Stone Retaining Wall Construction Tips

Building a stone retaining wall yourself can be a fun and rewarding job if you have the right information, tools, materials, and expertise. If you start the job without all of that, you may end up in a rut without knowing what to do next. Read on for tips on constructing a retaining wall and on making it an easy process.

Materials to Use

Firstly, understanding that retaining walls can be built from a variety of materials is very important. You can build walls out of natural stone using the dry-walling or dry-stack method, timbers, or concrete and landscaping blocks. Choosing the material is a matter of personal choice except if you’re building a terrace, for which a dry-stacking approach is not advised. Using mortar-less dry-walling methods is one of the most popular ways of constructing a retaining wall. Selecting the material (the stones) to use for this type of construction is another important step. Make sure you select stones that have at least 2 flat sides. It will add to structural strength after construction. Also, knowing that the heavier the stones you use, the more stable your retaining wall will be is very important.


Digging a trench for the retaining wall can be tricky. It involves extensive measurements and calculations. Make sure you have the right measurement tools for the job and patience to sit down and make accurate calculations before you start building. Keep in mind that the base of the retaining wall you are building must be at least half the height of the wall you wish to build. Without applying this, you can not expect your wall to be stable. Also, knowing that the stones for a retaining wall will be set in layers in really important. To keep the layers stable, make sure you use a skimming motion to dig the soil at the base so as not to make the soil loose. Loose soil will not provide a stable base and horizontal and vertical layering of stones over the soil will never have the stability required for a long-lasting retaining wall. Also, check your local codes before you start the digging process. In some places, a permit is required before digging can be done.

Wall Structure

It is imperative that you ensure your wall has the right structure for stability. You will be following a layered course approach when applying the stones for your retaining wall construction. Make sure that the joints between the stones of one layer are not lined in with the joints of the layer beneath it. You want the weight of the stones to push each other down for stability. It will not be possible if their joints are lined with each other vertically. 


Usually, the tools and materials you need will include a level and string, shovel, mason’s hammer, stakes, and a carpenter’s level. If you decide you want to plant shrubs around the completed retaining wall for added stability and beauty, you can do that too.