How To Build A Retaining Wall For A Flower Bed – Within the last year or two I was able to complete my first two retaining walls, and I just love how these turned out. In this tutorial I will show you how to build a simple retaining wall. My first project was a fire pit and patio combo and the second involved replacing a rotting wood retaining wall. Stone retaining walls really add a touch of elegance to your outdoor landscaping projects.
City walls come in really handy if your yard has sloping terrain. Or if you want to create an attractive border around something. They can also be used to create steps or terraces of your sloping garden, so you can plant shrubs or flowers. The projects I will show you were very simple and the walls were no taller than 1.5 feet. For much taller walls (more than 3 feet), you should consult with a builder, engineer, or professional, especially if you have safety concerns. It’s one thing when people walk on the surface held back by the retaining wall, but it’s another thing when you park a car or piece of heavy equipment.
How To Build A Retaining Wall For A Flower Bed
Building the retaining walls involves some manual work. Make sure you have a strong back and are physically able to handle heavy blocks. Consult a doctor if you have physical limitations that are holding you back. I also recommend wearing gloves and safety glasses. Put on a lifting belt and don’t forget to lift with your legs.
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Consult with your local building inspector or code authority to ensure you comply with any applicable rules or regulations. And don’t forget to call your underground utility locator service before digging up the ground.
What I’m going to show you is a dry, non-mortar method of building a retaining wall. I will use solid masonry blocks and no concrete will be used.
I bought my blocks and all the support materials from Home Depot. But shop around at other home improvement stores to get the best price. Another great resource that helped me was a book by Black & Decker called The Complete Guide to Concrete & Masonry
I wish I could be more specific about the amounts of materials you need, but it really depends on the size and scope of your project. The way I estimated my material was to first draw the project on paper. Then I calculated the dimensions of my project. I visited the store and decided on the blocks I wanted to use. Using the dimensions of the blocks, I matched them to the dimensions of my project. This method has come very close to me. I may have made one or two more trips back to the store, but that was because I was a block or two short.
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Check with the store and see if there is any literature or instructions with the blocks you purchased. If so, I recommend following these instructions on mine as it relates to the specific blocks you are installing. The store’s instructions can also show you how to estimate the number of blocks to estimate your project size.
Below I show you a picture of what I have done on some projects. Again, the main point of this tutorial is to give you a general idea of the steps to take and the materials to be used. Your project can and probably will differ a bit from mine. And this will be based on the specific type of blocks you are buying.
The photos above show how I started the retaining wall for my fire pit/patio combo. I started by digging a trench 6 inches below my block height, which was 6 inches. So the total digging depth was about 12 centimeters. I then filled in crush/run and compacted the first 6 inches as my base. I dug the trench about 6 to 8 inches wider than the block width. I placed the blocks so that the outside face was next to the trench wall. That left about a 6 inch gravel buffer behind my blocks to help with drainage. You can get the crush/run in bags from your home improvement store. The ones I bought say patio/paver base, but don’t confuse that with sand paver base. Crush/Run is fine-medium gravel material.
The depth and extent of the footings/foundation may vary depending on the area you live in, the frost line, the application of your retaining wall and/or any code requirements that apply. Some of these may not be so critical since we are using a dry/non-mortar method, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
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The Mattock is my goto tool for digging. It is very convenient, because one side cuts the roots of the tree and the other helps to dig a nice hole. Be sure to call your underground utility locator service before digging. I did this for my project and had to carefully dig around my cable TV wire.
I used the metal tamp to get my crush/run layer nice and compact. I then took a long level to make sure the compact crush/run level was. It is very, very important that you get this first layer of blocks as level as possible. Of course, they are the foundation for the whole wall.
If you have the blocks with the tab or the flange, some books recommend turning the first layer of blocks upside down with the flange facing out. I didn’t do that for mine. But my first layer of blocks were sunk so that the surface of the block was almost level with the undisturbed ground level.
Once I had compacted and leveled my crush/run foundation, I began placing my first layer of blocks. You want to take your time with this first layer. Make sure each block is level in both directions. And then check to make sure the surface of each block is flush with the adjacent blocks.
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Once I got the first layer in place, the whole project became extremely easy. I just started laying the next layer of blocks. The container blocks I used have a tab that runs along the edge of the back. The tab catches or locks behind the blocks below. As you add layers, the blocks will take a steep stair-step-slope formation. You’ll also want to alternate the position of each layer so that the block in the top position is centered above where two blocks below meet (see pictures to understand what I’m describing)
My block walls are only about 3 to 4 blocks high, but I chose to run some 4 foot rebars through every other block. A sledge hammer or 5 pound hammer comes in handy for driving the rebar. Again, make sure you mention your underground utility location service. Adding the rebar is probably way more than necessary, but I tend to overbuild things. I also went ahead and filled the block holes with crush/run and pushed it in there.
Once I finished my wall, I placed a layer of silt fence material along the inside surface of the retaining wall. Then I filled with dirt and more crush/run for the terrace surface. The mud fence material will prevent the mud from seeping through my block wall and ruining the look.
The last thing left is to add a finishing layer of capstones. This layer will cover the holes of the blocks and give the wall a nice look. For this layer I used a caulk gun and several tubes of block glue. I suggest laying out the capstone blocks the way you want them before gluing. You can get a little creative here with how you arrange the capstones.
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Make sure the surface is clean and use a liberal amount of glue. With my body weight, I pressed down on these capstones to help the glue get better coverage. It takes a while for the glue to dry. Read the instructions that come with your glue.
Above are some pictures of my latest retaining wall project. In this case, my old wooden retaining wall started to break apart. So I took up the wooden wall and built a new block wall around it.
And here are some pictures of my finished fire pit and flagstone patio. Check out my fire pit and flagstone patio tutorials.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Be sure to subscribe to my blog (see sidebar) to get free updates or follow me on my Facebook page. Feel free to comment or ask questions.
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Hi, I’m Stephen S Johnson, the man behind Four Oaks Crafts. I have been a woodworker for over 25 years now. Almost every weekend you can find me in my shop working on a wood turning project, a carving project or whatever my family has asked me to do. Over the years, Four Oaks Crafts has become a resource for beginning and experienced woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts with
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