retaining walls

Building A Retaining Wall? Start Here.

So, you finally decided to build that retaining wall you have always wanted. Or maybe you want to remove and replace an existing retaining wall… Great! But before you hire a designer, contractor or engineer, there are several things that should be considered first. Use the checklist below as an initial guide to help you understand all that goes into building a retaining wall.

  1. One of the most important aspects of building a retaining wall is to make sure that it’s on your property. Having a survey performed before any work (especially if the retaining wall will be on the border of your property) can go a long way in preventing property issues in the future, including lawsuits.
  2. Professional engineering plans may be required, depending on where you live and the type of retaining wall you select. There are skilled professionals in just about every neighborhood, and a little research can go a long way.
  3. Any wall over four feet high may have special considerations concerning the height and weight of the wall.
  4. Select the foundation site carefully. A retaining wall is only as good as its foundation… and selecting the foundation site is one of the most critical early decisions. A determination should be made by a professional engineer concerning the foundation’s soil to ensure that it is able to support the wall. In many construction jobs, ABC stone (“crush and run”) is normally placed in the bottom of the trench. The engineer should also take into consideration any adjacent features or structures such as garages.
  5. All the slopes above and below the proposed retaining wall should be taken into consideration in the drawings. These slopes will affect drainage, support and erosion.
  6. Conduct an assessment of the soil composition. One overlooked aspect of soil composition is that there may be multiple types of soil on the site. Different soil properties will have an effect on erosion rates, drainage and movement.
  7. Check for any evidence of landfill or septic tanks (water wells).
  8. Check the site for utility lines (i.e. cable, electric, gas). Call before you dig!
  9. Will there need to be irrigation during construction?
  10. How will the site be irrigated after construction?
  11. Do the drawings include drainage pipes?

Additional Considerations When Building A Retaining Wall

Environmental Concerns

Certain municipalities may require that you conduct an environmental survey prior to building a retaining wall, while some may want land surveys.

Flood Evaluations

It is critical to not only make sure that drainage is sufficient, but also to assess how your wall would hold up during a flood.

Purpose of the Retaining Wall

This is an important consideration. Some retaining walls may be for structural purposes (i.e. drainage, flood waters, etc.) while others may be for aesthetics only. Understanding the difference will go a long way when designing your retaining wall and potentially keeping costs down.  

Consulting The Professionals

As always, before you start construction, you should check with your local municipality’s building codes. And we do recommend consulting a licensed engineer before building a retaining wall. You should thoroughly consider soil erosion, water management and adjacent structures. Once you have taken all of these under advisement, construction is a go for the retaining wall of your dreams!

When installed properly, retaining walls can provide years of enjoyment for you and your family and friends. For your convenience, please feel free to check the Heritage Block retaining wall installation guidelines.


Our blocks can transform any outdoor space into a unique masterpiece… The options are truly LIMITLESS. For everything you need to plan, design and build the perfect retaining wall for your next project, contact us today: (919) 562-5005

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