How to Build a Retaining Wall
Scenic walls serve many functions, from creating wind shielding and boundaries to accentuating the landscape and retaining sloping ground.
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Pat Simpson and Jodi Marks from Fix It Up! transform a deteriorating wall into a handsome and functional landscape feature.
self-stacking concrete blocks (stone, wood and brick are other options)
power or hand tamper
1. Always practice safety and be sure to call before you do any digging. The construction for this wall begins by first removing an existing wooden wall. If this is the case for you, first loosen the boards with a hammer. Remove the wood.
2. You can loosen and remove boards by using one of the boards as a lever to pry the wood slats.
3. For this project, self-stacking concrete blocks are used. A ledge exists so the blocks can be stacked and the blocks lean back into the slope to provide a good anchor. To determine how much material you'll need, measure for the length of the wall, the height of the wall and then determine the size of the block to use. Your local home improvement center will aid you in determining the final figure.
4. Using a measuring tape, record the length of the wall, then the length of the individual block. Divide the length of the wall by the length of the block to determine the amount of blocks you'll need for one row. Next, measure for the height of the wall. Divide the total height of the wall by the height of the block to determine the number of rows you'll need. To determine the total number of blocks you'll need, multiply the number of blocks per row by the number of rows.
5. Dig out the area with shovels, then level and smooth the area with a rake. Use a level to determine the common height of the bed. Once the level has been determined, fill the trench with four inches of crushed gravel and rake the gravel smooth. The crushed gravel adds a drainage zone that allows water to flow down and out.
6. Use a power tamper (or hand tamper) to tamp the area. Check for level and add or remove gravel as necessary. Add a block to the area to check for the seating level of the wall. If the level is satisfactory, you are ready to proceed.
7. Beginning at a wall corner, place the first course of concrete blocks top side up on the crushed rock with the front lip facing up and towards the front of the wall. Check the level and alignment of all blocks as you go along. Set blocks with a rubber mallet.
8. Lay the corner blocks at the sides where the wall meets. Tap the blocks in place. Fill the concrete cores with crushed gravel.
9. Slip a drain cloth over the drainage pipe to screen out sediment and keep the pipe from clogging. Install the drainage pipe behind the blocks and run the pipe to where it can exit the ground.
10. Remove all debris from the top of the base course of rock with a broom. Stack the next course of blocks on top of the base course. Check level of second course and then fill these block cores with gravel. Backfill with gravel behind the wall to cover the drainage pipe. Finish with soil.
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