garden’s entrance into another area where flower beds would eventually be located, then only having an inch or two below ground level will be sufficient since there won’t necessarily be any extra space needed for mortar joints in this case. However if you do want a more decorative look with small plants atop each block and some small shrubbery scattered around its base; then consider excavating about six inches deep instead—that way all these additions can fit comfortably within what’s left over after digging out those 1-2″ rocks underneath which could otherwise interfere with making sure everything else fits properly together tightly enough without falling apart prematurely due to movement caused by weather conditions later down road like heavy rains causing flooding conditions followed by freezing temperatures during wintertime months when ice forms between layers causing cracks due to pressure exerted while they try moving against each other while trying maintain balance against gravity pulling downwards force acting upon them as earth tries pushing upwards through layers below due weight load being placed upon earth itself being pulled upwards under pressure applied

Step 2 Base Preparation

It is important to make sure your base is level and stable. You will want to ensure that the base has enough width to support the wall, as well as depth for stability. A stable base will also ensure that you do not have any issues with drainage running below your retaining wall, which can lead to cracking or crumbling of the brickwork in rainy conditions.

The best way to achieve these goals is by using concrete blocks that are strong enough to hold up under pressure but still lightweight enough for you to lift without too much difficulty—or risk injury.

Step 3 Setting The First Course

  • Lay the bricks in the same direction.
  • Level the first course using a line level and a checkerboard pattern.
  • Check that your second course is level using a line level.

Step 4 Additional Courses

When you have completed the first course of bricks, it is time to continue building additional courses. To build an additional course, lay a line of mortar along the top edge of the first row of bricks and place another brick in place. The mortar should be just wide enough that it doesn’t squeeze out between the bricks when they are pressed together. If there is too much mortar on this second row, use a trowel or putty knife to spread some off before placing another brick on top of it.

Repeat until all courses have been completed and then use a level to ensure that your retaining wall is straight and even throughout its length.

Step 5 Finishing Touches And Materials List

It’s time to finish your brick retaining wall! You may have a few finishing touches left to do after you’ve built the wall, but we’ll get to those in just a bit. First, let’s look at the materials list:

  • 4″ x 4″ pressure treated wood posts (6)
  • 2×4 lumber (8 pieces of lumber)
  • 6″ concrete patio blocks (16 pieces of concrete patio blocks)

Building a brick and mortar retaining wall can be a fun process that requires some planning and patience.

  • Prepare for your project by measuring the slope of your property and determining how much you need to build up in order to bring it level.
  • Read this guide on how to build a brick and mortar retaining wall, then gather all of the tools and materials you will need:
  • Shovels (2)
  • Ladders (2)
  • Trowels for mortar mixing (4)
  • Brick chisel or hammer handle with flat end (1) *Note: You will only use one trowel per course, but I recommend having four so that you can work at different rates as needed while building up your wall


That’s it! As long as you’ve followed our instructions, you should have a nice retaining wall that can be put to good use. It can serve as an excellent addition to your home and garden, and could even increase the value of your property. Retaining walls are just one example of how a little bit of DIY work can give you a big return on your investment. What will you build next?

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