How To Build a Cinder Block Retaining Wall?

In the American construction industry, cinder block retaining wall has a long and illustrious history.

Coal-burning industries dominated the American industrial sector in the late eighteenth century, all that coal produced large amounts of cinder, which people used to make cinder blocks.

Harmon S. Palmer built the first equipment capable of mass-producing cinder blocks in 1900.

Cinder blocks also became one of the primary building materials in the country due to the expansion of the Portland cement industry.

What is Cinder Block Retaining Wall?

A cinder block retaining wall is useful for controlling erosion, eliminating a difficult-to-mow slope, adding a planting bed or levelling an ideal patio space.

These systems originate in a range of colours and textures and are cost-effective, long-lasting and simple to install.

A cinder block wall is a practical choice whether you’re creating a retaining wall or more privacy.

Once your base is established, building the wall up and making turns just requires some dexterity.

This can be a demanding activity, so you might want to hire a buddy to assist you.

Purpose of Cinder Block Retaining Wall:

  • As a safety barrier.
  • To repair windows and doors.
  • To decorate the wall.
  • To distinguish the nature of the structures.

Depending on the needs of the project, cinder blocks can also be utilized for a variety of different purposes.

Due to its versatility, it is a good choice for construction projects, warehouse construction, or landscaping projects.

Steps to Build a Cinder Block Retaining Wall:

1. Pouring the Footing:

Pouring the Footing

Determine the width of your wall.

Before using the block measurements to determine the width of the wall, decide how many cinder blocks you want to use.

For instance, the width of the wall will be 16 inches if you use two 8×8 inches (20×20 cm) cinder blocks to construct it (40 cm).

2. Footing area measurement:

Footing area measurement

The footing serves as the cinder block wall’s structural base, it should be at least twice your block’s width broad.

Determine the footing area initially by measuring the width of your future wall, use a tape measure to measure the size of the footing area on the ground.

Your footing area should be between 8 feet (2.4 m) and 11 feet (3.3 m) wide.

For instance, assuming your wall is 4 feet (1.2 m) wide.

A load-bearing wall’s weight is detached over a soil area with the use of footing, the footing should be wider as your wall grows taller and heavier.

Any possible water seeping or pooling should not be present in your footers.

Make sure all of the areas are designed to drain water away from the footing.

Keep in mind to verify your compliance with regional construction codes as well.

3. Using 4 stakes, mark the footing area:

Using 4 stakes, mark the footing area

Set a stake in each of the footing area’s four corners, you can control your footing in the cramped area.

You can choose the length of the wall, but don’t forget to note 2-3 times its width so you can place the footing.

4. Mark the edge of the footing area by tying a string to each stake:

Mark the edge of the footing area by tying a string to each stake

 When pouring the footing, the string will act as a barrier to keep you inside the designated lines.

Around the edge of the space, tie a string from stake to stake, four straight lines are produced, one for each side of the wall.

5. Fill in the gaps in the lines:

Fill in the gaps in the lines: Cinder Block Retaining Wall

Clear the footing area of dirt using a shovel, 3 inches plus the length of the cinder blocks should be dug out (7.6 cm).

If your cinder block is 7 inches (18 cm) long, you should dig out the footing area to a depth of around 10 inches (25 cm), making careful to place the footing below the frost line.

6. Build rebar made of steel in your trench:

Build rebar made of steel in your trench

To bend your steel bars into an “L” shape, you will need a rebar bender.

They ought to be placed at each corner, roughly half the width of your trench on each side.

Apply pressure after the rebar benders are set up until the 90-degree bend is finished.

Additionally, every other masonry core should have rebar installed vertically and stabilized with coarse fill grout.

If your wall will sustain weight, the horizontal tie rods need to be placed at least 6 inches (15 cm) into the ground.

Use a rubber mallet to lightly tap the block to aid grout adhesion.

7. Wheelbarrow concrete mixture:

Wheelbarrow concrete mixture: Cinder Block Retaining Wall

Brand-to-brand variations in concrete mixes are uncertain, but most of them demand the addition of water.

Before beginning any mixing, make sure to review the detailed directions for your concrete. Stir the concrete mixture as directed by the mixing ratios until it is thoroughly blended.

Before mixing the concrete, put on a mask, long sleeves, long legs, gloves, and goggles.

8. Fill the footing trench with the wet concrete mixture:

Fill the footing trench with the wet concrete mixture

By tilting the wheelbarrow up starting at one corner, you can let the wet concrete drain out of it.

While carefully moving to the other end, keep pouring.  

On the opposite side, repeat.

Pour continuously until the trench is filled.

In case any concrete gets stuck to the wheelbarrow, use a hoe or a shovel with a flat nose.

With extreme care, pour the concrete.

By kicking up dirt or debris, you risk contaminating your mixture and producing a crumbly or non-binding product.

9. Use a float to float the concrete’s surface:

Use a float to float the concrete's surface: Cinder Block Retaining Wall

 Likely, the wet concrete won’t be completely flat or smooth after pouring.

Any rough or uneven concrete surfaces can be fixed by using a float.

Before continuing, let the concrete dry overnight.

Use a notched trowel to give the top of your concrete a little bit of texture.

Due to the notches created by the footer, the initial row of blocks will adhere to the footer more securely than they would to flat, smooth concrete.

10. Set up the first layer of cinder blocks:

Set up the first layer of cinder blocks: Cinder Block Retaining Wall

 Starting at one end of the wall, arrange the cinder blocks end to end until you reach the first turn in the wall.

If your wall is straight, align the initial layer of cinder blocks from one end to the other.

Place plywood spacers of 3/8 inch (0.95 cm) between the blocks.

You will need spacers for both straight and curved walls.

11. Trace around the brick’s edges from end to end:

Trace around the brick's edges from end to end

The complete chain of cinder blocks you constructed can be softly traced with a pencil.

Draw a trace around each of the four edges and note the location of the spacers.

 Next, take up and set aside the cinder bricks.

12. Spread mortar inside the first block’s specified area on the footing:

Spread mortar inside the first block's specified area on the footing

The area where the first block will be placed needs to be completely covered in mortar.

Add mortar to the space between your traced lines using a trowel. Spread the mortar to a thickness of approximately one inch (2.5 cm).

Use pre-mixed mortar or purchase a bag of mortar mix and mix it yourself by the instructions on the bag.

Typically, mixing it yourself is less expensive.

13. Place the first cinder block over the mortar:

Place the first cinder block over the mortar

After carefully positioning the cinder block over the area that has been prepared, it should be placed on top of the mortar.

Carefully press the cinder block into the mortar when it is 3/8 inch (0.95 cm) above the footing.

Mortar was used to butter the second block’s “ears”:

The two protrusions (also known as flanges) that extend from each cinder block ends from top to bottom are referred to as the “ears.”

Using a trowel to spread mortar directly on top of both flanges on one end of a cinder block is known as “buttering the ears,” and it is done in this manner.

The flanges of this block are joined in situ.

15. Push the block in the foundation:

Push the block in the foundation: Cinder Block Retaining Wall

 Blocks should be slid into one another until their mortars touch.

Push the blocks is just approximately 3/8 inch (0.95 cm) of mortar remaining.

16. Follow the same procedure, For the remaining cinder blocks in the initial layer:

Follow the same procedure, For the remaining cinder blocks in the initial layer

 On the footing, within the boundaries of the block’s lines that you drew, spread 1 inch (2.5 cm) of mortar.

The fresh block should be laid over the region immediately, then it should be placed gently on top of the mortar.

When the cinder block is 3/8 inch (0.95 cm) above the footing, push it into the mortar.

17. Periodically wipe up any leftover mortar:

Periodically wipe up any leftover mortar

Scrape off any sticking mortar from the wall’s side with your trowel.

To prevent your mortar from setting before you have a chance to fix it, repeat this procedure every few blocks.

18. Pick up a half-block:

Pick up a half-block: Cinder Block Retaining Wall

 Half blocks should be included in your brick set.

Your bricks will be laid out more unevenly and your wall will be stronger as a result.

Each row will also include a half block at the end, corner blocks are another name for half blocks.

Spread the mortar on the half-footing blocks and ear.

Put it on top of your foundation block directly and continue to construct outward from your base, applying mortar to each cinder block’s footing and ears.

19. Regularly use a level to inspect your base blocks:

Regularly use a level to inspect your base blocks

You won’t be able to construct an uneven wall if you do this!

Use a level approximately once every ten minutes to ensure that your mortar doesn’t harden before you can find and fix any issues.

Make sure to examine both vertically and horizontally.

To test the mortar’s hardness, occasionally press it with your thumb.

The mortar is almost completely set when your thumb can hardly make a dent in it.

20. Build the wall using the same method:

Build the wall using the same method: Cinder Block Retaining Wall

To erect the second tier of the wall, repeat the buttering and block-laying procedure.

Build outward from a standard cinder block as you begin the third tier.

Once your wall has reached the correct height, start each subsequent layer with a half block beginning with the fourth layer.

21. Use a sledgehammer or rubber mallet to tap the joints:

Use a sledgehammer or rubber mallet to tap the joints

The bricks will be more securely in place, check the mortar once you’ve done this to make sure it has slightly hardened but not totally.

Use a sledgehammer that weighs no more than 2 pounds (0.91 kg) if you decide to do so.

 Rubber mallets are more likely to yield consistent outcomes and less likely to harm things.

Apply light pressure to the horizontal joints first, then lightly hammer the vertical joints.

Strike both joints once more after removing the extra mortar.

22. Construct the corner with cinder blocks:

Construct the corner with cinder blocks

You can turn the corner of your wall after it is three to four blocks high.

The steps above should be followed, but to ensure that your wall stays robust, use alternate half-blocks in both directions.

Use a large level often to check that the corners are square and plumb.

 Make sure the joint line is spaced out from one block to the next.


A well-built cinder-block wall can add privacy, security, and visual interest to your landscaping.

Even though building a wall is a difficult endeavour, a motivated and responsible Diyer may complete it if equipped with these comprehensive guidelines.

Section Under: Retaining Walls

Hello and welcome to House Modify! I am Rahul and I am passionate about everything related to design, decoration and renovation. I am a serial renovator, currently working as a civil engineer. Take a look around, leave a comment and don't forget to subscribe to my emails so you don't miss out!

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