5 Tips For an Everlasting Block Retaining Wall

You know what it feels like when you get roped into a simple project but then suddenly realize that your neighbor has bitten off more than they can chew?

Well, this weekend warrior is out in full force ordering materials and buying work gloves to build the beautiful retaining wall….only to find that their initially “little” project has become an undertaking.

Two years later, their marvelous block retaining wall was still leaning over or unfinished because of how much time had passed since they started building.


Building a retaining wall will always be part of your life, but you don’t have to waste time and money on mistakes that other people made. Try these 5 tips for an Everlasting Block Retaining Wall take and build the block retaining wall of your dreams.

1.0 – Water is Your Block Retaining Walls Enemy

Crews everywhere have seen it over and over again. The water from a hose can create sudden fractures in your block retaining wall, causing the canyon-like erosion that’s forever changing your view.

Make sure you’re paying attention to where water will flow when building or renovating – after all, even before construction begins we recommend that you explore how current rainwater flows so there aren’t any surprises later on!

retaining wall block wall with bad drainage
Image courtesy of https://cornerstonewallsolutions.com/

2.0 – It’s All About the Base

A lot of people overlook the importance of a good base for their retaining wall and end up with problems down the line. You want to make sure you take into account what type ground your building on, since there are often hidden water sources that can only be found once it’s too late if not planned properly from day one. It may seem like extra work now but planning ahead will save headaches in later years!

3.0 – Organic is Bad

Organic may be good for your belly, but it certainly isn’t good for a retaining wall’s structure. Organic top soils will break down over time and create more problems in the life of your retaining wall. However, you’ll need organic soil at some point when building a planter or growing plants on the ground-level garden (for example). BUT during construction steer clear from using any type of topsoil that could contain pesticides which can harm nearby wildlife habitats as well as affect human health if ingested by insects crawling up through the dirt walls into homes!

Organic is not always helpful when doing constructing work with concrete masonry units like mortarless block walls because they’re made out of materials containing no organic waste whatsoever to help them.

Organic Topsoil which is not good for base and infill materials when building a retaining wall

4.0 – Engineering

It’s unfortunate, but a common problem: the cost of hiring an engineer can over shadow the actual importance. Why? The engineer is your best safeguard against mistakes and mishaps with retaining walls in general. Every yard location and geographical region has its benefits and disadvantages that have to be taken into consideration when designing any wall based on ground you’re working on; this isn’t just for visual appeal or safety either! A geotechnical engineer will know how to take these factors into account so as not to misstep too early down the road while also providing customers with cross section design sketches before construction begins–customized by soil type/area specifics firstly then secondly their desires for aesthetics (i.e., height).

4.5 Measure Twice, Cut Once

String lines and measurements are the backbone of any retaining wall. Keeping your outline straight is important to getting a level, well-designed system. Use string lines to measure out every section for accuracy in all that you do!

5.0 – Geogrid is NOT Snow Fence

In fact, even the Great Wall of China was designed this way using reed mats layer after layer after layer ….you get my drift.

There is a specific type of material that can be used for retaining walls, drainage gravel and fill areas. Though it may look like your average North American snow fence, geogrid has been specifically designed with tensile strength to hold these items in place instead. It’s sole purpose is not to keep the snow away from your wall but rather help you maintain them by keeping layers compacted back into place.

Geogrid product to help hold earth in place.
Jordan Stambaugh is a main contributor to USA Retaining Walls. He runs Green Fox, a digital marketing company for outdoor contractors. From the Pacific Northwest and an Eagle Scout, Jordan has great appreciation for the outdoors and natural spaces. He believes in sustainability through design and choices in the building process.

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