How to Build a Brick or Stone Retaining Wall

How to Build a Brick or Stone Retaining Wall thumbnail
A stone retaining wall

A retaining wall holds back soil, either in a planting bed or on a slope or hillside. It can be built out of anything - from stone to wood to poured concrete - and it can significantly alter the contours of your yard or garden. This covers walls under three feet. Walls over three feet need permits so check local codes to ensure your project is within guidelines.

Things You'll Need

  • garden trowels , shovel or grub axe
  • Stones
  • Bricks
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Instructions

    • 1

      Figure out where and why you want a wall: at the bottom of a gentle slope to create a new planting bed? Between two beds to provide contour and definition? (If the answer to this is "to keep my house from sliding down the hill," see Warnings below.)

    • 2

      Decide on your building material - brick gives a formal elegance and stone a European air. Don't forget to check out the ever-increasing options in interlocking blocks available at home improvement and do-it-yourself stores.

    • 3

      For reinforced walls you need the depth of footings and piers to equal the height of the wall.

    • 4

      For example: A 3 foot wall. You need footing 1 foot deep and 1 foot wide to go the entire distance of the wall. The footing will make an L shape having the extra surface footing behind your wall.

    • 5

      Lay the rebar flat in the bed of footings 2 inches above soil so concrete touches soil, rebar does not touch soil.

    • 6

      Piers are 2 feet deep every 3 feet of wall and on every corner. Piers are set behind the wall below the bed of footing.

    • 7

      Top the footing with cinderblocks that will be the same height as your wall.

    • 8

      Rebar will go through the center of each cinder block.

    • 9

      Fill cinder block with concrete.

    • 10

      Reinforce each level of cinder block with rebar running horizontal and tied to the vertical rebar with tie wire.

    • 11

      Once you create your cinderblock wall, you are ready to face it with whatever material you desire, like brick, stone, stucco, etc.

Tips & Warnings

  • Drainage depends on the needs of each location so consult a professional like Home Depot to ensure you are adequately covered for the rainy season.

  • For reinforced walls you need the depth of footings and piers to equal the height of the wall.

  • If your yard's got drainage problems, you're probably best off consulting a contractor. Whatever you do, make sure water doesn't drain toward the foundation of your house.

  • A retaining wall is like a dam: The higher the wall and the heavier the soil behind it, the greater the pressure on the wall. Most retaining walls over 3 feet (2 feet in some areas) are thus subject to some kind of permit process; this is taken more seriously in areas of seismic activity, where walls must be able to withstand shock loads in addition to everything else. Check your local regulations before you start.

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