How to Build a Small Stucco Retention Wall

A small retention wall is used to contain soil in projects such as a raised garden bed, or to provide a stable border in front of a small hill. Using small concrete blocks to build the retention wall creates a solid boundary, but you may not like the appearance of the blocks. Covering them with stucco can conceal the blocks and improve the appearance of the wall.

Things You'll Need

  • Concrete blocks
  • Edging shovel
  • Shovel
  • Gravel
  • Tamp
  • Level
  • Rubber mallet
  • Wet saw
  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves
  • Ear protection
  • Masonry adhesive
  • Sand
  • Mortar cement
  • Hawk
  • Trowel
  • Plasterer's rake
  • White cement
  • White stucco sand
  • Pigment
  • Plastic sheet


    • 1

      Lay a row of concrete blocks on the ground where the wall is being installed. Score the ground on each side of the blocks, using an edging shovel, then remove the blocks. Score the ground an inch away from the blocks.

    • 2

      Dig a trench 6 inches deep between the two score lines.

    • 3

      Fill the trench with a 4-inch layer of gravel. Smooth the surface of the gravel, and compact it with a tamp.

    • 4

      Lay a block onto the gravel at one end of the trench, centering it inside the trench so there's a 1-inch gap between the walls of the trench and the front and back sides of the block.

    • 5

      Check the block for level, checking both side-to-side and front-to-back. Tap the block down gently with a rubber mallet to level it if necessary.

    • 6

      Lay a second block into the trench next to the first block. Check it for level by placing the level across both blocks. If the second block is higher than the first block, tap it down with the mallet. If the second block is lower, place gravel beneath it.

    • 7

      Continue to lay blocks in the trench until the first course of blocks has been laid.

    • 8

      Cut a block in half with a wet saw. You'll use one of the halves as the first block in the second course, which allows you to stagger the blocks; this strengthens the wall.

    • 9

      Apply masonry adhesive on top of the blocks in the first course in a zigzag pattern.

    • 10

      Lay the second course of blocks onto the first course, staggering them from the blocks in the first course.

    • 11

      Add two more courses of blocks to the wall, applying masonry adhesive between each course and staggering the blocks in each row from the blocks in the previous row.

    • 12

      Backfill the trench around the base of the wall.

    • 13

      Mix a base coat of stucco with 4 parts sand and 1 part mortar cement, mixing it to the consistency of mashed potatoes.

    • 14

      Scoop the stucco onto a hawk, which is a flat metal tray that has a handle on the bottom. It is used when applying materials like stucco and plaster.

    • 15

      Spread a quarter-inch layer of stucco onto the blocks on the front and top edges of the wall. Begin applying the stucco along the bottom of the wall, and work up toward the top.

    • 16

      Scratch the surface of the stucco by running over the wall with a plasterer's rake. This creates grooves in the base coat of stucco, which provides a better surface to which the top coat can adhere.

    • 17

      Mix the finish coat of stucco with 1 part white cement and 3 parts white stucco sand. Mix pigment into the stucco to change the color of the mix. If you need to prepare multiple batches of stucco to complete the wall, use the same amount of pigment in each batch to ensure that the stucco has a uniform color throughout the wall.

    • 18

      Apply the top coat of stucco to the wall, using the same process you used when the base coat was applied.

    • 19

      Cover the wall with plastic for 4 to 6 weeks, as the stucco cures. Every few days, lift the sheet and spray the stucco with a mist of water to keep it moist, then cover the wall again.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear safety goggles, gloves and ear protection when cutting the blocks with the wet saw.
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  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images

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