Landscaping Retaining Walls

1. Incorporate the Wall Into Your Lifestyle Retaining walls are usually thought of as utilitarian and for merely holding back soil. But you can use them to create beautiful outdoor living spaces and incorporate multi-use spaces. 2. Make a Creative Design Retaining walls don’t have to be perfectly straight. Add a curve to dress up a boring straight wall and to add a little more texture to your landscape. You can use a garden hose or large rope to set the layout of the curve, then use a shovel to cut through the soil to follow the curve. 3. Size Does Matter Smaller retaining walls, such as those less than four feet, can be easily planned and created without worrying too much about structure. Larger walls above that height may need an engineer’s touch. Also be sure to check with local codes before starting one more than four feet tall. 4. Think Terracing From a lower grade, you’ll need to gradually step up the retaining wall to reach a greater slope. Do this in increments and plan for a slight offset for each course change. 5. Manufactured Blocks and Stones Are Easier Besides offering a consistent look, manufactured blocks and stones for retaining walls offer structural integrity and an even base with which to work. There is little guesswork in installing, plus you’ll have less work to do making sure each course is level. Be sure to color match and space out uneven colored stones and blocks for a better look. 6. Create A Solid Base Dig out your base several inches below grade and tamp/compact it to level. Add any filler, such as gravel, before adding your first stones or blocks. Remember, the base sets the tone for the entire wall, so spend a lot of time in preparing this key component. 7. Plan For Drainage A retaining wall that has a slope dropping to it will need additional drainage at the base. Add gravel and a fabric-covered drainage pipe at the base. The fabric will help prevent clogging of the pipe — a key feature as you will not want to dig out the pipe later to unclog it. 8. Keep It Level For each course of stones and blocks, be sure to check for level. This will help maintain a sturdy and balanced wall, plus you’ll keep an even and consistent look. 9. Backfill Adds Support Backfilling as you go adds support in success layers, so as you add a new course of blocks or stones, backfill to match this level. Be sure to tamp in/compact the soil as well, so you don’t have as much settling later. 10. Add Finishing Touches to the Top Add cap blocks to the top row of a block or stone retaining wall. You can add a layer of masonry adhesive to hold them in place, then back fill. Or you can backfill as you go, then add the cap. Either way, it provides a nice finished look, much like edging added to a paver patio.landscaping retaining walls 1Tools & Materials Tools Shovel Circular Saw Masonry Circular Saw Blade Chisel Drilling Hammer Rubber Mallet Speed Square Tape Measure Levels Hand Tamper Caulk Gun Garden Rake Brush Work Gloves Safety Glasses Hearing Protection Respirator / Dust Mask Back Support Materials Interlocking Retaining Wall Blocks Landscape Fabric Gravel / Drainage Aggregate Construction Adhesive Paver Base Mason Line Landscape Stakes Marking Paint Garden Soil Retaining Wall Caps (Optional) Hose (Optional) Rope (Optional) Product costs, availability and item numbers may vary online or by market. Missing anything? Shop Online Planning the Retaining Wall The blocks for this project have a locking flange — which makes the installation easy. The interlocking blocks can be used to build walls up to 28 inches high. Follow the block manufacturer’s instructions concerning wall height limits. Plan your layout. Avoid having downspouts pointed at the retaining wall and, if it’s against the house, keep soil and mulch well below the siding. Your retaining wall design will determine how you mark the area. To mark a freeform layout, use a rope or hose to outline the shape. Then use a shovel to mark the outline. For straight lines, mark the entire bed area with stakes, string and marking paint. Mark curved corners by tying a string to a stake that’s equidistant to the edge — creating a compass — and spraying the curves with marking paint. To determine how many blocks you’ll need per row, divide the total length of the wall by the length of the block. To see how many rows you’ll need, divide the ideal wall height by the height of the block — account for the first row to be half-buried. See Planning for a Block Retaining Wall for more information on estimating project materials. Before you buy materials or begin work, check local building codes and your homeowner’s association regulations to see if there are any restrictions or requirements you need to follow. A permit may be mandatory in some areas. Good to KnowBlocks can be heavy — wear a back support if necessary. You may want to enlist a helper to share the work. Consider having the material delivered. Good to KnowPurchase 10% more blocks than your estimate. The excess should account for breakage, cutting blocks and replacements for future repairs. Instructions Preparing the Foundation Step 1 With the layout marked, you can begin digging the trench. To bury the first row about halfway, dig the trench about 4 to 6 inches deep and 12 inches wide, or twice the width of the block. CautionBefore beginning any excavation, call 811 to check for underground utilities. Step 2 If the trench slopes, you’ll have to step up or down to keep the blocks level. Use a torpedo level to create steps so that each section of the wall remains level. You do not want the wall to run parallel to the slope. Step 3 Tamp down the dirt with a hand tamper and keep it level. Step 4 Fill the trench with about 3 inches of paver base, spread it with a rake, and tamp it down. Tamping the base provides a strong foundation. When it’s all level, you can begin installing the blocks. Good to KnowWet the paver base if it’s dry and dusty. Building the Retaining Wall Step 1 For row one, knock off the flanges with a hammer and chisel so the blocks will sit flat. CautionWear safety glasses and work gloves when using a chisel on the blocks. Step 2 Beginning at the end with the lowest elevation, set the first block in place and check for level side-to-side and front-to-back. Step 3 Place the next block, making sure it’s even with the first. Continue installing the first row, periodically checking for level. Good to KnowA 6- to 9-inch torpedo level is useful for checking level of individual blocks or checking level front to back. A longer carpenter’s or mason’s level — 24 inches and up — is good for checking level over several blocks. Step 4 To level the rows and keep the blocks even, fill in under low blocks with paver base or tap down high blocks with a rubber mallet. Step 5 After installing each row, sweep dirt off the tops. Step 6 To start the second row you’ll have to cut a block to stagger the joints. Mark it, and cut it with a masonry blade. CautionWear safety glasses, hearing protection and a safety mask / respirator when cutting block. Follow the saw and blade manufacturers’ instructions for use and safety. Step 7 Put the cut block in place, keeping the flange tight against the first row. Check it for level. Step 8 After installing the next few rows, you’ll need to add drainage directly behind the blocks. Lay down landscape fabric behind the wall, leaving enough excess to reach the top of the blocks. Step 9 Fill in directly behind the wall with gravel, then continue to build, by adding more rows. Step 10 For the last two rows of full blocks, apply concrete adhesive to the wall block tops, then set the next row of blocks in place. Good to KnowIf you’re adding block caps, apply adhesive to the top row of block before placing the caps. Step 11 Fold the excess fabric back and fill in with soil and plants.landscaping retaining walls 28 Retaining Wall DesignsIf you’re looking to reshape the contours of a sloped property so you can have flat areas for patios and lawns, you’ll need a retaining wall. They may be landscaping workhorses, but retaining walls can be imaginative contributors to your curb appeal. Here are some great retaining wall designs.landscaping retaining walls 3Planning the Retaining Wall The blocks for this project have a locking flange — which makes the installation easy. The interlocking blocks can be used to build walls up to 28 inches high. Follow the block manufacturer’s instructions concerning wall height limits. Plan your layout. Avoid having downspouts pointed at the retaining wall and, if it’s against the house, keep soil and mulch well below the siding. Your retaining wall design will determine how you mark the area. To mark a freeform layout, use a rope or hose to outline the shape. Then use a shovel to mark the outline. For straight lines, mark the entire bed area with stakes, string and marking paint. Mark curved corners by tying a string to a stake that’s equidistant to the edge — creating a compass — and spraying the curves with marking paint. To determine how many blocks you’ll need per row, divide the total length of the wall by the length of the block. To see how many rows you’ll need, divide the ideal wall height by the height of the block — account for the first row to be half-buried. See Planning for a Block Retaining Wall for more information on estimating project materials. Before you buy materials or begin work, check local building codes and your homeowner’s association regulations to see if there are any restrictions or requirements you need to follow. A permit may be mandatory in some areas. Good to KnowBlocks can be heavy — wear a back support if necessary. You may want to enlist a helper to share the work. Consider having the material delivered. Good to KnowPurchase 10% more blocks than your estimate. The excess should account for breakage, cutting blocks and replacements for future repairs.

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