Building a Retaining Rock Wall

There are many options available today for those who want to build a landscaping retaining wall. The market is flush with new products that boast inter-locking blocks, bricks to match your pavers and variety of geometric patterns.

Some folks however, desire a more simple and rustic approach. Building a retaining rock wall is one way to achieve that rustic and authentic look. Though the labor can be intense, the reward will outweigh it as you sit back and take pride in the fact that you built a rock retaining wall in the same way that it has been done for centuries.

Finding the Rock:

Very soon, if there aren’t already, there will be places where you can go to select your own large rocks and small boulders to construct retaining rock walls and stone fences. If you want to truly experience the full scope of this project though, then you’ll need to borrow a heavy-duty pick up truck and head for a local river.

Immense satisfaction comes with the choosing of each rock. When you later begin building a retaining rock wall with them, you may still be able to identify each stone, and tell stories about where each one came from. It is details like that which give your property character.

If you don’t have a rocky streambed or a river nearby, then you may also check with a stone quarry. If you explain to them that you are building a retaining rock wall, they may let you pick through piles of stone which they were unable to use, or maybe even through the good stuff. Regardless, be ready for a long day. You will find many more unusable stones than you will ones that are ready to find a home in your new wall.


Once you have the rocks selected and have safely gotten them home, it’s time to begin building a retaining rock wall. Begin by digging shallow, level trench. This step ensures that you have a nice flat surface to start on and that your bottom row of stones will not roll. Lay the bottom row of stones and slowly build the wall upward, using mortar mix between each stone.

As you continue to build your retaining rock wall upwards, try to keep the wall as level as possible. This may appear to be difficult, as the rocks that you have are probably not all the same size. Lay out your pattern on the ground in front of you if it will help you see which rocks will fit better. As you get to the top, you can fill any small discrepancies in height with smaller stones and varying depths of mortar.

Once you’ve built the wall to the desired height, you’ll need to let it sit for a few days as the mortar sets. Once you are confident that the mortar is dry you can back fill the dirt and allow the wall to retain the pressure of the ground against it.

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