How to Build a Retaining Wall
TOM: That’s right. It’s a great project and you can do it in a couple of different ways. Here to tell us more is This Old House’s Kevin O’Connor and lawn-and-garden expert, Roger Cook.
And Kevin, let’s start by talking about how a retaining wall can help you find a little extra space in that yard.
KEVIN: Retaining walls are an important part of landscaping because they allow you to level out a yard and that provides more usable space. And on a really steep slope, you can use multiple retaining walls. That’s going to create terraces and that’s going to give you a lot of space for plantings.
Roger, you have built a ton of these.
ROGER: I have, Kevin, and there’s two types of walls that the DIY-er can really get into to: one is a timber wall, which is made up of 4×4 or 6×6 pressure-treated timbers; and the other is a concrete block wall.
Now in the timber wall, you’re going to lay your first course in the ground. You’re going to drill a hole and you’re going to bang rerod down in the ground to anchor that first piece in place. The concrete walls are made so that you set the first piece level and every piece gets put right on top of it to build a wall.
KEVIN: And so what about additional support for either of these walls?
ROGER: Well, when a timber wall gets up above two feet tall, you have to put in deadmen. Those are tiebacks. They tie back the wall into the soil to keep it from leaning forward. The concrete blocks are made to go up to four feet. Once you get up to four feet, you have to put in a reinforcing grid behind the wall if you’re going to go any taller.
KEVIN: And we’ve got some good how-to videos about this.
ROGER: We do. We’ve got videos that show you both in every detail on how to build a wall at ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: So would you guys say if you could handle building blocks as a kid, that you could build a retaining wall?
ROGER: I think the guy who designed them, that’s how he got started.
TOM: (laughs) Roger Cook, Kevin O’Connor, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Our pleasure.
LESLIE: Yeah, you know it really is an easy project and, in fact, a terraced yard, it just looks so beautiful. It really is gorgeous to have one in your backyard. And you know, we’re huge fans of making the outside of your house just as beautiful as the inside.
TOM: It’s a very worthwhile project and I tell you, when you need it, you absolutely need it because it’s the only way you’re going to get that usable space in your house.
If you’d like more tips on that project and so many others, head on over to ThisOldHouse.com and check out the great work of our friends Kevin O’Connor and Roger Cook. And This Old House is brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot – more saving, more doing.