Whether you are building a new home or doing some landscaping for your yard, retaining walls are often a must. For those who don't know, a retaining wall is a wall that is used to support soil laterally on two sides so the soil is retained at different levels. Retaining walls work to restrain soil on a slope. They are similar to a dam, but the idea is that no soil passes through. Homes on a hillsides and mountains require retaining walls for stability. Sliding soil can damage the foundations of your home or disrupt the landscape. When used in yards, they create an outdoor space with greater functionality. On top of this, a well-built wall made of aesthetically pleasing stone or brick construction can add a touch of elegance to your yard.
Building a retaining wall is not as complicated as you might think, although you will need to do some research if you want to build it the right way. When it comes to wall materials, you'll have quite a few different options. Concrete blocks are sturdy and its easy to create a curved embankment with them but your wall can't exceed four feet. Stone veneer provides a more natural appearance but for a well-built wall, the work should really be left to a contractor to handle. Boulder and stone walls are possible but they can lose integrity when water accumulates. Brick retaining walls are durable and strong so they will last for years but there's a lot more labor involved including creating draining areas for groundwater. There are even wood retaining walls but these are obviously vulnerable to rot and won't last for many years.
Additional materials will depend on what kind of wall you are building. If you are building a stone or concrete wall, you might need a chisel or a circular saw for wood. For laying bricks, you'll need some kind of construction adhesive. Other materials will be necessary no matter what your wall is made of. A shovel will be a must in order to build a trench for your wall. You'll also want to be able to take proper measurements, so measuring tape and levels will be needed. For safety, safety goggles, work gloves, earplugs and a dust mask are all recommended. When it comes to building a retaining wall, the average cost according to Home Advisor is between $3,000 and $9,000. Wood, bricks or cinder blocks, can cost you as must as $6 per square foot, while poured concrete can cost you as little as $4 or $5 per square foot. Stone, on the other hand, might cost you around $11 per square foot.
Building a wall is not too complicated but it is a lot of work. You'll start off by building a trench followed by a base. A crushed stone base is preferred by many contractors. Once you've made sure your wall is level, you can start stacking and applying adhesive if necessary. But before you get carried away with the stacking, don't forget your drainage system so that water does not accumulate at your wall and damage it's integrity. From there, you can build the rest of your wall around the drainpipe, cutting any stone or brick as necessary. Keep your stones aligned and make sure your wall stays level. Build your wall as high as needed and top it off with an overhanging capstone or brick for aesthetics. Of course, these are just some things to keep in mind when building your wall.
If the idea of building a wall is far too overwhelming, hiring a contractor is your best bet. In addition to the cost of materials, you'll need to think about labor costs which will vary depending on your location. For wood retaining walls, the minimum cost of labor is about $15 per hour according to Home Advisor. For a brick wall, it can be as high as $90. Laying stacked blocks and stones are all around a minimum of $60 per hour. Stone veneer can cost you as high as $75 per hour in labor. But these are just some of the labor costs to consider. If you are replacing a wall, you can expect demolition costs as well. This of course will make your wall more expensive.
But if you are willing to eat the labor costs and get the job done faster, it's easy to find a local contractor. You can use services like Home Advisor or Yelp to find local contractor that can build your wall. Be sure to get estimates and compare them with other local contractors if you want to get the best price. Good luck!