Building Retaining Walls 101: What You Need to Know

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If your house is built upon an uneven landscape, you might want to consider building a retaining wall. Besides holding up the soil, retaining walls can also make your landscape look more sculptured and arranged. Other than that, there is a vast range of materials that you can choose to build your preferred retaining walls. From stones to concrete, all with different quality and price. However, you need to keep in mind that when building a retaining wall, you need to calculate how much soil the wall has to hold back and what material suits you best. Also, the techniques and materials will affect how long the wall will last. Therefore, it needs an immense amount of time to measure everything when building a retaining wall. Need some suggestions? Read on and check out these cool tips on building retaining walls below!

The Materials

Wood or Timber Retaining Walls

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The first material that you can use is wood. Since they are near at hand, you would not have to go that far to get them. You will only have to go to your favorite home centers or lumberyards and you can find everything you need to build your wood retaining wall. Besides, it is also affordable and DIY friendly. Another thing that you should consider when preparing the materials is choosing what type of wood you should use. If you want it to last for decades, you should go for woods that are classified for ground contact such as pressured-treated woods. You can consider choosing pressure-treated fir and pine that can last for around 40 years or redwoods. However, there are things that you should avoid like railroad ties. That is a big red flag because they are heavy and contain creosote that can damage your plants.

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Interlocking Concrete Blocks Retaining Walls

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This one is another DIY friendly material. It is light and quite easy to assemble since it does not need a mortar to connect every block. The blocks are just like a puzzle. All you have to do is arrange the blocks and make sure that it can hold back the amount of soil. Another cool thing about interlocking blocks is that they do not need a footing. However, you need to make a trench to secure the bottom part of the wall. After you build the trench, the next step that you need to do is adding gravel or crushed stone as the footing. Even though this technique is considered easy to make, you still need a guide to know what to do so that your retaining walls will last long. If you have any doubts about building it by yourself, you can always seek professional help.

Poured Concrete Retaining Walls

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Concrete is one of the most sturdy and durable materials. It is also very flexible to adjust with your house design which makes it one of the go-to materials. Poured concrete is undoubtedly stronger than blocks. It is because poured walls have no joints which make them have greater lateral strength. This means that poured concrete has the ability to hold back soil and water pressure that pushes against the wall. However, you can modify the wall into following the curve of the soil or you can build it straight up. Other than that, you can level up the concrete wall by making it look like mortared stone. However, if you feel like you do not have enough experience to do it, you can ask for professional help. Therefore, you can step up your plain wall into something more artistic and pleasing to the eye.

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Stone Retaining Walls

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Just like poured concrete, the stone is undoubtedly one of the strongest materials to build retaining walls. Although some stones are indeed a bit expensive, you can outrun it by going to your local stone yard and buy some native rocks. Other than that, stones are long-lasting materials. Unlike woods, stones cannot rot, so you can rely on them. However, building a stone retaining wall can be a bit tricky. Therefore, I suggest you leave it to professionals. Or, if you want to give it a try, there is always plenty of books to guide you. Also, you can perhaps call your handy friends to help you make it. However, if you lack experience and people to help, you can exercise by making a small stone retaining wall around the tree. After that, you can move on to the garden area.

Decorate Your Walls

After your walls are done, you can make them look prettier by adding some plants. They can also work for softening your craggy masonry. Flowers are the type of plant that adds colors to your unornamented wall. They can make your walls look livelier. There are various types of flowers and you are free to choose which one you think suits the atmosphere.

Climbing Flowers

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Climbing flowers are the ideal partners for your walls. The way the flowers grow from the root to the top and spreading on the rest of the wall can really embellish your wall. For example, you can go for roses. Some roses possess the ability to repeat bloom. It means that they can grow more than once in a season. Rosa ‘New Dawn’ is one of the roses that have the ability. The beautiful subtle pink color can be the highlight of the wall. Another example of climbing flowers is coral honeysuckle. Apart from its ability to decorate your wall, this flower is a great attention getter for hummingbirds.

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Draping Flowers

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The other type of flower that might suit your wall is the draping flower. This kind of flower is planted on top of the wall and it will grow sideways and all the way down your wall. Fairy Roses are great examples of draping flowers. The overflowing effect gives a dramatic look to your wall. Another flower that is great for retaining walls is Creeping Phlox. The star-like petals are great ornaments to your wall. They are also available in various colors like purple, pink, and white.


There are many aspects that need to be considered when building retaining walls. Now that you know some primary things about building retaining walls, you can start planning about how you prefer your walls to be. I hope with these tips, you can get inspired and build your own retaining walls.

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