Fundamentals of Building a Brick Retaining Wall on your Backyard

Retaining walls are generally used in order to ensure that in the case of a drastic change in elevation, the soil can be held back. In most cases, these walls are used to terrace yards that initially had a steep slope. However, these walls can also be used for controlling erosion and creating usable outdoor space.

Building your garden retaining wall

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If you’re currently looking for someone to build you a landscape retaining wall for your property, then you need to learn more about what makes a great retaining wall design. So with no further ado, below we’ll take a closer look at the most important things you should be on the lookout for to ensure the retaining walls you’re going to have built are going to look amazing and be very durable.


It’s very important that the retaining wall is built on a good base that has to be set below ground level. The rule of thumb is that the taller you want the wall to be, the further below ground level it needs to be set. A suitable base will always be made of at least a 6” layer of compacted gravel, sand and also of compacted soil.


Next, a good brick wall needs to incorporate a properly compacted backfill. If you have no idea what this is, well, the backfill is basically the dirt behind the wall. For drainage purposes, the granular backfill needs to have a minimum of twelve inches and needs to be properly installed behind the wall.

For backfilling the rest of the space behind the wall, you can use compacted native soil as well. On the other hand, if you plan on considering landscaping behind the wall, a minimum layer of six inches of native soil needs to be placed over the gravel fill.


A retaining wall’s height will directly affect the load it can bear and the possible extra reinforcement required to make it durable enough. In general, residential walls are built between three to four feet high. This will provide them with enough strength without having to use extra reinforcements such as cantilevers or anchors.

Therefore, if your property needs a higher wall, then you can use a series of three to four foot walls for creating a terraced effect or go ahead and hire an engineer who can design the right wall for your needs.

short retaining wall in garden


Efficient drainage is vital when building a retaining wall, since these walls are impervious. If drainage isn’t properly addressed, then it will cause cracking and bulging in the wall. To prevent this from happening, you should backfill a minimum of 1′ of space behind the wall using gravel. Next, you should install a perforated pipe inside the wall. Make sure you also ask the contractor (if using one) if weep holes should be made to allow for proper water drainage.

A few ideas for designing a great retaining wall:

Install wall caps to achieve a finished look.

If you plan on accessing the area above the wall, don’t forget about steps.

Include built-in bench seating and landscape lighting.

You may also want to integrate an outdoor fireplace into your wall design.

Consider incorporating a water feature or fountain into the wall.