Wood Retaining Wall Basics 101

A wood retaining wall can be an important addition to your property. The first thing though is learning what you need to know about this type of reinforcement wall. There are many reasons this type of project can be useful and in some cases necessary. This can be a project you may be able to do yourself but when in doubt you may want to hire a professional builder or landscaper to get the job done.

The most important thing to keep in mind is the severity of the slope and the need for strength of your wall. For anything that needs to be strong you must hire a professional to get the job done.

Here are a few of the basic things to know about a wood retaining wall:

Wood Retaining Wall

  • A retaining wall like this is generally used to hold back soil and dirt. This is most commonly used for a planting bed or for an area with a hillside, slope or otherwise uneven earth.
  • You do not have to use wood although many people prefer to use this material. Other popular choices include stone or poured concrete. Each style has its pros and cons but for this article the focus will be on a wood retaining wall.
  • For many people who have a sloped yard this is the only way in which you can successfully plant anything. If you are in the process of trying to sell your home, fixing some of the slant issues with the yard can be accomplished by using reinforcement walls.

If you are sure that the job is small enough for you to manage, without the need for a professional then you can set forward with getting the materials and supplies needed to do this project yourself. Even if you do decide to hire a pro, some of the steps involved will still require your attention.

Getting Started with Your Wood Retaining Wall

It should come as no surprise that the first thing you need to do is decide where you want your reinforcement wall to be located. You may even be adding this wall between two existing beds to create more shape or to create more of a focal point. Even if you are hiring a professional they will need to know exactly where it is you want your retaining wall to be located.

Once you have the location you will follow these general steps. Keep in mind you should reference more detailed user guides to get the job done. When in doubt or if the job is more severe, make sure you rely on an expert. Remember to also check with your county about codes and requirements before starting a project like this.

  • Using a shovel or similar tool, remove the area of earth where the wall will be placed. There are important steps to take concerning measuring and roping off the area which should be researched before getting to the post placement.
  • Cut your boards to the desired length. Make sure you also allow for how tall you want your wall after the posts are sunk into the ground. From here you will dig your holes and sink your posts.
  • Pour and level the concrete then allow to dry and settle for at least a week. If you have several damp days you may need to prolong this time frame.
  • For the remaining wall boards you can cut your wood or buy the wood already cut to the desired and appropriate size. Place these boards between the posts and bolt into place. This is an important step as it helps ensure the strength and sturdiness of your overall wood retaining wall.
  • The next step is to dig your ditch. By using a ditch approximately a few 2 inch diameter tunnels that allow a way for the water to drain. Keep them small enough to not compromise the strength of the wall. Fill these drainage passages with gravel to prevent them from caving in.
  • The final step is to backfill the cut. This is done to offer more support for the foundation and structure of the wood retaining wall and also allow for drainage. Fill this area with a minimum of 6 inches of gravel and then top it off with soil.

Things to Keep in Mind

You have the basics for how to build your wall. There are still a few important things to keep in mind though. For instance:

  • Yards with drainage issues would be best worked on by a professional contractor. Even if you are trying to save a few dollars by making this a do-it-yourself project you could end up doing more harm than good if the job is too much for you to handle. Having these issues fixed at a later date will cost you much more than getting it done right in the first place.
  • If you decide to take the project on yourself also make sure that you do not situate the wall so that the drainage runs towards the foundation of your home. This can cause severe structural damage to your home and end up costing a large amount of money to reverse and repair.
  • Keep in mind your retaining wall will act similar to a dam because it is ding back soil as well as the added weight from water. If you do not allow for a way for proper drainage then you could cause the wall to buckle or have other issues. For this reason, in some areas walls over two feet may be subject to permit requirements. Make sure you get yourself covered when it comes to anything you build on your property.
  • Tilting the wall slightly forward will help prevent certain pressure problems. Also if soil and water build up press against the wall, over time this will only cause the wall to be upright instead of tilted the wrong way. It would take many more years to finally tilt the wall in the opposite direction.