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Building a Landscape Block Retaining Wall

Project Overview

Building a Landscape Block Retaining Wall

Landscape blocks are some of the best things to happen to walls in a long time. Made of precast concrete, they have textured faces that make them look a lot more like stone than concrete. They require neither footing nor mortar, and stacking them automatically creates a wall that leans into the hillside for strength. Two major types exist: lipped and pinned, the ones with lips work best for this project. The ones with fiberglass pins are used for large structural walls that require engineers and earthmoving equipment. Solid landscape blocks are durable and can easily be cut into smaller pieces to offset courses as you build your wall.

5 Steps

  1. DIG AND LEVEL A TRENCH
  2. LAY THE FIRST BLOCK
  3. LAY THE SECOND COURSE
  4. LAY A THIRD COURSE AND SOME DRAINPIPE
  5. LAY CAPSTONES
DIG AND LEVEL A TRENCH
DIG AND LEVEL A TRENCH

Step 1

DIG AND LEVEL A TRENCH

Lay out the wall with batterboards and mason's line. Dig a trench as wide and deep as the manufacturer recommends. Line the bottom with an inch or so of sand, rake it level, and compact it with a tamper. Place some of the soil you remove on the downhill side of the trench to level the slope. Line the back and bottom of the trench with landscape fabric. Unroll enough fabric to cross back over the trench later, plus about a foot more than the height of the wall. If you have to piece together lengths of landscape fabric, overlap any adjoining edges by 3 to 4 inches.

LAY THE FIRST BLOCK
LAY THE FIRST BLOCK

Step 2

LAY THE FIRST BLOCK

Some manufacturers instruct you to set the first block lip up; others instruct lip down. Follow the directions. Lay the first block and check for level from side to side and front to back. Tap with a rubber mallet to make small adjustments. Put sand under the block to solve bigger problems. Lay the remaining blocks one at a time. Make sure each block is level, checking both side to side and front to back. Put the level across the new block and at least one of its neighbors to make sure the tops of the blocks are level with each other. The spaces at the ends of the course may not require a full block. Buy smaller blocks or trim larger ones to fit.

LAY THE SECOND COURSE
LAY THE SECOND COURSE

Step 3

LAY THE SECOND COURSE

If the first course ended with a full block, begin the second course with a half block. If you started the first course with a partial block, trim a full block so it overlaps the seam below by at least 3 inches. (Check the manufacturer's instructions.) Lay a second course of blocks with their lips pointing down, over the back of the wall. Position each block so it spans a joint in the course below. As you work, verify that the blocks are level; if not, shim the low end with asphalt shingle or some landscape fabric. As you come to the end of the wall, trim a block to fit in the opening. When you begin building the rest of the wall, alternate so one row begins with a full block and the next with a half block.

LAY A THIRD COURSE AND SOME DRAINPIPE
LAY A THIRD COURSE AND SOME DRAINPIPE

Step 4

LAY A THIRD COURSE AND SOME DRAINPIPE

Not all block walls require a drainpipe, though it's never a bad idea. Lay the third course the same way you laid the second course, leaving an exit point for the drainpipe at one end of the wall. Add a bit more gravel behind the wall to create a flat surface that slopes 1 inch in k feet, and tamp the gravel. Tuck a drainpipe behind the wall. Fill in completely behind the wall to the top of the course and tamp. Continue building the wall, adding gravel and tamping after every course. When you're a course or two below the top of the wall, fold the landscape fabric over the gravel and trim off any excess.

LAY CAPSTONES
LAY CAPSTONES

Step 5

LAY CAPSTONES

The keystone shape of the blocks leaves triangular gaps between the stones, which are covered up with special blocks called capstones. Apply a bead of construction adhesive along the top of the wall and set the capstones in place. Put topsoil in the space between the landscape fabric and the top of the wall and fill what remains of the trench in front of the wall. Rake to make a flat surface and tamp.

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Project Details

Skill Level: Intermediate

Time: 5 hours

Before you start, read this »

Due to differing conditions, tools, and individual skills, The Home Depot® assumes no responsibility for any damages, injuries suffered, or losses incurred as a result of attempting to replicate any of the home improvement ideas portrayed in this website Before beginning any home improvement project, review it thoroughly to ensure you or your contractor can finish the project and if any doubts or questions remain, consult local experts or authorities. Because codes and regulations vary greatly, you always should check with authorities to ensure that your project complies with all applicable local codes and regulations. Always read and observe all of the safety precautions provided by any tool or equipment manufacturer, and follow all accepted safety procedures.

Materials

  • Landscape Blocks

Tools

  • Torpedo Level

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