How to build a retaining wall

Updated February 21, 2017

Retaining walls are built to prevent soil from being lost due to erosion or displacement down a slope. Once built, it can also be used as a beautifying feature in a garden. Depending on the site, different types of material can be used to make a retaining wall. This includes natural stone, wood, bricks and mock stone bricks. Follow the steps below to build a retaining wall.

Identify the site where the retaining wall is to be constructed.

List the building material with which you want to make the retaining wall. If you have several pieces of natural stone lying around in the yard, you may utilize it instead of buying bricks from a store.

Clear the building site of debris, grass or any other material ****tered on the ground. Use a rake, if necessary.

Measure the length of the wall with a measuring tape. Note that the height of the retaining wall should be equal to or less than half its base.

Use a hosepipe or a piece of string to mark the wall boundary.

Get a shovel to dig the marked area to a depth of about 1 foot. When you have dug almost up to the desired depth, simply scrape the loose soil. Continued digging will leave a loose foundation.

Spread a uniform layer of gravel to prevent the water-logging problem.

Build a layer of natural stone, bricks or interlocking blocks. Make sure they are close fitted. When using interlocking blocks, fill concrete holes with gravel after arranging a layer. In case you are using bricks, secure them with mortar.

Use a rubber mallet to align the units in place.

Fill holes in interlocking blocks with gravel. This is not required if bricks or natural stones are used.

Add several layers until the wall is of the desired height.

Pour concrete through the concrete holes of the blocks used in the topmost layer. This is not required if bricks or natural stones are used.

Add further stability to the soil by planting a suitable plant at the base of the retaining wall.


Check local laws in cities that require citizens permission for building a retaining wall. Specific materials used to make retaining walls may be available in some markets. Verify its suitability at your site before buying. Steep slopes can be better tamed by building multiple retaining walls to form terraces, each terrace about 3 feet high. If using natural stone, use chicken wire to hold it in place.


Retaining walls measuring more than half the base are unstable.

Things You'll Need

  • Rake
  • Shovel
  • Gravel
  • Hosepipe
  • Measuring tape
  • Mortar
  • Mallet
  • Concrete mix
  • String
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