How To Build Steps Using Retaining Wall Blocks

I’ve been wanting to build a retaining wall in my backyard, and I finally had the time to do it this summer. As I was doing the research and getting ready for it, I ran across some pretty impressive retaining wall designs that included steps. That got me thinking: since they used retaining wall blocks to build those steps, could I do it? After some more research, turns out you can totally use retaining walls to build steps (and with very little difficulty). Here’s how you do it:

Measure the height of the wall.

  • Measure the height of the wall.
  • Remove any plants from the area where you’ll be building steps, and remove any existing dirt or debris from this area as well.

Layout and Preparation.

  • Measure the height of the retaining wall, and cut each block to size. If you aren’t able to buy pre-cut blocks, use a masonry saw (or have it done professionally) and cut them yourself.
  • Level the ground with a straight edge level tool in order to make sure that your steps will be straight and level across their entire length. Use stakes or end-to-end pins at corners where two walls meet in order to ensure that they are squared up with one another before installing any retaining wall blocks or other materials like pavers or gravel on top of them!
  • Place your first course of blocks along one side of your layout area; make sure that these are tightly together so no gaps occur where water could get through between layers later on down stream at higher elevations than yours right now (thereby weakening its effectiveness). Place additional courses next underneath those already in place until they reach an appropriate height above ground level where they will provide enough support themselves without needing additional help from lighter materials such as gravel fillers etcetera below it all – this should be determined before starting construction work by looking over some plans from contractors who specialize in doing similar projects (like Retaining Wall Construction Services).

Level the ground.

The first thing you need to do is make sure that the ground is level. You can use a spirit level to check this before you start building your steps, or use a shovel and rake if it’s not too far off.

Place the first course.

Place the first course.

After placing the blocks to build your steps, use a level to make sure they are level with each other and with the ground. The blocks should not be too high or too low, so make sure you’ve placed them correctly before moving on to the next step.

Place the second course.

  • Place the second course of blocks. The second course should be placed at the same spacing as the first course, but in this case it will be set a bit higher than that first course (the same amount as your 3″ spacer).
  • Level and pin. Using a level, adjust each block until it is level with both adjacent walls, then drive pins into each mortar joint where possible.

Install corner pins or stakes and level them.

Measure the width of your retaining wall and multiply by 2.5 to get the height of each step. If you’re using a string level, measure out from one corner pin or stake and lay it along the ground with 25 percent overlap. Adjust as needed until you have a perfectly straight line across multiple blocks, then use your tape measure to mark that measurement in line with adjacent blocks (see image below). Repeat this process for all four corners of your wall. If you’re using a laser level or other surveying equipment, set it up according to its instructions and place on top of each corner pin/stake; adjust as necessary until all points are level within 0.1 inches (0.25 cm).

Install end-to-end pins or stakes and level them.

To keep the blocks straight and level, use stakes or pins every 6-8 blocks. These will also help you make sure each step is level as you build it.

There are two ways to install these: You can use metal end-to-end pin anchors that come with the wall blocks, or purchase hammer stakes from your local hardware store and drive them into the ground at 12 inch intervals with a sledgehammer. If you choose this option, remember that hammering on concrete can be very loud—and may irritate your neighbors.

Build steps per your plan.

To build steps, start by laying out the blocks where they will be placed. Start with a level block at the bottom of your staircase and then add additional blocks to create each step.

The top of each step should be level with one another so that it’s easy to walk up and down them safely. The bottom of each step should also be level with one another so that people can walk up or down them safely as well. Make sure that you keep all of your steps straight and even so that they are safe for people to use.

Building steps is easy with retaining wall blocks

Building steps with retaining wall blocks is easy. Just follow these simple steps:

  • Measure the height of your step and divide it in half, then add 1″ to the result for each additional step (2=2″, 3=3″, etc.)
  • Cut the retaining wall block to length using a masonry saw or circular saw with a carbide blade, or use a slab cutter to score and snap each block apart in half at its centerpoint (you can also cut them with a reciprocating saw). If you’re building more than two steps, stagger their heights so they look like real stair treads!
  • Position each piece as you build your first riser section—this will be one side of your stairway—and tap firmly into place using a hammer until all pieces are flush against one another and are standing upright without leaning over (you may want to use some form of pressure from above if needed).


Building steps with retaining wall blocks is fun and easy! You can have a brand new step set in less than an hour. You’re only limited by your own creativity when it comes to building retaining walls for your yard.

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