How To Build a Concrete Retaining Wall?

Although there are some significant distinctions, freestanding block wall and concrete retaining wall are essentially identical.

The slope behind a retaining wall must have a pathway for runoff.

If you want to break up a big slope, stop erosion, or just enhance your environment, learn to design concrete retaining walls using cinderblocks or landscape blocks.

We are here to help you out!

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What is Concrete Retaining Wall?

Concrete retaining walls provide both structural and architectural purposes in and around the home.

They are used in landscape design to smooth out imperfections in sloping lawns, making it easier to build garden beds, patios, walks, and stairways.

Even though their primary purpose is to reduce soil erosion, it is simpler to maintain a garden or mow the lawn when it is not on a steep slope.

Some homeowners value retaining walls, while others employ them to build seating walls around entertaining areas.

Naturally, shorter walls can be completely vertically piled but depending on the height, the overall integrity may suffer.

Traditional 8″ x 8″ x 16″ concrete blocks can be used to construct retaining walls, but DIYers may find it convenient to use manufactured split-faced blocks with pre-fabricated back-set ledges for quick assembly and a clean finish.

Tools and Materials:

  • Cement blocks and caps.
  • Shovel.
  • String and posts for marking and levelling.
  • Crushed stone.
  • Sand.
  • mixed concrete.
  • Rebar.
  • Rubber mallet.
  • Mortar or masonry adhesive.
  • Brick trowel.
  • Level.
  • Moisture barrier.

Procedure to Build a Concrete Retaining Wall:

1. Planning:


Every wall must start with proper planning. Footings underneath a wall need a clearance of 18 to 24 inches broad.

The municipal code may have an impact on the footing’s depth, so be careful to research the requirements and apply for any appropriate permissions.

The other decisions to be made during planning are as follows:

  • Height and shape of the wall.
  • Landscape obstacles such as the root systems of neighbouring trees, shrubs, or perennials may need to be moved.
  • Barriers against moisture and drainage around the wall.
  • On the property, such as a house corner or an existing landscaping feature, serve as reference points.
  • You can anchor your wall and establish its angle by basing your construction on a reliable reference point.
  • Concrete block’s dimensions.
  • Finishing the wall’s fascia, if desired.

 2. Detailed Markings:

Detailed Markings

Your wall’s path should be marked using reference points.

Marking the location of the wall about other landscaping or yard buildings is simple by using a level string line.

3. Excavation:


Excavate the ground where your footing will be as well as at least one foot behind the desired location for the wall.

You will have the space you need to add moisture barriers, stones, or other drainage measures if you remove additional soil.

Once the wall is built, you will backfill the area behind the concrete blocks with soil.

4. Set Footings:

Set Footings

To create and install the wall’s foundation, you must follow local laws when creating the footing for your wall.

Depending on the region, different wall footing construction standards may apply.

A tamped stone and sand footer may be allowed by some localities.

Others might need that you bury the footers a certain amount below grade to resist variations in the freeze-thaw cycles.

It is crucial to follow these regulations since they ensure that your retaining wall is constructed correctly and lasts for a very long period.

Many do-it-yourself believe that dry-fitting the first course of concrete blocks is valuable while you plan the footer.

Before mixing any concrete, halt if you’re a visual planner:

  • Consider the actual dimensions of the blocks when measuring and planning, and allow for a 3/8″ mortar connection between each block.
  • The blocks should be dry-fitted together over the footer you made to correct the alignment and size of the wall.
  • Snap it using a chalk line as a reference.
  • If you are putting concrete blocks directly on sand or stone, the footer needs to be strong and level.

Include horizontal lengths of rebar as reinforcement when pouring a concrete footer.

5. Set the first row:

Set the first row: Concrete Retaining Wall

Your initial row of concrete blocks can be placed right on top of the footer if you are constructing on a levelled stone and sand base.

Use a rubber mallet to level each block and place it where it needs.

Mix a small quantity of mortar to get the task started if you’re anchoring your concrete blocks to a concrete base.

On top of the mortar, the first row of concrete blocks will be set.

Many builders find it quicker and more reliable to begin by anchoring the two end blocks with mortar.

Then work your way toward the centre, while dry fitting your first row of concrete blocks.

As you move down the first row, butter the concrete blocks’ sides with mortar, and verify that each block is square and level.

Finish the installation after you have completed, levelled, and firmly installed the first course.

To create a strong, solid foundation that locks the first course to the footer, place vertical pieces of rebar every 24 inches if you’re using conventional 8″ x 8″ x 16″ cinder blocks with open cavities.

Then, fill each cavity with mortar.

6. Keep Adding Rows:

Keep Adding Rows: Concrete Retaining Wall

Using your bricks, construct the wall one layer at a time, mixing and churning mortar as you go.

Each mortar line needs to be 3/8 thick.

You might decide to use concrete glue to secure additional courses of stone, eliminating the need for mortar lines depending on the type of concrete block you use and other landscaping considerations.

Although vertical walls with rebar threaded through mortar are exceedingly sturdy, it is still preferable to back-set each course by 3/4 inches.

Some carefully made stones employ reinforcement pins between courses rather than rebar to lock blocks together.

Small walls made using masonry glue are more frequently constructed with reinforcement pins.

7. Top with Capstones:

Top with Capstones: Concrete Retaining Wall

The final components you will add to the wall once it has reached the correct height are cap blocks.

The top of the retaining wall is completed by installing these caps just like any other block.

To encourage runoff and give the wall a crucial drip edge, the caps should be slightly slanted.

Use a trowel to finish the task and fix any errors while the exposed mortar between joints is still pliable.

Before adding moisture membranes or backfill, the mortar or glue you utilized must have had time to cure.

Allow it to sit for at least a week.

It’s recommended to wait at least a month if you have more time.

8. Install a Moisture Barrier:

Install a Moisture Barrier: Concrete Retaining Wall

Add the moisture barrier once the mortar has had time to cure.

Before backfilling the cavity, apply the moisture membrane as the final component to your finished wall.

Connect to the block according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

This is the right time to install the finish if you’re also intending to add a concrete slurry moisture barrier to the front.

9. Backfill with soil and gravel:

Backfill with soil and gravel

Add a base of loose stones behind the wall to support drainage around the footer before backfilling the area with soil.

Replace the excavated dirt next, softly compacting it as you go.

To preserve the integrity of the wall, avoid pouring a whole load of soil into the desired location all at once.

The wall and nearby root systems should aid in the soil’s gradual settlement.

10. Check out the backfill settlement:

Check out the backfill settlement

Give the earth more time to naturally settle before you rush to plant along the upper cap of your new retaining wall or scatter grass seed there.

After the normal rainfall, it will probably continue to compress a few more inches.

Ideas for Concrete Retaining Wall:

Consider several DIY landscape ideas for retaining walls once you understand to construct a block retaining wall.

There are other hardscaping design ideas for incorporating retaining walls into your landscape, even though they are ideal for building raised planting beds.

  • Raised beds can be used to break up a lawn, adding new textures, colours, and planting opportunities while reducing lawn maintenance.
  • Use stair-stepped walls for multilevel plantings to elevate the standard flower bed.
  • State a patio area and include planting possibilities, build your retaining wall so that it includes nooks for a dining area, a kitchen, a fire pit, and other conversation spots.
  • To improve the usability of the environment and aid in erosion control, add terraces to a hillside or sloped yard.
  • Add a course of retaining wall blocks to a driveway, sidewalk, or path to define it or line it with raised flower beds to make it more attractive.
  • Add a raised bed to your backyard pond or other water feature.


Construct a concrete retaining wall and a raised planting bed to add architectural interest to your landscape design.

To make the most of your outdoor space, we have demonstrated to build a block retaining wall that you can provide suggestions for retaining walls for your front or backyard.

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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