Sloped areas in the landscape make it challenging to grow plants, ground cover or turf because wind, sun, and repeated rain can create unfavorable soil conditions. For this reason, many property owners often invest in a retaining wall. Retaining walls establish functional landscape beds for vertical grounds by creating a sturdy barrier to keep in soil and control rain water run off.
These walls are available in a wide range of materials, including poured concrete, interlocking concrete pavers, timber, natural stone, man-made pavers and boulders, and more for a beautiful yet functional addition to your property.
When selecting a retaining wall design, the following tips can help you select the right one for your property.
How to Choose Your Retaining Wall Design
When selecting a retaining wall design, there are several factors that will help determine your choice, including cost.
- The cost of the retaining wall is typically based on the materials used in addition to labor costs. Naturally, if you select a more elaborate wall, such as one that includes curves, lighting, a decorative finish, or steps etc., it will require more work as well as additional material, which will increase the cost. Other factors that will determine the cost of your retaining wall, include soil conditions, location, moisture levels, specialty engineering, and more.
- The height of your wall is another factor in selecting a retaining wall design. In many states, walls above four feet must be approved by an engineer that is both licensed and qualified.
- Groundwater and soil conditions will also determine the design of your retaining wall. Because soil conditions dictate the stability of the wall, designers must have a thorough understanding of the proper procedures and methods for soil preparation and backfill compaction as stated by local building codes.
- The ease and speed of construction will also determine the wall design, as the more difficult and time consuming the project, the higher the costs.
How to Build a Retaining Wall
To build a basic stackable block retainer wall is fairly simple; however, if you are constructing the wall on your own, it may require additional time, so plan accordingly.
1. Design and Plan the Wall
- Begin by drawing an outline or diagram of the wall, which incorporates each detail of the wall, including:
- The packed gravel base;
- The height of the blocks;
- The drain gravel that goes behind the blocks;
- A drain pipe, if needed;
- The packed dirt area that goes in front of the blocks;
- The top soil for planting;
- The front view of the wall, especially if you are constructing the wall on a slope.
2. Dig Your Trench
The first step to building your wall is to dig a trench about 4 to 6 inches deep and about twelve to twenty inches wide, or two times the width of the block, for filling with drain gravel and maneuvering the blocks.
3. Add the Type 2 Gravel Base
Next, add the gravel to the trench, then rake it out into a two inch layer. Then, using a hand tamper, tamp the gravel out so that it is really packed down. Use a hose to add moisture, if needed. Repeat this process until you have an even, solidly packed six inch layer of gravel.
4. Add the First Layer of Blocks
Add the first layer of blocks, beginning at one side of the trench, working your way across. Be sure to level each block as you go.
5. Add the Drainage Gravel
Using a shovel, add the drainage gravel to the rear of the blocks, then tamp it down until it is packed solid. Add at least a couple of layers. Afterward, add a bit of packed dirt to the front of the blocks to secure the blocks in place as you add the rest of the wall.
6. Build Your Retaining Wall
Add the remainder of the blocks in single layers, starting at one end of the row and making your way across. Stagger the seams and backfill the rear of the blocks with packed gravel and dirt after each layer to ensure the wall remains stable as the dirt settles.
Glue the last layer, or last two layers, of blocks down to prevent them from being knocked over.
7. Add the Top Soil
Lastly, add the top soil, but don’t pack it, as it is for planting.
Retaining Wall FAQs
Question (Q): Do I Need a Permit to Build My Wall?
Answer (A): In most states, a permit is only required for retaining walls that are higher than four feet.
Q: What is the Lifespan of a Retaining Wall?
A: A properly built retaining wall can last up to 50 years or more, provided the groundwater and soil conditions of your site are favorable.
Q: Do I Need a Concrete Footing at the Base of My Wall?
A: Concrete footing is not needed, as it will prevent the wall from naturally shifting. Instead, use a coarse stone combination for your wall footing, which allows for natural shifting.
Q: Is it Important to Install a Drain Behind the Wall?
A: It is always recommended that you install a drainage system behind your wall. This will allow water to drain away from your structure and maintain the integrity of your wall.
Q: Should I Consult an Engineer When Building My Retaining Wall?
A: If you have specific or atypical ground conditions, or your wall is over four feet, then it is recommended that you involve an engineer to ensure the wall is safe and stable and that it meets building code requirements.
How to Build a Retaining Wall with Landscape Blocks (Step-by-Step)
How to Build a Timber Retaining Wall
With the proper guidance, you can construct a quality retaining wall that is beautiful, practical, and lasts for years. Otherwise, it can lead to various problems that can lead to the demolition of the current wall and the reconstruction of the project. Therefore, before building your wall, gather as much information as possible from experienced professionals. This way, you will ensure the best possible results.
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