How to Engineer a Retaining Wall With Steel I Beams

Steel I-beams can be a challenge to handle.
Steel I-beams can be a challenge to handle. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Wondering how to make a sloped lawn more useful or appealing? A retaining wall can be functional or simply decorative, depending on your personal needs. A retaining wall is a vertical wall meant to act as a barrier to prevent rocks, dirt or sand from sliding downward and causing erosion. They also can be used to level sloped grounds and split earth into different sections of level elevation. Such walls often are created to make a yard more useful and practical for planting or playing. Many types of materials including stone and wood can be used, depending on the look you want for your retaining wall, and using steel I-beams will create a sturdy support.

Things You'll Need

  • Post hole diggers
  • Level
  • Gloves
  • Tape measure
  • String or heavy twine
  • Hammer
  • Saw or grinder
  • Cement

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Familiarize yourself with your property, including the type soil at the site, drainage and what might be located below the ground.

Prepare the site. Mark the location, size and shape of the wall using wooden stakes. If you need additional guidance, use a piece of string to mimic the shape of the final wall. Dig out a flat, level trench where the wall will be located.

Dig the holes that will hold the steel I-beams. The holes should be at least two times as deep as the height of the retained material. Back fill the hole with gravel, or in the case of heavy retained materials, use cement.

Construct the rest of the retaining wall to the desired height after the steel I-beams are set in place. If building the wall with stone, set the stones to both sides of the I-beams to hide them from view.

Saw off the top of the steel I-beams if they are showing, and then cap the wall with a finishing stone.


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