How To Build a Retaining Wall

By PropertyClub Team
May 27th 2023
Embarking on a DIY project, like building a retaining wall, can be an exciting and fulfilling endeavor. However, it's essential to understand that such a project demands careful planning, hard work, and attention to detail. In this article, we'll share valuable tips and advice on how to successfully build a retaining wall without the help of a professional. 

hash-markHow to Build a Retaining Wall Steps

  1. Create a Detailed Plan
  2. Prioritize Proper Drainage
  3. Select the Right Materials
  4. Build a Solid Base
  5. Utilize Self-Storage During Construction
  6. Reinforce Taller Retaining Walls
  7. Be Meticulous
  8. Don't Neglect Backfill
  9. Add a Finishing Touch With a Cap

hash-mark1. Create a Detailed Plan

The first step to building a retaining wall is to create a detailed plan. Before you can dive into the project, it's vital to develop a well-thought-out plan. This includes determining the purpose of your wall, selecting the best location, analyzing the type of soil you'll be working with, and choosing the materials you'll use. Additionally, check your local building codes and regulations, as some areas might require permits for retaining walls exceeding a certain height.

You'll find that having a roadmap for your project helps avoid costly mistakes and ensure that you wind up with the desired results. Moreover, it can help you accurately calculate the projected costs and budget for materials, supplies, and necessary labor.

hash-mark2. Prioritze Proper Drainage

One common pitfall of DIY retaining wall projects is overlooking the importance of adequate drainage. Without proper drainage, water can accumulate behind the wall, exerting pressure and eventually causing structural damage. To prevent this, incorporate a drainage system, such as weep holes or a drainage pipe. 

hash-mark3. Select the Right Materials

When it comes to materials, there are several options to choose from, including wood, concrete, natural stone, and bricks. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages, and your choice will ultimately depend on factors like your budget, the wall's height and length, and the desired aesthetic.

For example, retaining wall steel posts are always ideal for building tall walls, while wood is a great choice if you're on a tight budget. In addition to these materials, you'll need gravel and soil as fillers and concrete mix to secure the posts.

hash-mark4. Build a Solid Base

A strong base is crucial for your retaining wall's stability. To achieve this, you'll need to excavate the area, compact the soil, and add a layer of gravel for proper drainage. Ensure the base is level to ensure even weight distribution and overall stability. 

This step requires patience and care, as even the smallest mistake can create problems. If in doubt, feel free to consult with an experienced engineer or building contractor for advice. 

hash-mark5. Utilize Self-Storage During Construction

Building a retaining wall can be a messy and space-consuming endeavor. Renting a self-storage unit to store your tools, materials, and garden furniture or equipment can help keep your workspace organized and clutter-free. This not only makes the project more manageable but it also prevents damage to your belongings during construction.

hash-mark6. Reinforce Taller Retaining Walls

Taller walls are often vulnerable to erosion and other structural problems. To ensure their stability, you must reinforce them with steel or concrete posts and gravel and soil fillers.

Generally, retaining walls higher than four feet require reinforcement. This often involves using a geo-grid, a mesh material that stabilizes the wall and prevents it from toppling over. If you're planning on building a taller wall, it's wise to consult a professional for advice. 

hash-mark7. Be Meticulous

Remember, building a retaining wall isn't a race. Take your time to install each layer properly, ensure the wall is level, and compact the backfill. Patience and attention to detail can distinguish between a stable, long-lasting wall and one that collapses after the first heavy rainfall.

Rushing can also lead to costly mistakes, so leave yourself enough time to do the job right. 

hash-mark8. Don't Neglect the Backfill

Backfilling is a crucial step in the retaining wall construction process. It involves filling the space behind the wall with gravel or another porous material to facilitate drainage. Be sure to compact the backfill after installing each layer of the wall.

hash-mark9. Add a Finishing Touch with a Cap

Capping your retaining wall gives it a polished appearance and protects it from the elements. This process involves installing a final layer of flat stones or specially designed capstones on the wall.

hash-markBuilding a Retaining Wall Safety

Lastly, while undertaking a DIY project, it's critical to keep safety in mind. Always wear appropriate protective gear, including gloves, safety glasses, and sturdy footwear. Exercise caution when lifting heavy materials, and remember to take breaks to prevent exhaustion.

hash-markBuilding a Retaining Wall Bottom Line

Building a retaining wall without professional assistance can be a significant project. However, with thorough planning, careful selection of materials, and a commitment to quality, you can create a beautiful and functional structure. Utilizing resources like self-storage can keep your workspace organized and efficient. By following these tips and tricks, you'll be well on your way to constructing a stunning, durable retaining wall that enhances the beauty and value of your property.