Retaining walls are not just for aesthetics, as they have a significant and crucial role in your home. A retaining wall can

1. hold the soil behind them;

2. add curb appeal;

3. provide more usable flat space for you;

4. manage your water runoff by slowing down the flow of rainwater; and

5. prevent erosion.

Your retaining wall can be built using different materials, such as wood timbers or bricks. But on this guide, you will know how to build a retaining wall with blocks and build a retaining wall on a slope. A heavy retaining wall block does its job at keeping the soil at bay perfectly by relying on its weight. And a retaining wall on a slope helps a lot to prevent erosion.

Here is your complete guide for wall building!

Can you build a retaining wall yourself?

Of course, you can! However, such a wall installation project may demand too much attention and time, so if you have a lot of time to do the retaining wall yourself, you are good to go! Here are some tips you can read if you are pushing through with this DIY retaining wall.

If you are aiming to have something lightweight, you can go for the small garden walls. They are very light since they are less than 8 inches high, so the blocks you will be using will be smaller and easy to move.

On the other side, if you are eyeing tall walls, you can go for a more enormous retaining wall about 3 feet tall. They are affordable to build, and the materials are highly accessible; this is why it is the most common DIY project to homeowners.

However, if you want taller walls higher than 3-feet, you might need to get building permits and talk to a professional structural engineer.

Materials and tools for building a retaining wall

Your materials will depend on your chosen type of wall and the total of money you will spend. This guide will totally help you with your wall projects.


  • Metal rake: this is used for leveling out the base rock.
  • Round point shovel: When you are a plant person and have plants to move, you will need this tool for digging and starting a footing.
  • Square blade shovel: Helpful for putting in gravel or sand.
  • Digging bar: You need to excavate or break up soil, rock, or concrete, and a digging bar is your friend in this kind of situation.
  • Level: Knowing if your work area and retaining wall rows are leveled is a must, so you will need a level for it.
  • Measuring tape: It is used to measure the site you will work on. Getting the measures correctly will help you build your retaining wall properly.
  • Caulking gun: This is an optional tool; however, this item will be helpful if you want to stick to finishing caps.
  • Hammer: It helps with driving stakes into the ground.
  • Hand tamper: It is used to compress ground and gravel.
  • Hose or rope: You are going to use this for outlining the shape.
  • Safety gear: To protect yourself from any unexpected accident, you should use safety glasses, gloves, a dust mask, ear protection, and knee pads.
  • Retaining wall blocks
  • Paver base: This will guarantee that your retaining wall has an excellent foundation.

How to build a retaining wall with blocks?

Planning is a critical step to building your desired block retaining wall as it has different material options you will have to choose from. For instance, you can opt to have a simply stacked-together type of retaining wall block, a block system with pins, or an interlocking lip block. You must plan your layout thoroughly to avoid future troubles.

If you are considering building your retaining wall blocks, here are the steps you should follow:

Step 1: Marking the area

If you have a specific design for your attractive wall, you must properly mark the area based on your preferred design. You can use a rope or hose for outlining and a shovel for marking the outline.

Step 2: Determining the length

To figure out how many wall blocks you will be needing, dividing the total length of the wall by the length of the block is necessary. And to know the number of rows you will be building, the ideal wall height must be divided by the height of the block.

Step 3: Work on the first row of the block

You have already marked the layout, right? The next step after that would be digging the trench to bury the first row halfway. It is recommended to dig the trench in a depth of 4 to 6 inches of base material, while a width of 12 inches of space for the blocks.

Step 4: Adjust for the sloping ground.

A way to fix a sloped trench is by either stepping upward or downward to level the blocks. To create steps, use a torpedo level. This will also help to keep each section of the wall at the same level.

Step 5: Tamping down dirt

Remember that you must keep the ground level. To maintain that, you must tamp down the dirt by using a hand tamper, and it also helps with keeping the ground level.

Step 6: Paver Base

You will fill up the trench with around 3 inches of paver base, and then make sure you spread it evenly and carefully with a rake. You can wet your paver base if it gets dry.

With the help of a paver base, it ensures that you have a strong foundation. Carefully install the paver base because an improperly installed one may cause cracks in the future.

Step 7: Prepare the first row, and level the first block

Working on the first row requires a chisel and hammer. Those tools will be used for knocking off the flanges, so each block will be flat. After flattening out, the next step will be setting the first block in place. To do that, you must start at the end of the trench at the lowest elevation. Always check for level.

Please be guided that you might need some eye protection such as safety glasses, and you might also need work gloves every time you use a chisel.

Step 8: Lay the first row blocks

If you are done installing the first block, continue with the following wall blocks. Make sure to keep every block even and level with each other. Filling in under a low block with a paver base or a high using a rubber mallet is recommended to keep the rows leveled.

Step 9: Prep for the second row

Ensure to clean the first row’s top first before proceeding to set the second set of blocks. Starting with the second row, you will need to cut a block in half. Masons usually use the running bond brickwork pattern for it makes the wall stronger.

Step 10: Begin with the second row

Start with placing the cut block to keep the flange tight. And then place the subsequent blocks. Always make sure to check it for level. 

Step 11: Landscape fabric

If you are done placing the blocks and checking each for level. You will now be adding drainage behind the block. It is recommended to cover the back of the wall with landscape fabric before starting to backfill as it gives more strength to the wall.

Step 12: Finishing touches

Start with filling in the gravel behind the wall. Ensure that you have a solid gravel base to guarantee your wall’s stability. And then, apply concrete adhesive to the last two rows to set the next row of blocks in place. Lastly, fold the excess fabric and install the backfill now, and fill the remaining space with topsoil so you can add plants.

How to build a retaining wall on a slope?

Are you longing for a more usable flat space behind your home, but it happens to be sloped? Then, a retaining wall would be your solution. Here are the steps you might follow if you are experiencing this problem:

Step 1: Burying the bottom row

As the foundation and support, your first or bottom row has to be buried. With that, you will be digging a trench to fit the first brick and the 6 inches of gravel and sand.

You can now proceed to place the gravel and sand in the trench. 

Step 2: Placing bricks

In placing bricks, make sure to always check for level. You must note that your first row must be even, so you will not be having trouble setting the following rows. And also to make it more secure and more robust.

Step 3: Manage the water flow

To control the flow of the water, you have to bury the french drain with a fabric cover in the gravel behind the wall. It is a way to manage and control the water, so it won’t be stuck and make the dirt heavy, which causes the wall to be pushed out.

Step 4: Finishing touches

After all the steps above, and after laying all the rows of brick- flat and even, you may now proceed to decorate to add more wall style. You can put plants or anything to make it more appealing.

Need more help? Call an expert

If this guide still confuses you, and even after watching all retaining wall installation videos available on YouTube still makes you more confused. Then, we suggest you call a construction expert. With a retaining wall construction expert, you are not only paying for the guaranteed and secured work but also for the experiences they have gone through just to build high-quality retaining walls that last. A DIY project can save you a lot of money; however, hiring an expert will definitely keep you from more trouble in the future.

Read Next: 13 Practical and Awesome Retaining Wall Design Ideas