A faux stone retaining wall is a great way to level off a sloped section of your property to make it more usable. This is a highly physical job but if you think you’re up to the challenge, all you need is a few yard tools and the stones of your choosing.
Depending on the length and height of the retaining wall the job could take anywhere from a couple of days to a week. For the purpose of this article we’ll just assume that the wall is 10 feet long by 3 feet high, which would take one person two days to build.
Step 1 – Dig the Trench
The first step in building a retaining wall is to dig the trench, which can be done using the garden spade. Make the trench deep enough so that the first row, or course, of stones is completely below the grade. This helps lock the first row in place and evenly distribute the weight of the rows above. Use the flat-bladed shovel to level the trench and remove any loose dirt. It’s a good idea to lay a thin layer of sand to ensure a level sub base. A quick once-over with the hand tamper will give you a good firm level base to work with.
Step 2 – Install the Stones
The next step of installing the individual stones is made easy thanks to the interlocking-edge feature that most faux stone manufacturers provide. However, it’s crucial that you make sure the first course is perfectly level. Press the stone firmly into the sand subbase, checking it with your level. Small adjustments can be accomplished by tapping on the stones with a hammer to level them off. Use the stakes and masonry string to ensure a straight run.
Step 3 - Install the Top Cap
When purchasing the stone among the materials was a flat top cap that will serve as the last course of your retaining wall. Use your level to install these flat stones on top of the previous course utilizing the interlocking edges. This step is the easiest, especially if you’ve successfully completed installing a level first course.
Step 4 – Backfill the Retaining Wall
First, lay the landscape fabric along the area around the wall and then begin filling the area with either sand or top soil. One technique that is useful in backfilling is installing the material in 12-inch layers, using the hand tamper to compact the material in between lifts. This will give the area immediately behind the retaining wall added stability and help prevent settling and shifting.
Installing a stone retaining wall can be a challenge but well worth the effort when completed. It will add an attractive feature to your landscape while also controlling runoff from rainwater.