If you have problems with erosion or a difficult-to-mow incline on your property, you may want to consider building a retaining wall. These architectural structures add personality and a groomed-look to your property, while also playing a functional purpose.
Choose the Right Materials
Wooden-type retention walls end to fail sooner than others, because of moisture and wood rot. It may be the cheapest option, but that doesn’t make it best. If you’re going to put the effort in, do it right the first time! If you prefer a wood-facing surface, consider making the retaining wall with cinder bricks first, then covering them for aesthetic purposes. Otherwise, go for a brick or stone option that will withstand the weather and all of its elements. Natural stone may be your preference but keep atypical surfaces and measurements in mind when it comes to stacking the. Identical blocks or bricks may be a better option for a first-time project.
Start with the Right Surface
Building a retaining wall will always involve digging. If it’s a small area around a tree, you may only need a flat shovel. If you’re going for a large area, you’ll want to have a small dozer and trencher or blade attachment of some sort to ensure an even surface where the topsoil has been removed.
Only Build on Compact Soil
After you’ve cleared and dug where you want the wall to start, make sure that the soil is completely compacted before you start building something on top of it.
Keep Your Dimensions in Check
Generally, a D-I-Y stackable stone or brick retention wall shouldn’t be any more than about four feet high. Your wall should also extend at least 1/10th of its height down into the ground, for a stable foundation.
Once you’ve dug out a base and laid your first layer of stones/bricks, check them with a level. If your foundation isn’t flat, the rest of the wall won’t be either.
Check Your Drainage
Be sure that adequate trenches are in place, so that water flow doesn’t cause any unwanted erosion or failing of your new retaining wall. Even a small amount of pooling water can cause your bricks/stones to start to collapse.
Compacted soil, rocks, or sand between your wall and the area being retained is one of the most important parts of your construction process. Don’t assume that you can build the wall against what is already there. Give yourself some extra room, then use a packed soil or sand to seal the area between your retaining wall and the ground.
Add appropriate drainage, such as a spout or pipe at the bottom of the structure, allowing it to drain water from the filler out through the bottom of your retaining wall. Otherwise, it will accumulate behind the wall and push it outward or wash away the soil behind it.
What About Low Retaining Walls?
If you want to use stackable blocks that are only a few high to add flair around trees, prevent dirt from washing into your sidewalk, etc., you should still use the basic rules of staggering, drainage, and stacking that you would with a bigger retaining wall.
Steer Clear of Straight Walls
Rather than having your blocks or bricks stacked perfectly on top of one another, use a step pattern where they’re slightly set back into the soil, the higher the wall is. That way if the soil does start to push against them, they won’t immediately start buckling outward. Straight walls are more likely to tip outward and fall.