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How We Design and Build Retaining Walls

Retaining walls are a great way to level out a yard with slopes and hills. They make for a nice aesthetic and give sloped properties more functionality.

Retaining walls require an experienced touch while designing and building them to ensure they're properly designed allowing for the conditions that they will be facing. Failure to build a retaining wall properly almost always results in a failed wall that falls over from weight and the soil and water behind it.

Our 11 step retaining wall build process has allowed us to build retaining walls that don't fail. Using these steps, our staff understand the importance of each step and how they function, which allows us to create some pretty amazing walls!

This is a diagram of the different retaining wall components. Each part of the process is vital to build a proper wall that will last and won't fail!

How a Retaining Wall is Built
Retaining Wall Diagram

Our 11 Step Process to Retaining Wall Installation

1. Planning and Design

In the planning phase, we asses the ground conditions, look at the elevations and design the retaining wall to allow for proper drainage and functionality. Some questions we always ask are:

  • Where should the retaining wall go?

  • How far should it extend?

  • What are we trying to accomplish with the retaining wall?

  • What is its main function?

  • How will the wall affect water drainage?

  • And more

During the planning process, we call "call before you dig" to check for buried lines. Depending on the project, we may need to bring on an engineer to ensure the wall is sufficiently built to ensure it doesn't fail.

2. Layout and Ground Preparations

Ground prep is a crucial step to the installation process. We first lay out the wall area on the ground using proper measurements with ground paint. From here we start the initial preparations. We use a laser level to ensure the wall is installed at the proper elevations and stake the ground to show depths and wall measurements.

3. Excavation and Hauling Soil

Once the layout is complete, we begin excavation for the base. Excavation depth varies from project to project, smaller retaining walls only require a 6 inch base, larger walls can require 12 inches or more. Some soil conditions require more base as well. Soil is then hauled away if applicable.

4. Amend and Compact Soil

We amend and compact the soil to ensure the base is given proper soil conditions and consistency. This crucial step is often forgot or left out. We ensure this step is completed with each project. We lay some crushed gravel and compact it into the soil to ensure the ground is compacted to spec.

5. Install Geotextile

Geotextile is installed to ensure the base layer doesn't mix with the soil. This crucial material will be a key factor in your wall lasting the years to come. Geotextile is a fabric that allows for water penetration but prevents solid materials from passing through.

6. Base Installation

The base is installed at this stage, during it's installation, we compact it regularly with added water to ensure an even and properly compacted base. The base is minimum 6 inches deep and will often be thicker for larger walls.

7. Final Grading

We give the base a final grade, using levels and string lines we ensure the base is even and will allow for a straight, level wall while also allowing for water drainage.