How to Build a Retaining Wall – Building Your Own Wall

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how to build a retaining wall

Building retaining walls can be a very expensive proposition. Not only do you need to pay for the materials, but you also have to pay for the labor of putting them together. Luckily, you can learn how to build a retaining wall with this in mind.

Although retaining walls are easy constructions, a quick look around your neighborhood will show plenty of other failing retaining wall structures. That is because most residential retaining wall structures are not constructed to handle the hillside on which they are supposed to stand. Hillsides are naturally inclined toward the downhill side, so many walls are built on sloping ground. Unfortunately, these built on sloping ground often fail, because the slope makes the soil loose and therefore allows water to creep into the wall. If the water reaches the wall, it can create wedges, which make it weak and easily puncture. Fortunately, there are several ways to build a retaining wall with proper drainage.

Learning how to build a retaining wall on a hillside

When learning how to build a retaining wall on a hillside, you must plan ahead for what type of wall material you will use. You should start by making sure the wall is leveled, then make any necessary adjustments to it. You should also choose the correct style of retaining wall, one that matches the landscape of the area it is supposed to cover. For example, concrete blocks are best used on hillsides where there is no vegetation or thick grass. On the other hand, stone is ideal for flat terrain like the driveway.

How to build a retaining wall with proper leveling

Another factor that makes concrete work better than other types of masonry is how to build a retaining wall with proper leveling. You may think that you are doing a good job leveling the area, but if the dirt is loose, it will bow slightly. It can be difficult to level the hillside once it is covered with several meters of concrete, so it is best to start digging a hole several meters away from where you are planning to place the retaining wall. Then place the concrete in the hole and begin leveling the landscape.

Check the slope of the hill

Before learning how to build a retaining wall, it is essential to check the slope of the hill you want to use as well as the texture of the soil. For hillsides that have a gentle slope, you can use crushed stone to form the wall. If the soil is clay-based, then using river rock, volcanic tumbled rocks, or fine sand would be more suitable. If you are building on a slope, the use of gravel and pebbles would be preferable. The most important part of building the wall is to determine the right angles and the right distance apart. You must also take note that retaining walls composed of these materials can be quite heavy, so using smaller and lighter material is a good idea.

Determined on the right materials and the right angles

Once you have determined on the right materials and the right angles, you can start digging. Before digging, you must set the soil aside by hand, using a shovel. Once the area has been cleared, you can begin setting the concrete blocks in place. The use of landscape stakes is a good idea so that you can have a reference while you are constructing the wall.

Channel the runoff from the main body

The next step on how to build a retaining wall is to channel the runoff from the main body of water into a lower trough or a foot path. In case you are building a wall that is located above a footpath, it is advisable to dig a hole in the ground where the footpath will end and make a position for a footstep. In case you are making a wall on a slopeside, you should drain water that has accumulated in that location. A basic understanding of frost heaving and wetland ecology is essential for a successful construction.

For your first batch of concrete blocks, you will have to make sure that you buy the blocks one inch in depth for one foot away from the nearest edge. You will then have to put these blocks in place and then set the wedge in place, using the landscape stakes. For the wedge, you will have to add one half inch to the depth of each block. For now you can let the concrete cure for one day and then remove it. For the next batch, you will have to put the same amount of blocks on top of the previous batch. Now you know how to build a retaining wall properly.

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