Learning how to Use Retaining Wall Blocks

If you have decided to take on the task of building a reinforcement or retaining wall, you will need to start browsing through the various styles of retaining wall blocks. Some of your decision making may be based on the job you are trying to get done since materials for a functional wall may be different than what you would use for a purely decorative one.

The other decision you will need to make is whether you want to tackle the project yourself or hire a professional to get the job done.

The first thing you should know is that the most common types of materials for retaining wall blocks are:

Retaining Wall Blocks

  • Cement
  • Stone
  • Brick

When it comes to the type of block based on the use, there are even more varieties to choose from. Keep in mind that different brands offer different versions of their own retaining wall blocks. Each brand may not use the same name or terminology for the purpose or function, but if you read the descriptions you should get an idea of what each one is meant to do.

  • Solid Blocks – As the name would imply, these are solid as defined by the type you choose. For example, solid concrete blocks will still have the cut outs meant to help make the blocks still moveable and not too heavy. Due to the strength and durability these blocks can often be used with or without the use or mortar. This style of block is also a popular choice for walls that need to be structurally sound because you can buy a version complete with already installed reinforcements that help offer a stronger hold.
  • Interlocking Blocks – The design of these retaining wall blocks includes a method in which the pieces interlock. This could be faux stone to create a stacked look. These blocks can be either decorative or strong for reinforcement type tasks. Generally though, whatever kind you use will be a strong wall support once linked together.
  • Hollow Blocks – You can actually find both hollow and half hollow blocks to create a retaining wall. These are manufactured and are often cheap because they can be purchased by the pallet. These hollow blocks are often a popular choice also for those walls which are intended to be structurally sound and include proper drainage.
  • Irregular Blocks – For the same idea along the same lines as creating a mosaic pathway with irregular pavers, you can also create a more unique wall with irregular blocks. Generally, this option is best for a wall meant to create a look not serve as a reinforcement wall. Usually, one would use mortar and piece them together in a puzzle formation.

Tips for Your Own Wall

If you have decided you want to tackle the chore of building your own wall with retaining wall blocks there are a few things you should keep in mind. Of course, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that the purpose of the wall is the most important consideration. Do not try to build an important reinforcement wall constructed of materials meant to be only decorative. Also, do not take on more of a DIY project that you actually can manage to DIY.

  • Before starting this or any project on your property it is important to be aware of the codes in your area. It is vital that you know the regulations before you even start to dig. For many areas, the intended height of the wall could be the difference between needing a permit or not, and that height can be as little as two feet. If you are taking on something higher than this you may want to hire a professional anyway.
  • Before you dig you must also contact your utilities companies. Not only is this required, it is for your own safety. Never dig or excavate for any project on your land until you have had the utilities companies come out and properly mark where the lines are. If you feel you will be working too close to any of these areas, again you should consider letting an experienced professional get the job done correctly and safely.
  • Even though drainage is usually the tail end of the project it is important enough to mention early on. Proper drainage around or through the area where your wall is located is crucial for many reasons. Not only does this prevent soil erosion or clogging around the area it helps solidify the sound structure of the wall itself. Drainage often involves your backfill, tunnels you may create and even the use of materials like gravel and sand at the base of the wall.
  • Placement of the wall in relation to the slope of your property as well as the previously mentioned drainage work together to help prevent one major problem which is the run off location. Make sure you never plan any type of project that results in causing water to drain or run towards your home especially the foundation. This can lead to expensive and disastrous problems. Keep in mind that if you are not sure about slopes and drainage when it comes to your project you should always turn to the trusted expertise of a professional in the field.
  • One of the other important things to keep in mind when it comes to using your retaining wall blocks is the placement while constructing. It is important to lean the wall in the direction of the area being reinforced. Over time, pressure may begin to upright it but this is better than pushing it from straight to leaning outward. Without taking this precaution, pressure could compromise the structure of the wall. The more important it is for the wall to actually offer support the more you should use reinforcements.

When it comes to your home and yard, the ultimate decision maker is you. Just be sure to use caution when it comes to using retaining wall blocks so your project can give you the longevity you need.