Whether there is an area of your property where you would like to add visual interest or you have a need to prevent erosion and rockfall, a retaining wall is easily the most logical answer. If you are like a lot of property owners, you will roll up your sleeves, grab some materials, and get started. However, building a retaining wall with blocks or bricks is a lot more complicated than most people with no experience realize and there is a lot of room for error. Here is a look at a few of the most common mistakes to avoid when you create a block retaining wall on your own.
Mistake: Using blocks too lightweight to hold the material in place.
Block retaining walls rely on the force or weight of gravity to hold the material back. Therefore, the force of the blocks you use to create your wall must be greater than the pressure being asserted against the wall from the back. If you use small blocks or bricks, the overall strength may not be enough to hold the material back and your block wall will eventually topple over.
The weight of the blocks or bricks you use should rely on how much pressure is going to be applied. For example, if you are building a retaining wall that should hold back the soil and sod from a slope which is quite large, using heavier blocks will yield better results. On the other hand, if you are only building a small retaining wall to retain a low slope in your landscaping that is not very large, small bricks will suffice.
Mistake: Not installing the blocks in a slight setback fashion.
It is not uncommon to see retaining walls created from a solid poured slab of concrete, which is vertically level in form. These retaining walls with concrete slabs usually have unseen anchors that run deep into the ground for added support, so this design works well.
However, with a block retaining wall, it is a much better idea to install the blocks in a setback sort of fashion, which basically means every new layer of blocks installed is set slightly further back against the ground or material you are holding back. This is especially important when you will not be using mortar to hold the blocks in place but is a method that can also be used with mortaring applied for added support.