If you have a slope that is need of a retaining wall and have access to railroad ties or limestone blocks, you can construct a simple retaining wall to hold back soil, to contour the slope as steps, or to provide a barrier. Railroad ties are inexpensive, last forever and are readily available at most lumberyards or home improvement stores. You will only need items that may already be in your tool shed such as post hole diggers or augers, shovels, level and stakes. Building the retaining wall on an overcast day is best since it reduces evaporation from both the blocks and any mortar used in construction of the wall.
Planning Your Project
Before you begin, take the following into consideration:
- Do you have the right tools?
- Does your space allow for a retaining wall to be built?
- Do you have the time and patience to complete this project? (It may take weeks or months, depending on size and materials.)
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, consider working with someone who can help get your project off the ground.
Preparing the Site
- Remove all vegetation and topsoil.
- Remove all rocks and debris.
- Level the site by removing high spots with a shovel or rake so that you have a flat surface to work on, then compact the gravel by treading it with your feet or a heavy roller. Do this only when it’s not muddy or wet because if you compact too much water in, it can cause heaving in your wall later on.
- Apply a thin layer of gravel over soil to prevent erosion from rainwater runoff and provide drainage channels for excess moisture (very important). Use 2-3″ of pea gravel—less than 3″ will create unevenness, while more than 3″ may clog up drainage pipes located under your retaining wall later on! If erosion is an issue where you live, consider purchasing 1/2″ crushed stone instead of pea gravel; however be sure not to use any type if there’s been any recent flooding along with heavy rains within two weeks prior because even though crushed stone drains better than pea gravel does (because its particles are smaller), they will still clog up if there’s still standing water present underneath…and that means no drainage at all.
Placing the Retaining Wall
- Prepare the soil: The first thing you’re going to want to do is prepare the soil where you’ll be laying your limestone blocks. If there are any large rocks or other debris in the area, remove them so they don’t interfere with construction later on. You can also add some pea gravel for drainage purposes if you like—you can fill a wheelbarrow with stones and then use a spade (or another flat tool) to tamp them down into the ground in an even layer.
- Lay the first row: You should now have two containers of mortar mix (one for each type), four stakes, one bag of gravel, several bags of sand and one bag of cement waiting by your work area. Start by filling each wooden stake half full with soil from behind it; this will help keep it upright when placed into wet concrete later on! Next take two pieces from each bag except for gravel; pour one onto your mixing paddle and make sure they’re mixed well before adding water slowly until they form a thick paste that is stiff enough not too run off when squeezed between your fingers but still easy enough to manipulate easily around corners etc… Now place this mixture into each hole left by previous stakes until all holes have been filled with concrete—if necessary wait until concrete has hardened before placing next layer over top.”
The First Row of Limestone Blocks
The first row of blocks should be level and spaced evenly apart. Start by placing the first block in its desired location and then use a level to make sure it’s flat on top. You will also want to check that the bottom edge is exactly perpendicular with the ground. This can be done by measuring from one side of the block, through its center point (where you are going to place it), and to another side of the block. If they match up perfectly, then your line was not straight when you cut your limestone slabs! If this happens all you need is another slab of limestone (or two) so that you can build up some extra thickness before cutting again. Don’t worry about being exact; just make sure that both sides match up as closely as possible without hitting any “high points”.
Once this has been accomplished for all four sides of one stone, place another stone on top by lining up each corner with those below it so that all edges touch perfectly flush with no gaps between them at all – even if there are slight differences in their heights due to different degrees of wear over time during manufacturing process these shouldn’t affect overall appearance too much because they’ll still look like part of same system/shape/style etc…
Placing the Second Row of Limestone Blocks
Now that your first row of limestone blocks is in place, you can begin placing the second row.
- Place a block on top of each course-stone block in both directions. If a course-stone block overlaps into the space between two course stones, make sure to place a limestone block over it to fill out the void.
- Check that each course stone is level by resting your eye against its top surface and lining up with an edge or corner of another course stone in that direction (or use a level tool if available). Adjust as needed by removing any high spots from under the appropriate end of the stones with a hammer and chisel or by re-positioning them with their faces visible so you can see which way they need to be tilted before laying them down again.
- Check that each course stone is plumb (vertical) by checking for gaps between it sides and adjacent walls placed during Step 3; adjust as needed by removing any high spots from under any lower ends with a hammer and chisel or by re-positioning them with their faces visible so you can see which way they need to be tilted before laying them down again.
- Check that there are no large gaps between adjacent courses using either method described above; fill these gaps using wet mortar mix
Placing the Third Row of Limestone Blocks
Place a level on top of the second row of blocks and check to make sure that the third row will be level. If you have any high spots in the middle, you can place a piece of scrap wood at that point so it is flush with the other two sides or add another block to make it level.
Once you have placed all your limestone blocks, use your level again to check for straightness.
Finishing the Wall
- Once you’ve built the retaining wall, you’ll want to finish it with a capstone. If your retaining wall is made of limestone blocks, the capstone should be cut from granite or another hard stone that won’t weather or erode over time in order to protect the integrity of the blocks below it.
With a little bit of planning and care, you can construct a retaining wall that will be both decorative and functional.
Before you break ground, it’s important to consider all of the factors that will affect your retaining wall. How much water will be hitting it? Will it be used for seating or climbing? How much space is available for construction? You’ll also need to consider what materials are at hand and how they fit into your design. For instance, if you have lots of stone with which to work, a linear structure might make sense; if not, perhaps a curved shape would better suit your requirements.
In addition to considering these factors before beginning construction (which we’ll discuss later), it’s crucial that you plan ahead so that the finished product meets all necessary requirements.
And that’s all there is to it! Your limestone block retaining wall will serve you well for many years, as long as you remember to use the proper safety equipment and take precautionary measures to ensure that no one gets hurt during construction.