How To Build a Stone Retaining Wall
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How To Build a Stone Retaining Wall

Building a retaining wall yourself can save you a significant amount of money in labor, as well as give you some pride, knowing that you built it with your own hands. Retaining walls used to be much more difficult to build, often requiring mortar to hold the bricks together. It added much more labor, difficulty to make repairs and it made a mess. Fortunately, retaining walls can now be built without mortar through the use of interlocking stone blocks.

Building a retaining wall adds a decorative flare to your property. Not only does it add esthetic appeal to your home, but it allows you to make raised areas for things such as flower gardens, vegetable gardens, and topiary displays. At first glance, it may seem like a difficult task but with proper preparation and a little patience, you will soon be looking at your brand new landscape wall, built by your own hands.

Things You'll Need

3 1/2" stone chisel

3 lb drilling hammer (also known as a mini sledgehammer)

rubber mallet

Carpenter's level

Mason's line

Line Level

Flat-pointed shovel

hand tamper


safety glasses

Interlocking retaining wall blocks

matching capstones (optional)

porous landscape fabric

leveling sand

wood stakes

Step 1.

Plot out the area where you wish to build your wall and mark it off using the wooden stakes and the mason's line.

Step 2.

Begin digging the trench for the foundation. The trench should be around 4 inches deep. The width of the trench will depend on the width of the blocks you choose.

Step 3.

Use the hand tamper to compact the soil at the bottom of the trench.

Step 4.

 Add approximately 1-2 inches of leveling sand to the bottom of the trench and tamp down.

Step 5.

Set your first block into the trench and use the carpenter's level to check the level. A level base makes the whole  process go much smoother as well as much faster.  If the block is not level, use the rubber mallet to adjust the level of the block.

Step 6.

Lay the subsequent blocks to form the foundation, checking the level as you go.

step 7

Lay one block on top each corner of the foundation layer and stretch your mason's line from the top of one block to the other.

step 8

Clip the line level to the mason's line and make sure the foundation is level. If not, make the necessary adjustments to the foundation row.

Step 9

Cut one of the blocks in half by first scoring it using the chisel and the drilling hammer and then splitting it on the scoring line. The reason for this is to allow you to stagger the row above the foundation row.

step 10

Lay the half-block at one end of your wall and continue laying the blocks for the second row. Repeat the 1/2 block end piece process for each even row of your wall.

Step 11

Lay the capstones on the top level once your wall has reached the desired height.

Step 12

Place landscape fabric along the backside of the wall. This is  to assist in preventing soil from seeping through any of the spaces in the block.

 Step 13

Fill the new space with soil and the plants of your choice.

Additional resources:

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