How To Build A Retaining Wall With Retaining Wall Blocks

Follow these easy steps to build your own retaining wall. If you want to keep your yard in great shape without spending a ton of money, installing a retaining wall made from retaining wall blocks is an excellent way to do so. Retaining walls help with soil erosion and can add to the overall aesthetic appeal of your yard. This is especially true if you use landscaping timbers or other similar materials that can be stained or painted to complement your existing landscaping design and color scheme. In this article, we’ll show you how you can build a retaining wall using concrete blocks, which are available at any home improvement shop and make building a sturdy structure for your landscape much easier than it would be if you were to use traditional stone blocks.

Step 1: Plan the wall.

Before you start building your retaining wall, make sure that you have:

  • The right tools. You’ll need a good drill, a hacksaw, a masonry chisel and hammer, as well as screwdrivers and other small hand tools.
  • The right materials. You’ll need the blocks themselves (and if they aren’t delivered to you already cut into pieces) and some mortar or cement to stick them together with once they are in place. If possible try to get someone else to do this part because it can be messy.

Step 2: Lay out the wall.

Lay out the wall based on the plan. Make sure it is level, straight, and square.

To lay out a retaining wall, start by marking the end point of each block according to your plan. Then use a line level or plumb bob to make sure that these points are at ground level.

Then mark lines along these points every 16 inches or so with some tape (or chalk) so you can easily see where each block will go when they’re laid out later.

Step 3: Create the foundation.

The foundation of your retaining wall should be at least as wide as the base course, and it should be at least as deep as the wall is tall. The foundation should also include a slope to it so that water can run off of the retaining wall, instead of pooling on top.

You’ll want to use stones for your base course that are all roughly the same size and shape. This will help ensure that the blocks stay in place while they’re being built up higher and higher with each layer.

Step 4: Install the base course of retaining wall blocks.

Next, install the first layer of retaining wall blocks. The first layer should be a base course that runs perpendicular to your future walkway. Make sure to level these with a spirit level and tap them into place with a mallet.

Once you’ve finished with this step, you’ll have yourself some beautiful new retaining walls.

Step 5: Backfill with gravel.

To backfill the gravel, use a shovel to remove the soil from the trench. Use a rake to level the dirt and then water down any loose dirt. You can also use a tamping tool or vibrating plate compactor to compact the soil. These tools are especially useful for compacting gravel.

Step 6: Install the next course of retaining wall blocks.

  • Install the next course of blocks atop the first course at a height that’s equal to your desired height for the wall. Make sure to leave room for another layer of blocks on all sides of your wall, including at least 3 inches between each block.
  • If you have installed too many or too few blocks in a given course, remove them and start over with a new one until you’re happy with how they look.
  • If all else fails, you can use a level to ensure that each new layer remains level as well as straight—that is, not leaning toward or away from the corner where two walls meet up (and definitely not sloped like an old-fashioned stairway).

Step 7: Continue installing retaining wall blocks.

  • Continue installing retaining wall blocks. To install the next row of blocks, you’ll need to measure a level line and mark it with your chalk line.
  • Level the blocks to make sure that they’re all at the same height. You can use a laser level or plumb bob, or simply eyeball it by placing your level against the block, adjusting its position until you get it as level as possible (you can’t be too picky).
  • Tamp down each row of retaining wall blocks with a tamper after you’ve installed them all so that they stay in place and don’t shift when you’re working on another layer. This is important because if any one block shifts out of place, it will cause other problems later on in construction—like cracks appearing in your finished product.
  • Install drainage pipe between rows if necessary (if there’s nothing but solid bedrock below your wall). Drainage pipes should be installed at least every three feet apart. The drainage pipe should slope downward at an angle of 1/4 inch per foot; this helps prevent water buildup within the soil surrounding your retaining wall (which could lead to erosion over time). If there are trees growing above where this drainage pipe will go into place, then consider installing drip tape instead because drip tape doesn’t require straight lines.”

Step 8: Use a tamping tool to level each layer of blocks.

Use a tamping tool to level each layer of blocks.

What is a tamping tool? A tamping tool is basically a flat, rectangular block with holes in it that’s used to push the next row of blocks into place. With water-repellent concrete, they come in handy as they prevent any unwanted cracking or crumbling during installation. You can find them at most home improvement stores for around $10-$15 USD per piece.[2]

How do you use a tamping tool? Simply place the block on top of your first row of bricks, then drive it down using another brick or other heavy object like an iron pipe or steel rod (you could also use your knee if needed). Once inserted into place, repeat this process for each subsequent layer until all are level with one another and flush against the wall.[3]

Step 9: Install drainage pipe and cap stone.

  • Install drainage pipe and cap stone.
  • Use a tamping tool to level each layer of blocks before adding the next row, making sure they are all straight and even with each other.
  • Your wall is finished, but you need to make sure that it’s level by using a straight 2×4 (or similar) to check the height at various points on your wall. This can be done by placing the 2×4 across two adjacent rows of blocks and seeing how far it sticks out over your top cap stones—this will help you determine whether or not more earth needs to be added as filler material behind each row of blocks in order for everything to line up correctly; if so, use a shovel or spade (or even just water from a garden hose) to add some soil where needed until everything looks good again.

Make sure you know exactly how high you want your retaining wall to be, and then lay it out so that it is perfectly straight at that height. This is more difficult than it seems, so take your time marking things off on your ground before you start building your retaining wall by laying down the first layer of blocks (called a base course).

  • Make sure you know exactly how high you want your retaining wall to be, and then lay it out so that it is perfectly straight at that height. This is more difficult than it seems, so take your time marking things off on your ground before you start building your retaining wall by laying down the first layer of blocks (called a base course).
  • Using a tamping tool to level the blocks is important.
  • Make sure the drainage pipe holes are facing outwards towards any water source and away from the home’s foundation or other structures on which it could cause damage if left exposed (such as patios or decks). If possible, try to place this pipe underneath rather than over area where plantings will eventually grow—you may even have access underneath through crawl spaces or basement storage areas in order to do this task easily without having extra excavations done around them due to their location being too close towards existing structures.”


We suggest that you do some research before embarking on this project and take a look at the different types of retaining walls that are available. You might find one that is both cheaper and easier to install than what we have described here. There are also many other considerations to keep in mind, like drainage and soil type, that we haven’t even touched upon. But if you’re up for the challenge of building your own retaining wall using interlocking blocks, then go for it. We hope this article has been helpful in helping you decide what type of wall would work best for your project

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