Building a Retaining Wall

by Amy Gordon
(last updated August 18, 2017)

Sloped lawns are good for a number of things. It is much easier for kids to slide down them in the winter, they are attractive, and if the slope is right it is easier to sit in. Unfortunately, one thing that a sloped lawn is not good for is most gardening. If you want to turn your sloped lawn into a flat area, your best solution is to build a retaining wall.

If you have a large slope and want to build a retaining wall over three feet high, you will probably want to hire people to do it for you. It will be costly, but they can use amazing things as a wall to add to the decoration. If, however, you want to build your own wall, read on. Just remember that it is a lot of work, so be prepared to use a lot of time and energy to get this thing done.

Before you begin, make sure you have a building permit; some localities require them. (You can check with your local city or town government for details.) You'll also want to make sure that you won't run into any pipes or wires while digging.

Once you know you can proceed, mark an outline of where you want the retaining wall to be. Then go to a local home improvement or lawn and garden store to pick out the type of retaining wall stones you want to use. The precast ones are the best, since they are designed for building retaining walls.

To build a low retaining wall, start by digging a trench a little wider than the stones and a few inches deep. The higher your finished wall, the deeper you'll need to make your trench. For instance, if you decide to be ambitious and make a retaining wall that is four feet high, you'll need a trench that is at least two feet deep. The idea is to make sure that the wall is firmly seated below ground, on a firm foundation, that can withstand the pressure of the dirt and water behind the wall.

Make sure the bottom of the trench is as level as possible, and fill it with stone dust or, in deeper trenches, with concrete. Lay the stones in the trench and make sure they are level. For the second and all following layers, cut a stone in half and interlock it with an end stone on the bottom level. It is cut in half so the stones are offset on each layer. Lay down this layer. It should be level if the bottom layer is level, but be sure to double check. Fill up behind the two layers with dirt and make sure the wall is solid. Continue laying down the stones until you reach the desired height. Be sure to interlock all the stones.

When you have finished building the wall, put some landscaping fabric down behind the wall to keep the soil from working its way through the cracks. Fill up behind the wall with soil and tamp it in place. Finish off with topsoil and level everything off. Then enjoy the beauty of your retaining wall and your now level area.

Author Bio

Amy Gordon

Amy Gordon loves keeping things simple, natural, and safe so she can spend more time having fun. Every day she learns new things about making life at home easier and she loves to share it with you! ...

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