How to Build a Small Retaining Wall with Pavers
You have done your outdoor landscaping projects and even did your driveway grading. Now it’s time for the next step and build a retaining wall to provide that extra bit of support for stability. If you feel like the project is too difficult, you can search for “paving companies near me” and hire reputed contractors to do the job for you. Otherwise, you can follow this guide and construct one yourself with pavers. Let’s begin:
- Basic considerations – Before you start buying up material, you need to do a few things. Decide on the height and width of the wall and check the local building codes and regulations to make sure you’re compliant. You may also need a building permit and check with the local HOA to get past any restrictions.
If you’re doing the project yourself, it’s best to go with DIY-friendly building material. Among all the DIY-friendly materials, concrete retaining wall paver blocks are the best option for their strength and stability, and ease of use. You can choose interlocking pavers or just make them stick with cement or other kinds of adhesives.
You also need to have proper drainage on your retaining wall. The soil behind the retaining wall exerts a lot of pressure. The pressure is further increased when the soil soaks in rain and becomes heavier. That’s why it’s important to backfill the wall with sand and gravel and install a drainage pipe.
When you buy the materials, make sure to buy at least one-tenth more than you need. You may have to throw away some materials due to estimation or sizing mistakes. It’s also important that you start building the wall at least one week after rain, snow, or any other form of precipitation. Dealing with wet soil while building a retaining wall is a pain.
- Plan, dig, and level – Take a tape measure and decide on the length and width of your wall. You can use garden stakes and mason’s line to mark the area. Tie the line to the stakes at the required height of the wall and make sure it’s level. If your wall will have curves, you can use paint to mark the bends.
The next step is very important since the stability of your retaining wall depends on it. You need to create a level base for the wall. Dig a trench for the first layer of interlocking paver blocks and make sure it’s level. Start digging with a shovel and make sure to dig deep enough. The trench should be deep enough to hold both a few inches of gravel and also at least half the height of the first layer of interlocking pavers.
The width of the trench should be twice the width of the paver blocks. After digging the trench evenly compact it with a vibrating plate compactor. You can check if it’s level by placing a standard 2 x 4 woodblock inside the trench and placing a spirit level on it. You may also have to make a stepped trench to account for any slopes.
- Lay the base and first layer of pavers – Soil erodes away and holds water. That’s why you need a solid foundation made from gravel. Choose a gravel mix that has stones that are sized between half an inch to ¾ inch, no more. Fill the trench with two or three inches of gravel and use a rake to evenly distribute them. Finally, compact the base with a tamper and make it level.
Now it’s time to lay the paver blocks on the gravel base. Lay the first layer of blocks in the middle of the trench. While laying each block, you need to use a spirit level to make sure it’s level. Use additional gravel and a rubber mallet to lock them in place. Once the first layer is set, fill the space between the pavers and the landscape with more gravel for drainage.
- Cut end blocks – The paver blocks on your retaining wall need to be staggered for extra durability. That’s why the end blocks need to be full length for the first and third layers while they would be halved for the second and fourth layers. Similarly, half blocks are used for ends of more even layers while full blocks are used for odd layers. Once you’re equipped with proper eye protection, use a circular saw to cut the pavers when necessary.
- Lay more layers – Once the first layer of pavers is laid, brush off any surface debris and start laying the second layer. Don’t forget to use half blocks at either end or interlock them if possible. As you lay each block you need to check if it’s level. Once this layer is done, you can brush off surface debris again and start with full-length blocks on either end. Apply that even-numbered rule for end blocks as you add more layers.
You can stack up more layers until you reach the desired height of the retaining wall and also fill the gaps between the blocks and the landscape with gravel. Make sure you use your tamper to compact and even out that gravel layer as you go.
- Finishing touches – When you have stacked up the wall to your desired height, you can use stone or other types of aesthetically distinct pavers to finish the wall. It makes for an interesting look. You may need to use landscaping adhesives to bond the top layer of pavers with the ornamental pavers. Finally, you can replace the topsoil in front of the retaining wall. You can further increase its beauty by planting bushes and climbers near the retaining wall.
Now that you know all the steps to build a retaining wall with pavers, you know its complexity and how much time and energy you need to put into it. If you want to take the easier route, just search for “paving companies near me” and hire professionals to get the job done.