How To Build a Retaining Wall

How To Build a Retaining Wall

Give your plain landscape a stunning makeover
with an attractive block retaining wall. The blocks for this project have a locking
flange—which makes the installation easy—and they can be used to build walls up to (28)
inches high. It’s smart to plan your layout. Avoid having
downspouts pointed at the wall; and if it’s against the house, keep the soil bed well
below the siding. To mark a freeform layout, use a rope or hose
to outline the shape. Then use a shovel to mark the outline. For straight lines, mark the entire bed area
with stakes, string and marking paint. Make curved corners by tying a string to a stake
that’s equidistant to the edges—creating a compass—and spraying the curves with marking
paint. To determine how many blocks you’ll need
per row, divide the total length of the wall by the length of the block. To see how many
rows you’ll need, divide the ideal wall height by the height of the block–account
for the first row to be half-buried. With the layout marked you can begin digging
the trench. To bury the first row about halfway, dig the trench about 4 to 6 inches deep, and
dig 12 inches wide, or twice the width of the block.
If the trench slopes, you’ll have to step up or down to keep the blocks level.
Tamp down the dirt with a hand tamper and keep it level. Next, fill the trench with about 3 inches
of paver base, spread it with a rake, and tamp it down. Tamping the base provides a
strong foundation. When it’s all level, you can begin installing the blocks. For row one, knock off the flange with a hammer
and chisel so the blocks will sit flat. Beginning at the end with the lowest elevation,
set the first block in place and check for level. Then place the next block, making sure
it’s even with the first. Continue installing the first row, periodically checking for level.
Fill in under low blocks with paver base, or tap down high blocks with a rubber mallet.
After installing each row, sweep dirt off the tops. To start the second row you’ll have to cut
a block to stagger the joints. Mark it, and cut it with a masonry blade. Put it in place
keeping the flange tight against the first row. Check it for level. When installing the next few rows, you’ll
need to add drainage directly behind the blocks. Lay down landscape fabric behind the wall,
leaving enough excess to reach the top. Then fill in directly behind the wall with gravel
as you continue to build. For the last two rows of full blocks, apply
concrete adhesive to the wall, then set the blocks in place. Now just fold the excess fabric back, and
fill in with soil and plants. A plain garden bed gets a brand new personality
with the help of a block retaining wall. Want more great ideas and how-to’s? Go to or just click to subscribe. Next, check out how to get your garage in
order with some garage organization tips.

28 thoughts on “How To Build a Retaining Wall

  1. Used this video for guidance, keep in mind the first layer of brick takes a lot of time to ensure level and straight. This is most important when putting the wall up.

  2. Can you make right angles and/or tie 2 walls into each other? I have a project where I would want to build a shape similar to a capital letter 'E', with an extension coming off the bottom of the 'E', and fill along the long edge of the 'E'.

  3. I'm in the middle of this project. Some thoughts: It's def not as easy as you think it's going to be after watching a 3-minute video. There's a def learning curve to doing this. Def buy a tamp, a rubber mallet, and a contractor's level if you can. I used Paver Base to get my ground floor level and that worked well. Don't use gravel or larger rocks for that. I hope that's helpful!

  4. I did something like this and within a couple years, it started leaning outwards. No idea what I did wrong

  5. Are you kidding me do you know Im 62 and I live with my 85 yr young mother how the heck are we suppose to put up a wall.Do you know how expensive those blocks are?

  6. Not to argue with the experts, but if you use fabric barrier then those pores will clog up with dirt and trap water. Not what I want to see happen with my project, but that's me.

  7. To whomever can help. What if I can't dig due to a huge tree and it's really thick roots? Any other suggested starting options?

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