Retaining walls are a great way to add depth and dimension to your landscape while also improving the functionality of your yard. Not only do they help reduce erosion, but they can also be used to showcase decorative items or create an area for planting flowers and other plants. If you’re ready to get started on your own retaining wall project, follow these steps below
Excavate the area you want to build the retaining wall.
Excavate the area you want to build the retaining wall.
The best way to ensure that a retaining wall is built properly is to dig down at least 6 inches deeper than where your foundation will be. This gives you plenty of room for drainage and prevents the base from washing away in heavy rain or snow melt. You can use a pickax to break up any bedrock you encounter, but it may also be helpful to have an excavator dig out this area first so that you can finish with hand tools (since they’re typically more effective at breaking through hard stone). Use a shovel when digging out material from above ground; this tool is especially useful since it allows you more control over removing smaller pieces of rock without damaging nearby plants or landscaping materials if they’re buried beneath where your excavation begins.
Once all earth has been removed from within your initial trench, tamp down soil around its edges using another tool like a tamper rod so there are no loose areas left behind where water could seep through cracks in later stages of construction (which could cause erosion issues later on). Next comes leveling; make sure both sides are even before continuing forward
Set the base stones.
Setting the base stones is a critical step in building a retaining wall. The purpose of the base stones is to provide an anchor for supporting and stabilizing each course of blocks above them. To do this, they should be set in concrete and set into a foundation footing that extends below ground level (typically 4-6 inches).
The first course of blocks will then be laid on top of these base stones so that their ends are flush with the outside edges of your footing. When checking for level on this first course, use stakes marked at 6″ intervals to ensure proper spacing between each block, as well as its height from grade level. It’s also important not to get too carried away here—keep in mind that you’ll need space for drainage spouts and gutters later on
Plan your block pattern and start laying them out.
Once you’ve cleared the area, you can begin planning your block pattern and start laying them out. In order to make sure your wall is level and square, it’s important that you do some preliminary measurements and calculations.
- Decide on the dimensions of your wall. Measure from corner to corner at ground level, then multiply that by two—this will give you an idea of how long or tall your retaining wall should be.
- Locate where each block will be placed with reference to other nearby objects or landmarks (e.g., “block #1 will go here”).
- Work out whether or not this spot receives full sun exposure throughout the day (if so, consider placing a piece of plywood or cardboard here). If it does not receive full sun exposure all day long (and if there are no other nearby objects), consider putting in a support rod before laying any blocks down in order to help stabilize them later on down below
Once you have the first course in place, glue the joints between each block.
Once you have the first course in place, glue the joints between each block. Use a good quality waterproof glue and a trowel to apply it evenly to both sides of each block before laying them. Apply glue to all points where the blocks touch, including top and bottom edges as well as any sides that will be exposed when laid down (this includes inside corners). You can also apply some cement along the entire length of your retaining wall prior to installing it if you don’t want to wait until after installation for this step.
The key here is that you need enough water resistant sealant so that water cannot seep into any cracks or joints between blocks, otherwise over time these will quickly deteriorate causing crumbling walls which become unsafe. Once laid down firmly push them together firmly so that they set their bond properly
Start adding riprap stones as you build up your wall.
Once you have the first layer of blocks in place, start adding riprap stones as you build up your wall. Riprap is a type of aggregate material used in retaining walls to stabilize them against erosion. The larger rocks are used to fill in gaps between blocks and also to help make sure that the wall withstands erosion better.
Riprap can be purchased at most landscaping supply stores, home improvement stores and building supply outlets for around $3 per cubic yard for small quantities or up to several hundred dollars per cubic yard for large quantities (depending on where you live).
Work your way up to the top of your retaining wall, ensuring that everything is level as you go.
At the top of your retaining wall, you can either leave it as-is or add a cap. If you choose to cap it, do so before proceeding with any of the following steps.
Once you’re sure that all is straight and level, begin working your way up toward the top of your retaining wall by placing new concrete blocks in place and filling them with sand until they’re filled. Using a long level and a spirit level will ensure that each row is straight—that way no one gets hit in the head when trying to enjoy their porch
Building a retaining wall is easier than it seems, but don’t forget to excavate and set a firm base before building
Do not underestimate the importance of excavating your site before building the wall. Retaining walls are often built on sloped land, so it’s important to remove the top layer of soil and dig down below the level that you want your wall to sit at. This will allow drainage water to flow away from your foundation, instead of pooling up against it.
When you don’t have a firm base layer, there are things you can do:
- Use compactable fill material such as compacted gravel or crushed stone for backfill around retaining walls
- Construct a false footing underneath similarly sized blocks that will allow them to be stacked more closely together since they will not sink into soft earth as much as they would if left unsupported
With a few short steps, you can create a retaining wall that will last for years and be the envy of your neighborhood. The most important part is making sure that you set a firm foundation before constructing it, so take your time with the first couple of steps to ensure everything goes smoothly. And once you’ve built one retaining wall, you’ll be ready to tackle more projects