How to Build Retaining Walls With Ease | Buddy’s Landscaping

How to Build Retaining Walls With Ease | Buddy’s Landscaping

What is a Retaining Wall?

A retaining wall is an engineered structure to hold back soil or water. Building a retaining wall prevents erosion, helps manage runoff, and can even be used to create attractive landscape features like terraces and staircases.

Retaining walls are often built with stone, concrete blocks, wood, timber logs, or steel sheet piling. With the proper installation process and diligent care, a retaining wall can help protect your property from the destructive effects of environmental stressors like storms and floods.

Let’s read about the necessary steps to building a retaining wall.

Pre-Installation Preparation

Installation preparation for building a retaining wall ensures the project’s success. Before beginning, check local zoning laws and regulations and obtain necessary permits. In advance, you’ll need to plan out the length, height, design, and materials required.

You will want all the necessary tools, such as a level, shovels, wheelbarrows, string or rope lines, tape measurers, a posthole digger or power auger, and a tamper or compactor.

Before installing the wall’s first block or stone layer, ensure you’ve backfilled behind it securely to avoid shifting over time and create a stable foundation for your structure. Use gravel or soil to fill any low-lying areas and tamp them down firmly.

Choosing The Type of Material for Your Retaining Wall

When deciding what type of material to use for your retaining wall, consider the size and scope of the project. The most common materials used are concrete blocks, timber, brick, or stone. Concrete block is a popular choice as it is cost-effective and easy to work with.

Timber is also an option, but it may need more upkeep over time due to its susceptibility to decay and rot. Brick can offer a timeless look but may be more expensive than other options. Stone can provide a very aesthetically pleasing result. However, it will likely be one of the most costly choices.

It could be helpful to consider whether or not you require any unique engineering solutions for your specific job site, such as geogrid reinforcement. Whichever material you choose, read up on all the necessary information and instructions before beginning your project.

Obtaining Necessary Permits and Permissions For Your Retaining Wall Build

Obtaining the necessary permits and permissions for your retaining wall build will involve research, paperwork, and cost. Depending on the project size, you may need to apply for city or county building permits and approval from any local homeowner’s association or neighborhood council.

You will also likely need a licensed engineer to provide plans and details about your project, ensuring it meets all applicable codes and regulations. Be sure to check with your local utility company to ensure no gas or electricity lines run beneath where you plan to build your wall.

These steps can help you complete your retaining wall project safely and legally.

Preparing the Area for Your Installation

Preparing the area for your retaining wall installation is an essential step in the success of your project. Before beginning, remove any existing vegetation or debris from the site and level off the surface with sand. This will help to make the installation more stable and provide a solid foundation.

Consider installing drainage paths around the wall’s perimeter to prevent water from accumulating mold or eroding at the base of your structure. You should also invest in a geotextile fabric that can reinforce soil stability behind the wall before backfilling begins.

Once you have completed these steps, you can start laying out blocks and mortar to construct your new retaining wall.

The Installation Process For Your Retaining Wall

The installation process for your retaining wall can be pretty complex and time-consuming. Depending on the type of structure you choose, excavation, backfill, drainage systems, and various other techniques may be required to ensure its structural integrity.

You must hire experienced professionals like Buddy’s Landscaping Services who will properly prep the site before beginning the installation.

They have the necessary equipment to ensure a secure build. They will provide warranty information and perform regular maintenance to preserve the wall’s aesthetics and safety. Hiring knowledgeable professionals with proven experience in installing retaining walls will help ensure your project is completed correctly and safely.

Tips and Tricks to Make the Job More Efficient

Besides what we already mentioned, there are a few tips and tricks to make your job more efficient:

  1. Use drainage pipes: Drainage is critical to building a successful retaining wall, and incorporating perforated pipes can help with this process. Set the line at least 6 inches below the surface and backfill it with gravel so that water can flow through easily.
  2. Add a capstone: Topping off your retaining wall with a capstone is a great way to improve its overall look and make it more durable. Choose a stone or block of appropriate size depending on the type of wall you’re constructing, and use construction adhesive to secure it in place.
  3. Surrounding landscape: Add attractive landscaping around the retaining wall for an improved look. Plant low-maintenance shrubs, flowers, or ground covers to enhance its appearance and create an inviting outdoor space. Be careful not to have anything growing between the stones of the wall or anything too heavy. It is best to landscape a few feet around it.

Troubleshooting Common Issues During Retaining Wall Installation

When installing a retaining wall, common potential issues could arise. Working with a professional team can help you avoid these pitfalls.

If you have not done the above steps, you can find yourself in trouble. Incorrect installation techniques, such as failing to use enough backfill material or not correctly compacting soil layers during construction, can lead to failure down the line.

Problems such as poor soil compaction, inadequate drainage, or incorrect anchoring could cause the structure to be unstable and eventually fail. Furthermore, if the materials used for construction are not chosen carefully, they may not withstand the forces exerted by soil pressure and water saturation. Improper installation techniques can lead to shifting of the wall, which can cause cracking.

Finally, improper installation techniques can lead to shifting of the wall, which can cause it to crack, collapse, or settle unevenly. 

Post-Retaining Wall Installation Maintenance

After installing your retaining wall, it is crucial to be mindful of ongoing maintenance. Depending on the type of material you choose for your retaining wall, particular steps may be necessary for proper upkeep and longevity.

For example, suppose you use stone or masonry materials. In that case, you should periodically inspect them for any cracks or damage that can occur over time due to temperature changes or other external pressures.


Tip for preserving and maintaining the retaining wall

Keep an eye out for vegetation growing around or between the stones, which can put extra pressure on the walls and weaken their structural integrity.

Tip for cleaning and sealing  the retaining wall

To maintain a beautiful aesthetic for your outdoor space, regularly clean off dirt and debris from the surface of the stones and apply a protective sealant to keep the material from becoming discolored. By caring for your retaining wall, you will see it stand firm and look great for years.


A retaining wall can be a DIY project, but as you can see, it is a complicated and time-consuming process. Installation preparation, choosing suitable materials, having the necessary tools, getting permits, leveling the ground properly, post-maintenance, and possible problems are all factors to consider before beginning the project.

If you live in Calabash, North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Conway, or the surrounding areas, call Buddy’s Services or get your free quote now. Our professional team of landscapers has many years of experience installing retaining walls.

Buddy's Services, LLC, Junk Removal, Calabash, NC