How To DIY A Retaining Wall In Your Backyard

DIY Retention wall in your backyard

Building a DIY retaining wall in your backyard can be a challenging but rewarding project. Retaining walls are used to hold back soil and create level surfaces in sloped areas. If you plan to do any hardscaping on your property but don’t have a flat surface, you will most likely need to do this to prevent run off. Retention walls can also be useful if you enlarge your driveway and don’t have a level surface to start out with. Lastly, you may want to build a retention wall for a multi level garden. Have fun with the project and select a style that works with your home and outdoor surroundings.

Note: Before you start, check local building codes and regulations, as there may be specific requirements for retaining walls in your area. Additionally, consider consulting with a professional engineer or contractor if your wall will be significant or if you have any doubts about its stability.

A rock wall retains a backyard

Materials and Tools You’ll Need:


  1. Retaining wall blocks or stones
  2. Gravel or crushed stone
  3. Landscape fabric
  4. Drainage pipe
  5. Backfill soil
  6. Rebar (if required)
  7. Concrete adhesive (if required)


  1. Shovel
  2. Rake
  3. Wheelbarrow
  4. Level
  5. Tape measure
  6. Rubber mallet
  7. Chalk or string
  8. Saw (if cutting blocks)
  9. Gloves and safety glasses
  10. Masonry adhesive (if using)
Concrete cinder block wall and grass below

Planning and Preparation:

  • Determine the location, size, and height of your retaining wall. Consider the slope of the land and any drainage issues.
  • Mark the layout using chalk, string lines, or spray paint.
  • Note: Be mindful of any utilities that may run below the ground near your project location. When unsure, best to call your utility company.
mark ground before digging


  • Dig a trench that’s slightly wider than the width of your retaining wall blocks and deep enough to accommodate the first row of blocks plus a few inches of gravel and drainage material.
  • Ensure the trench is level and compact the soil at the bottom.
starting to dig a trench

Install Drainage:

  • Lay a 2-4 inch layer of gravel or crushed stone in the trench for drainage.
  • Place a drainage pipe with a sock (to prevent clogs) on top of the gravel. Ensure it slopes away from the wall for proper drainage.
  • Cover the drainage pipe with more gravel.
drainage in the trench with crushed stone and a pipe

Lay the First Row:

  • Begin with the bottom row of retaining wall blocks.
  • Ensure they are level from side to side and back to front.
  • Use a rubber mallet to tap the blocks into place, making sure they are snug.
making sure stone or brick is level

Continue Building:

  • Stack subsequent rows of blocks, making sure each row is level.
  • Stagger the blocks, so the seams between rows do not align.
  • Some walls may require rebar reinforcement. Insert rebar through the holes in the blocks and into the ground behind the wall as needed.


  • Fill the area behind the wall with backfill soil, compacting it in thin layers as you go to prevent settling.
  • Install landscape fabric between the soil and the wall to prevent soil erosion.
Natural brick stone wall in the garden.

Finishing Touches:

  • Cap the top of the retaining wall with capstones or appropriate finishing blocks.
  • Use concrete adhesive to secure the capstones in place.
Vegetables and flowers growing in a multi-level garden


  • Finish your landscaping around the wall, considering plantings and mulch to prevent erosion and enhance aesthetics.

Note: Periodically inspect the wall for signs of erosion, settling, or damage. Make repairs as needed.

Building a retaining wall requires careful planning and attention to detail. If you feel inspired and confident after reading through these simple directions, have a blast designing your own back yard oasis and get digging!

Note: If at any point you’re unsure about any aspect of the project or if your wall will be substantial, it’s wise to consult with a professional or engineer to ensure its stability and safety.

Happy Remodeling!

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