Building A Sophisticated Retaining Wall

A retaining wallIf you have already built a retaining wall out of railroad ties, you will undoubtedly understand the basic elements and items required for construction. Much of the preparation will be the same, with some important additions. General Construction Tools such as the Keson Speed Rewind Measuring Tape in either 100’ or 300’ sizes will help you measure wall length and depth. Shovels, a garden hose, mortar, level, landscaping fabric, wheelbarrow, and soil tamper will also be necessary to build your retaining wall, as well as multi-colored Day Glo Flagging Tape. With a more elaborate construction project using stone or brick, it is advisable to also wear personal safety equipment such as safety goggles and work gloves for protection.

Stone or Brick Retaining Walls: getting started

As mentioned in previous blogs, retaining walls can be decorative and/or functional with the latter being the most common reason a retaining wall is built. While constructing a stronger wall that serves as an effective barrier against erosion or sloping, the esthetics of it can add both beauty and a unique design element to your landscape. Depending on preference, the first thing you will do is select the overall design, including stones or bricks to be purchased. Questions to consider: do you want a curved retaining wall or a straight one? A series of walls with a terraced affect or one high wall to hold back the earth?

Once the design and placement has been determined, outline the area with spray paint or chalk in preparation for excavating with your construction tools. Next, dig a trench of approximately 6 inches deep for the foundation. Now lay the first layer of bricks or stones, whichever you have selected. Use your level to ensure accuracy throughout the entire first row before beginning the second row of bricks or stone.

Interlocking, Landscaping Fabric, and Back-Filling

One of the most important aspects of building a brick or stone retaining wall is its strength. The strength is determined in part by interlocking each layer to create an alternating pattern, which reinforces the retaining wall. This can be accomplished easily by cutting every other layer’s end brick/stone in half so as to create the contrasting pattern. Be sure to remember to apply the level with each layer you lay to ensure accuracy.

As you progress, take some of the dirt from the excavation process to backfill each layer. Remember to tamp the dirt tightly so the earth is well packed. Once you have reached the desired height, put the landscaping fabric behind the retaining wall, continuing it up the slope several feet to further reinforce the earth behind the wall. To finish the wall, make sure the earth is tamped securely in place to prevent erosion and/or prevent pressure against the wall itself. Once your wall is completed, you are ready to plant attractive flowers, small trees or shrubs to accent the wall.