If you want to build a retaining wall that will last, you need to use the right materials and do it right the first time. A poorly constructed retaining wall will eventually collapse, even if it’s built with high-quality materials. So take your time and follow these steps. In this article we’re going to walk through building a tall retaining wall as an example of how to build a rock-solid structure that can stand up under pressure and isn’t going anywhere for decades, if not centuries (depending on how much of a legacy project you’re looking for).
Get the right tools
Before you get started, make sure you have all the tools you’ll need for this project. You’ll want a trowel and a leveler; use them to mark off where your retaining wall will go. You also need a mallet for compressing the soil into place behind your retaining wall and a brick hammer (or mason’s hammer) to break up concrete or brick that’s too big to fit in between stones of your retaining wall. Finally, get yourself some work gloves so that when you’re using these tools they don’t scratch your skin! It might feel good now but trust me—it won’t later on
You should also plan ahead by bringing along some extra gloves and safety glasses in case someone forgets theirs at home or needs them while working on another part of the job site (you know how it goes). Also make sure there is enough water available at all times because nothing can ruin any kind of job faster than dehydration does! And lastly but not leastly… snacks! Make sure there are always snacks nearby so people can grab something quick whenever their stomachs start growling from hunger pains after hours spent outside working on such an important project together as this one is
Find the right spot
- Find the right spot
- Make sure it’s level!
- Choose a site for your retaining wall that gets sun most of the day in winter and shade most of the day in summer (unless you’re building a solar heating system). If you’re building on a slope, make sure it is safe and stable before doing any digging or construction work.
- “Handsome climbing plants” like ivy or clematis love to climb on masonry walls and they’ll help to keep moisture out of your soil mix by shading it from hot summer sun while allowing plenty of cold air circulation in wintertime climates where freezing temperatures are common during these months (by allowing snowmelt runoff to drain away freely without pooling up behind frost-heaved stone blocks).
Lay out the bottom row of blocks
Lay out the first row of blocks. Make sure they are level with each other and with the ground. This will help you avoid a sloping wall later on down the line, so it’s important to get this right from the start. Here are some things to look out for
- If one block is higher than another, use shims underneath it until all of them are level with each other.
- If you’re laying your blocks on top of grass or dirt that’s uneven, this may make them uneven too—so be careful! You might need to dig up some dirt in order to make sure that everything is even before you start building up your retaining wall.
Backfill with gravel or stone
Once you’ve gotten the retaining wall up, it’s time to backfill with gravel or stone. To get a drainage gap between the wall and your soil, make sure to leave about 6 inches of space between the upper surface of your soil and the bottom edge of your wall. You can use some landscape fabric as an extra precaution against erosion if you want.
Once you’ve packed down your gravel or stones firmly using a tamper rod (or just a stick), level out any dips in your walls with additional material as needed.
Set the facing stones in concrete
After the facing stones have been laid out and leveled, you’re ready to add concrete. Concrete is a great material for retaining walls because it’s strong, durable, easy to work with and easily accessible. It comes in several different forms—which you’ll find at almost any hardware store—so you can select one that suits your needs. There are three types of concrete: cementitious (Portland), non-cementitious (fly ash) or a combination of both Portland and fly ash.
Cementitious is used in masonry applications such as buildings or sidewalks; however this type should not be used for retaining walls because it has too much water content which will make it weak on its own without being reinforced with steel rods inside the wall itself as well as other materials like steel mesh overtop your newly poured barrier
Set the drainage pipe and filler strip
- Set the drainage pipe and filler strip. The drainage pipe should be set in concrete, while the filler strip should be set in concrete. The drainage pipe should be set in the center of your wall, while the filler strip should be placed next to it—not directly on top of it—and straight down so that there is an equal amount of space between each row of blocks along the entire wall.
Fill the area behind the wall with crushed stone.
Fill the area behind the wall with crushed stone. Use a shovel to even out and level the surface of the crushed stone, then use a rake to smooth it out. Wet down and tamp down this layer of crushed stone until it is compacted and stable. Fill in behind your wall with more crushed stone by hand, again spreading it evenly over as much area as you can reach. Check if your wall is level by placing a 4 foot level against one side of your retaining wall; if it is not perfectly level, adjust its position until both sides are even (or nearly so). Lastly, check that your wall is plumb (vertical) using either a 3 or 4 foot level against one side of your retaining wall (you should be able to find these tools at any hardware store).
Wet down the crushed stone and tamp it.
Next, wet down the crushed stone and tamp it. This will help to prevent erosion and compact the material to give you a more solid base for your retaining wall. A tamper is a tool that is used for compacting soil, which means packing it down hard so that it becomes denser and less loose. If you don’t have a tamper handy, you can use something else in its place: a shovel if you’re using concrete blocks; or an old pair of boots on top of each other if you’re using stone (this method gives them something sturdy to stand on).
Use your hose to spray all sides of the wall with water from above until it’s thoroughly soaked—you want as much water absorbed into the ground as possible so that your foundation is as firm as possible—then wrap up your hose and move onto step three
Continue to fill and tamp.
Now that the crushed stone has been spread out and tamped, it’s time to start pouring concrete. (Remember: don’t forget to wear gloves)
- Open the bag of concrete mix and pour it into your wheelbarrow. The amount required will depend on how far along you are in the process. If all goes well, there should be about one-third of a wheelbarrow full remaining after finishing up with this step.
- Pour some water into the concrete mix through its spout until it is wet but not soupy; then add more water until you reach your desired consistency (this depends on personal preference). Mix thoroughly with a shovel or paddle until it is smooth and uniform throughout. If necessary, add additional water by using an eye dropper or measuring cup if needed—but don’t overdo this step! It’s important that the concrete be thick enough so that when poured onto top of gravel bedding and compacted by hand tampers or vibrating screed machines later on down line during construction process–it won’t blow off easily like sand would.”
Build a wall that will stand up to some serious pressure
You can build a tall retaining wall that will stand up to some serious pressure. You’ll need to build a wall that will be able to withstand:
- The pressure from the ground pushing against it, which may cause it to buckle or collapse over time.
- The pressure from high winds, which could knock down your wall if you don’t design it correctly.
- Rain and snow buildup, which can lead to erosion if not contained efficiently by your retaining wall’s structure.
Let’s recap what you have learned. Your wall needs a firm foundation. A good base will keep your stones level and even, as well as prevent them from shifting or sinking into the soil. But even though you need to take some time with the initial steps, building a tall retaining wall is not rocket science! Just remember, it’s all about getting back to basics and doing things slowly. Remember that your main tool is not just your hands—it’s also patience