How to Build Stone Retaining Wall [8 Easy Steps]

How to Build Stone Retaining Wall [8 Easy Steps]

Mar 18, 2023

One of the hardscaping tasks that adds aesthetic value to your home while serving a specific purpose is building a stone retaining wall. This is among the simplest DIY tasks homeowners can tackle utilizing different natural stones.

When considering building a strong retaining wall, incorporating a dry-stack method is one of the simplest methods. This method does not require you to add mortar between the stones. Water can pass right through dry-stack walls because they drain well. This aids in lowering hydrostatic pressure. The main reason retaining walls fail is caused by damp soil behind the wall. The longevity of the wall and its structural integrity will both be preserved by proper drainage. However, if you want to build a retaining wall of your own, here’s the detailed procedure.

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

Here is a list of tools and materials you’ll need while installing a stone retaining wall:

  • Line level
  • Drainage Gravel
  • Maul or hammer
  • Shovel
  • Short 2×4 board
  • Brick chisel
  • Wood Stakes
  • Mason’s line
  • Fieldstone or cut stone
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Utility knife
  • Rake
  • Hand tamp
  • Masonry adhesive
  • 4-foot carpenter’s level
  • Landscape Fabric
  • Compatible Gravel
  • Coarse sand

How to Build Retaining Wall?

Here’s a complete process of building stone retaining walls. But before starting with the installation process, you must make sure everything is planned, including the size, height, and length of your wall. You also need to consider specific rules and regulations for retaining walls, if there are any. In some areas where retaining walls are over 30 to 36 inches in height, you will find these rules and regulations. So, you need to keep everything in mind while building your retaining walls. You can even incorporate different natural stone wall ideas  for exterior areas of your home.

Once you’ve planned everything, start following this installation process.

Level is Important

To identify the location of the front face of the wall’s base, use wood stakes and a mason’s line. Before tying the string off to the stake, level the line by placing a line level on it, pulling the string taut from one end, and then leveling the line. The string likewise represents the front of the trench for the wall base. The trench’s breadth ought to be at least half the height of the entire wall. For instance, the trench must be at least 10 inches long if the wall is 20 inches high.

Dig the Area

Create a nice, level trench for the gravel base and first course of blocks after leveling the surface down to 12 inches. Create a 6–12 inch wide space between the rear of the wall and the slope for drainage by digging into the slope.

Add a Landscape Fabric

Landscape fabric that is set perpendicular to the front of the stone retaining wall and reaches a few feet above ground level should be used to cover the excavated area. Place neighboring fabric strips 5-6 inches apart. Use a utility knife to trim the strips to the proper length.

Solid Base for a Strong Stone Retaining Wall

It’s crucial to start your stone retaining wall construction with a sturdy foundation. A straightforward, 5–6′′ deep trench will do. To provide a strong base that will permit water to seep through without weakening the structure of the retaining wall, fill it with fine or pea-sized gravel and compact it. Before adding anything on top of this base layer, set your base of natural stone materials about an inch into the ground and ensure it is level.

Start Laying Stones

Whether you use sandstone, limestone, concrete blocks, or any other stone for retaining walls, make sure to start laying with large and flat stones. Ensure that the stones are at the proper level. Dry stone walling  is one of the most popular types of retaining walls.

Backfilling the Wall

Backfilling the materials of your retaining wall is essential as you go in layers. But make sure you are not doing it in a single step. Allow the soil to settle. That will prevent your retaining wall from shifting. Add 8-12 inches of soil increments against the wall and then firmly pack for best results.

Finish the Top Level

Once you are near the top level of your stone retaining wall, fold the landscape fabric over the drainage gravel. Now, start laying the top level of the retaining wall.

Don’t Forget the Finishing Touches

If desired, cover the landscaping fabric and add soil to the area behind the top of the retaining wall. This area needs at least 6 inches of thick soil layer to support grass growth.


Once you follow all these steps, you’ll build a solid and durable stone retaining wall. These walls are a great addition to your home, adding an attractive feel.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.