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Building Terracing Retaining Walls

Updated on September 28, 2010


 If you live on a hillside or have a hillside that comes down to your yard, you are probably sick of all the debris and eroded soil that keeps washing  into your yard and makes a pool every time it rains.  You can drastically change, not only the look and feel of your landscaping, but get rid of the pond in your yard once and for all by constructing terraced retaining walls.

Terraced Retaining Walls

Terraced retaining walls are a set of walls that are designed to hold back the earth on a hillside, as well as control drainage down the hill.  The walls are typically about 4 feet tall and step back from each other between 6 and 8 feet.  They can be closer, but there should not be less than 4 feet of space between the walls.

Building Materials

Terraced walls can be built with natural or manufactured retaining wall block.  Natural stoen walls tend to be stronger, if built correctly and give the landscape a natural look.  If you are looking for a more clean and contemporary look, then using manufactured retaining wall block is a better choice.  In either case, one material that has to be used behind the walls is geotextile wrap.  The geotextile wrap allows water to move through the fabric without letting the soil move through it.  The geo textile is laid behind the wall and filled with 3/4 inch clear gravel.  The geotextile is then wrapped up like a burrito (best analogy I can come up with) and covered with dirt.  This allows the walls to drain properly.  If you have a significant amount of water moving through this area, also install 6 inch perforated drain tile to divert a large portion of the water behind the wall to a location that does not affect the integrity of the landscaping or other buildings.

Retaining Wall Building Tips

Use heavy stones or blocks.  The heavier, the better.  The best retaining walls are made out of out croppings (blasted limestone chunks that weigh between 500 and 1,000 lbs) and flat wall stone.  Wall stone is snapped in rectangular sections, but is very heavy (about 50-80 pounds per piece) and can be placed however they need to be in order to form a strong wall. 

If you have 90 degree corners, make sure you overlap the corner pieces so that each piece locks the bottom piece in place.  Use construction adhesive on these corners for extra protection.

Never allow seams to line up.  Seams should always be in the center of the next piece below it.

Always bury the bottom stone/block.  This anchors the wall into the ground, keeping it from sliding forward.

A terraced retaining wall system will help you control your water and add value to your home with more usable space, and a beautiful, functional area.


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