If you’re looking to improve your landscape and you enjoy DIY projects, you might wonder whether you can build a retaining wall by yourself.
This idea might come to mind if you want to prevent your soil from eroding, section off your backyard to create more space, or you want a nice landscape feature. These are great reasons to want a retaining wall installed in your backyard.
If you’re going to build a retaining wall by yourself, you’ll need to proceed with caution as it’s an advanced project that will take a decent amount of time. You’ll need specific tools. It’s the kind of project you don’t want to rush. Otherwise, you might have to retrace your steps to fix an error.
So, what steps should you take to build your retaining wall? Here are our suggestions to make the project as easy as possible.
Make It DIY Friendly
One of our top suggestions is to choose DIY-friendly materials that will make the job easier. An example of this would be what material you use for your retaining wall. You can create retaining walls from wood, bricks, natural stones, or concrete blocks.
You might have a specific aesthetic you’re going for, but concrete blocks will be your best bet because you can interlock them, and they don’t need adhesive or cement to stay put. Interlocking blocks also add extra security to the wall.
Suppose you’re insistent on a particular look with natural stone, wood, or brick. In that case, we recommend leaving your retaining wall to the professionals, as this will add layers of complexity to the project that require a lot of skill.
Follow Local Laws
You might need a building permit to build a retaining wall. It depends on how tall you want the wall to be. Every city is different, so you’ll want to check your town’s building codes and restrictions. You can call your local town hall to find out what you’re allowed to build without a permit.
If you live in that neighborhood, there might also be restrictions from your home owner’s association (HOA), so it’s a good idea to check there.
You won’t want to waste money buying more than you’ll need, but it can be hard to gauge precisely how much you’ll need before beginning a project. We recommend getting 10% more than you think you’ll need. That way, you have a little extra, but you won’t have a garage full of supplies that you won’t use.
It’s never a good idea to build a retaining wall on wet soil. The wall won’t be able to stand up with all that pressure and weight on it. For this reason, you’ll want to wait to build your retaining wall until the forecast has been clear for some time; you want completely dry ground.
Additionally, you’ll want to install a draining system for your retaining wall, complete with a drainage system, backfill, and well-draining soil. It’s a lot to think about, but it’s super important if you want your retaining wall to stand the test of time.
Backfill is the step that comes right after installing your drainage system and is critical to successfully building a retaining wall. There will be some space between your wall and the drainage system, and you won’t want to leave that open.
It’s best to fill the space with sand or pea gravel. Both serve the same purpose–letting the water filter through the drainpipe at the base of the wall. You’ll want to continue backfill as you build your wall, ensuring that everything is tightly packed.
You might already know where you want your retaining wall to go. And that’s great! We recommend measuring out your wall’s width, length, and height and marking those off in the area where the wall will be. While the plans in your head are probably well thought out, it helps to see the location physically.
This is also a great time to ensure that the string is level. If you notice the area sloping downward, you’ll need a professional to ensure the site is adequately excavated before building the retaining wall. Excavation is another tricky process that must be done correctly, or it won’t serve its purpose.
If you want to take as many steps on your own as possible, you can dig a trench and level the ground yourself. You’ll need a shovel for this part.
You’ll want to dig a deep enough trench to bury half of the block in a two-to-three-inch gravel base. You’ll likely need to dig about four to six inches into the ground to achieve this. Additionally, you’ll want the trench to be double the width of a single block.
Finally, after digging the trench, you’ll compact it and place a standard level on a two-by-four to ensure the bottom is level.
Should You Build Your Own Retaining Wall?
There’s no law stating that you can’t build your own retaining wall. If you’ve been renovating and upgrading your home and building one is accessible and doable, you can go for it. But it does require the right tools, and you need to carefully follow each step to ensure that the wall is solid and sturdy.
Are you thinking of calling for professional help? LaytonScape is here to install your retaining wall for you! DIYer or not, a retaining wall is challenging to build and takes time. Your schedule might not allow for it, or you might feel hesitant about correctly completing each step.
LaytonScape has expertise in multiple areas, including retaining walls, hardscape design and installation, garden design, putting greens, and water features. Our services come with a one-year warranty on labor and materials. We have over 40 years of experience, and we’re licensed for everything we do. Simply put, we have your back.
Have questions? Want to schedule a time for us to build your retaining wall? Contact us today!