Building Wood Retaining Walls

Building wood retaining walls is a great alternative to using a manufactured stone system. The wood material that you will need to complete the project is readily available and is generally much less expensive than its stone counterpart is.

As with any landscaping project, you need to begin by developing a plan. This will enable to estimate accurately how much material you need. Draw a simple picture of your yard and include measurements. You can use this sketch to draw you retaining wall design and figure out just where you want it to go.

Wall Base

Once you have determined where the wall is going to go then you need to prepare a base for the wall to sit on. Begin building wood retaining walls by digging a shallow trench for the bottom layer of your wall. This will give it some stability and will prevent the bottom from rolling out as you are fastening the remaining layers at the top.

You may also want to have some pieces of scrap lumber handy as you begin your project. These can be used to brace up your new retaining wall until you have the chance to get all of your fasteners in place.


When building wood retaining walls, there are several ways to fasten the layers of timber together. The most common way to do this is to drill a ½” wide hole all the way through each timber. You can use this hole to insert pieces of metal rebar through the timbers and into the pieces below it. The rebar will ensure that the wall will not topple and will fit tight enough so that they won’t work their way out when the wood shrinks and expands during seasonal changes.

Chances are the rebar will fit tightly. You can use a two-pound sledgehammer to drive the rebar into the holes that you have drilled. Make sure, when drilling the holes, that you use an industrial strength drill. A smaller household drill could easily burn up when trying to drill deep holes all the way trough multiple landscaping timbers.

Wood Treatment

Once the wall is up, you will need to treat it. Building wood retaining walls is a lot of work, so you want to take care of it so that it will last. Hopefully you were able to find pressure treated landscaping timbers, but if you weren’t then you will need to treat your new retaining wall with a weather sealer of creosote. Either of these should be available at your local home improvement retailer.

The best part of building wood retaining walls is the moment that you get to back fill the dirt against the wall and see your creation at work. You will find the presence of the retaining wall greatly enhances the appearance of your yard and also helps you control water flow and puddles. A retaining wall can be a great way to address backyard-flooding problems.