How to Build a Rock Wall on a Steep Slope

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Landscaping is a necessary aspect of homeownership, particularly when a house is on a less-than-desirable plot. Steep hills, rocky ground, high flood lines--all of these contribute to making landscaping more tedious than it should be. Remedy these problems by building retaining walls, patios, and other permanent structures that will brighten and enhance the home's surroundings. Homes that have steep inclines and slopes surrounding them are not only at risk of flooding, but they are also limited in what can be done to improve their landscaping. These situations are perfect for retaining walls. A retaining wall holds the dirt from the steep hill behind it like a dam and allows for the land in front of it to be flattened and cultivated.

Things You'll Need

  • Pallet of field stone (per 20 square feet)
  • 80-lb. bag type II masonry mortar (per 10 square feet)
  • 1 ton masonry sand (per 100 square feet)
  • Shovel
  • Cement pan
  • Outside water faucet
  • Hose
  • 36-inch steel rods (5 per 10 feet)
  • Sledgehammer
  • Tape measure
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Create an outline of where the wall should be, using a measuring tape. Dig a rough outline into the slope with a shovel. Remove as much dirt as necessary to get a 24-inch indent that the wall can be built within. Dig to 2 feet below ground level.

  • Place the steel rods roughly in the center of the indent you just dug out of the hill, starting at one end. Space them 2 feet apart from each other.

  • Knock the rods 1 foot into the ground, using the sledgehammer. This will be a support to keep the wall from shifting due to weight from the ground that will be stacked behind it.

  • Mix the mortar by placing 11 shovels of sand and one bag of type II masonry mortar into the cement pan. Add water by filling a 5-gallon bucket and adding it to the sand and cement mix. Using the shovel, thoroughly mix the water into the mortar mix. When ready, the mix will be a uniform gray and have the consistency of a thick pudding.

  • Add the mortar to the entire bottom of the indent. This secures the steel rods in place and allows for the first stones to be laid for the wall's foundation. The cement should come up to ground level. This will create a strong base that will keep the wall from falling over from pressure that will build up behind it as the ground behind it fills in any spaces and gaps over time.

  • Mix another batch of mortar. Using the trowel, add mortar to the back of some field stones and lay them into the base of the indent, mortar side down. Fit them tightly together like a puzzle. They don't have to fit perfectly, but they should be as close as possible.

  • Lay the stones across the entire base of the indent, fitting the rods between the stones so that they are hidden from view.

  • Stack the rest of the field stone on top of the base that was just created. Place mortar on the bottom of each stone before it is laid into place. Stack the stone to the desired height. Wait 24 hours.

  • Fill in any gaps behind the stone wall with the dirt that was excavated from the slope before the base was laid. This will help prevent water collection.

Tips & Warnings

  • Retaining walls go well with flagstone and/or paver patios. By adding a patio, the overall look of the area can be drastically improved.

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