When we moved into our home one year ago, we immediately put on our home makeover list to build a retaining wall in the front yard. Well, with little nugget now on the way we’ve decided to try and knock out as many projects as we can this summer before we push it off for…say another ten years, while babies become the priority.
We had planned on watching ads and seeing where we could find the best deals throughout the summer. Well, Memorial Day weekend Lowe’s happened to be running a great sale on the exact retaining wall blocks we had been looking at so we jumped on it! We read different tutorials online about how to build retaining walls and then just went with our gut and started destroying and building. Well, Justin did. This pregnant lady sat in a camping chair and supervised all weekend and shoveled dirt when she could.
I am so excited with how it turned out and love driving up to our home after work each night now to a welcoming, clean, classy looking front garden space. I love the difference! Here’s how we did it…
Supplies to make your own retaining wall:
- Paver sand
- Retaining wall blocks (we used 100 of these blocks from Lowe’s and knew we could return what we didn’t use)
- Concrete adhesive (optional)
Let’s do it!
When our housing development was built 16 years ago I think they bought the cheapest edging stones possible and concreted them into the ground. So, before we could even start building the wall, my poor husband had to break it all apart and then get all the little concrete pieces out of our garden bed.
Hopefully, you won’t have to do that before you can start building your wall! This was what it looked like after he finished destroying the concrete.
So, let me show you how to do it.
1 | Shape
Decide where you want your retaining wall. We went with the general area that was previously there but widened it a bit on the edge furthest from the house to make more of a dramatic effect with three stacks of bricks. You can place one layer of stones around the edge so you can get an idea of where it will go and so that the bricks start and end where they should.
2 | Trench
Once you have your placement decided, take your shovel and dig a trench around the area.
You’ll want to dig deep enough so that the bottom layer of stones are between the dirt and grass edge rather than just sitting on top. This will give your wall a more sturdy base. We actually used a small rototiller to help break up the dirt because man the dirt was tough and helped save a lot of time for digging the trench deep enough, but that certainly isn’t necessary.
3 | Measure
Once the trench was dug, we used some wood scraps we had in the garage and crafting twine – of course, because what else would a crafter have quickly on hand to use – and mapped out how many stones high we would need for the wall to be level. From there we measured down how far the bottom row of stones needed to go.
This is the best picture I have to explain it, but if you are building the wall on a slope, you’ll need to measure out where the stones will go so that your wall will be level. As you can see, the stones closest to the walkway only have two levels. Then we had to make a step down where we had three levels, and then again around the tallest point we had to step down again for four tall.
4 | Lay Your Base
Once you get the path figured out put a layer of fine paver sand down so the stones have something to settle into so the wall is sturdy. This doesn’t have to be a thick layer. About an inch deep will do. This is the paver sand we used and it worked great!
5 | Level
After that, go crazy with your level and put down your base row making sure each stone is level along the whole way. Each stone needs to be level side to side and front to back. This may seem tedious but it’s better to level out as you go rather than having to redo it once you finish if they don’t even out.
If you choose to use concrete adhesive, be sure to have it ready once you start stacking to hold it all in place. Honestly, we didn’t use any to cut down on costs and we haven’t had any problems. Once we filled the bed with soil, the soil helped to hold the wall in place and make it secure.
Update: Three years later and it’s still holding strong without an adhesive.
For less than $200 and a few days of grunt labor, I’d say this was a super DIY success! I am so very excited with how this wall turned out and how drastic of a change it made. First impressions are everything and I’d say this majorly upped our curb appeal when people come visit our home for the first time.
What DIY home projects are on your summer to do list?
I’d love to hear about your list in the comments below.
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