How to Build a Retaining Wall

How to Build a Retaining Wall

While retaining walls are commonly used for holding back soil and preventing water damage to your landscape, they can also provide an aesthetically appealing look to your patio or outdoor space. Retaining walls are usually built with sturdy materials like stone, brick or wood, and can consist of one or multiple tiers depending on yard design and needs.

Aside from building materials, there are multiple factors that should be considered when building a DIY retaining wall - like location and the overall height of your wall.

With so many options and ideas, these DIY tips will help you build a retaining wall that reflects your own style and serves the needs of your yard

Step One
Pick the spot where you want to build the wall. Like most structures, your retaining wall will need a footer. And depending on the climate you live in, you will need to determine how far down to dig the area for your footer. The idea is to lay your footer below the frost line to prevent movement and heaving. For many northern states, that could be as deep as 60 inches. For some southern states, it could be as little as 5 inches.

Step Two
Before you begin building, make sure the trench you dug is mostly level, then build a frame for your footer.

Step Three
Once you have built the frame, mix your concrete. To prevent excess concrete seeping through the frame, mix in slightly less water for a drier, viscous concrete. You'll have to fill in the frame quickly, as less water makes the concrete set faster. Use a trowel to level the top of the footer and check that it is level before allowing it to dry.

Step Four
Depending on where you are pulling your stones from, it's best to clean them off with a pressure washer before permanently placing into the structure. The first layer of stone you lay will act as the support for the entire wall so it is critical that it is solid and secure.

Step Five
Once the concrete footer is fully dry, mix your mortar and apply a 1-inch layer to the top of the footer. Place your first layer of stones on the mortar, making sure they butt up against each other. After finishing a row, go back through and fill gaps with mortar.

Step Six
When you complete a row, place a new layer of mortar over the top and begin stacking your next row. To make the wall more stable, do not stack the stones in vertical columns. Each row should be offset from the one below to ensure the stability of the wall.

Step Seven
After you finish building the wall, allow it to cure for 24 hours, then backfill with soil to level out the hill or raised area you wish to retain.