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How to Build a Retaining Wall Fence – Complete Guide


Installing a retaining wall fence is one of the most rewarding DIY landscaping projects. Not only does it help prevent soil erosion and open up functional yard space, but a well-built wall can become a beautiful design focal point. With proper planning, diligence, and some sweat equity, even amateurs can create durable, customized retaining walls.

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to tackle a retaining wall fence project – from initial site analysis to material calculations, foundations, building technique, backfilling, drainage, and final embellishments. Let’s explore the ins and outs so you can start maximizing and beautifying your yard’s potential!

Read How Smart Fence System Improves Home Security?

Tips to Build a Retaining Wall Fence

Following are some amazing tips for building a retaining wall fence:

Site Evaluation and Design

The first step is deciding on the right location based on your property’s natural slopes and problem areas prone to runoff. Visually map out where a retaining wall could both fortify the landscape and also open up usable, flat yard space if desired. Consider sunlight exposure, views, proximity to existing structures, and landscaping that could impact placement.

Measure the approximate length and height needed, then calculate the layout, allowing a base width of at least half the planned height.

For example, a 4-foot high wall would need a minimum 2-foot wide base. Account for tweaks like curves, stepped tiers, or integrated benches/plant beds to customize to your vision. Use spray paint or stakes to denote boundaries.

Choose Wall-Facing Materials

While the backfill provides underlying support, the visible wall facings showcase your unique style. Consider look, durability, skill level, and budget when deciding between popular options:

  • Interlocking Concrete Pavers or Blocks: Pre-formed for stability, sleek modern aesthetic, very DIY friendly
  • Natural Stone: Gorgeous, long-lasting – can be expensive, more advanced masonry skills needed
  • Weather-Resistant Wood: Affordable, natural rustic charm – requires protective stain/sealer
  • Bricks or Concrete Masonry: Classic, versatile look – higher maintenance than modern materials

Order 10-15% extra to account for cuts, waste, and mistakes. Also, gather gravel, leveling sand, timber edging, landscape adhesive/spikes, and any specialty hardware needed for the build.

Gather Materials and Hardware

Retaining wall fences typically combine structural backfill and aesthetic wall facings.

Backfill: Gravel, compactible soil, crushed stone. Figuring about 0.6 cubic yards per linear foot of wall x each foot of height will determine needs.

Facings: Interlocking concrete blocks, stones, bricks, masonry blocks, or weather-resistant wood. Order 10-15% extra. Consider looks, budget, and skill level.

Also, gather timber edging, spikes/adhesive, gravel, leveling sand, work gloves, and the necessary hardware for building. Never hurts to rent equipment like a compactor and rototiller for optimum preparation.

Calculate Needed Backfill

While the outward-facing materials provide a visible structure, the backfill behind the wall supplies crucial foundational support; this is made up of compactible gravel, crushed stone, and soil. Estimate needing approximately 0.6 cubic yards of backfill per 1 linear foot of retaining wall length x each foot of planned height.

For example, a 30 linear foot wall that’s 4 feet high would need approximately 72 cubic yards (30 x 4 x 0.6 = 72) of backfill material ordered.

Set Sturdy Foundation

Excavate a trench spanning the wall’s entire footprint down about 18 inches. The graded, leveled base should extend out behind the wall at least 6 – 12 inches. Fill with well-packed crushed stone or gravel and firmly compact with equipment rental tools like a plate compactor.

Creating an extremely stable, flat, and level base prevents future shifting, sinking, or cracking. This is the stage to sweat the small stuff and get meticulous with grading for positive drainage – it makes a huge difference down the road!

Site Preparation is Key  

Proper grading and a very solid, stable, level base sets the stage for structural integrity. 

– Excavate a trench’s entire footprint length/width 

– Grade bottom, fill with crushed stone 

– Pack firmly with a rented compactor

– Level and smooth 4-6” base of gravel 

This well-compacted base prevents sinking or shifting and provides proper drainage.

Build Up Retaining Wall

The fun part…stacking! For stability, offset each row, interlocking back into the hillside. Consistent checking/adjusting for levelness is key. In general, step back halfway into the hill per row. Use landscaping adhesive between layers and fill gaps with gravel. 

Other tips:

– Sweep away debris between rows

– Offset vertical seems row-to-row  

– Follow manufacturer instructions for spacing/installation

As you build up the top few rows, slope slightly forward into the hill for support. Most amateur walls should not exceed 4 ft without reinforcement.  

Backfill Behind Wall 

After every 1-2 rows:

  1. Shovel/rake backfill (gravel, soil) behind the wall
  2. Pack firmly using a rented compactor plate 
  3. Check wall face alignment/level 
  4. Repeat until the height is reached

This back-and-forth process gives the structure, anchor, and strength needed to contain the earth. Resist the temptation to rush ahead, stacking rows!

Finishing Touches 

Final steps to complete your gorgeous, functional retaining wall fence:

– Cap top row decorative element 

– Waterproof sealer to protect materials

– Grade remaining backfill soil behind the wall

– Decorative drainage pipe is an option  

– Plant native greenery along the top edge

– Stand back and admire your handiwork!


With the right planning, materials, and patience through construction, you can achieve a personalized retaining wall fence that both prevents erosion and opens a usable space in your yard for years of enjoyment. With space evaluation, precise materials calculations, diligent base prep, proper building technique, and a backfilling process, you can achieve a personalized, stable retaining wall that both prevents erosion and opens usable yard real estate. This quintessential landscaping upgrade takes some effort, but the amplification of your property’s function and beauty pays dividends for decades to come!

If you find the whole procedure difficult, then let Perimtec do it for you! So, get started today!

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