Preparing for a Retaining Wall

Guide for Retaining Wall Preparation 

If your yard contains dips, incline, or slopes, you may be considering having a retaining wall installed to prevent erosion, collapse or to help make your land more useable. Retaining walls can also be used to create tiered gardens or a raised seating area to enhance your outdoor space. 

If you are considering having a retaining wall installed, there are a few ways you will need to prepare your property. 

Tiered Retaining WallRetaining Wall Basics

From sunken patios to walkout basements and endless hardscape features, retaining walls are a versatile tool that homeowners can use to create a unique and useable outdoor living space. A retaining wall is typically constructed from stone, bricks, or concrete. 

If you plan to construct the retaining wall yourself, you can choose retaining wall blocks as your building material. These are available at most home improvement stores and cost anywhere between $1.25 and $4 per block. The price will depend on the size and texture of the block. Each block features locking flanges that securely attach each row of the blocks together. 

For a small retaining wall, you can expect to spend about $5 to $8 per square foot if you plan to build it yourself. Larger retaining walls are not very DIY-friendly and are best left to the professionals for the best results. Pricing for retaining walls completed by a contractor will vary depending on if you opt for a stone or poured concrete wall and whether they need to pour a deep frost footing or perform tree root removal to pour the footing. 

Steps to Take Prior to Retaining Wall Installation

Be sure to consult with your local building authority prior to installing a retaining. Make sure you obtain the correct building or zoning permit. Local ordinances and building codes vary across cities, so make sure to complete this step to remain in compliance. It is also important to call DigSafe (811) for local utility companies to come out and make sure there are no electrical, water, or gas lines in the way of where you plan to install your wall. 

Retaining Wall Construction

Support, foundation, backfill, and drainage all need to be considered when installing a retaining wall. 

Supporting the Retaining Wall

When a retaining wall is built, a contractor or landscaper will typically slope the wall lightly toward the earth they are containing, known as step-back construction. This helps to create a stronger structure that pushes back against the lateral pressure put forth by the soil. Vertical walls that don’t slope toward the contained earth and walls higher than three feet will require additional support from steel reinforcement, cantilevered design, buried footings, or tiebacks.

Retaining Wall Foundation

For shorter retaining walls, the foundation can consist of a trench filled with gravel, whereas taller walls will require buried structural footing as the foundation.  This type of foundation is created when the contractor pours the concrete below the frost level to prevent the footings from shifting and moving if the moisture in the soil freezes. 

Backfill for Your Retaining Wall

The space behind the retaining wall should be filled in with sand or gravel, avoid using dirt. The dirt gets wet and swells, causing unwanted pressure on the back of the retaining wall. Gravel and sand do not retain water, reducing the risk of damage and cracking. 

Retaining Wall Drainage

In most cases, stackable retaining block walls with sand or gravel backfills will not usually have drainage problems. However, if you have a solid retaining wall, like a concrete basement wall, you will need to install and drainage system to drain the water away from the wall. In many cases, drainage tile will be installed to carry the groundwater to outlets where it can drain away and prevent cracks. 

Professional Retaining Wall Installation

While some smaller retaining walls can be DIY-friendly, it is recommended that you use a professional retaining wall contractor to ensure you get the best results. At J Bird’s Landscaping, we are the retaining wall experts in South Hills. 

Contact J Bird’s Landscaping to learn more about how we can install the right retaining wall for your property! 

What is Land Grading?

In some cases, prior to beginning your landscaping project, the area may need to be graded. Land grading is a process where the surface is leveled. Dirt from the higher area is moved into the lower areas. This creates a level surface to serve as the foundation for your landscaping project. (more…)

Reasons You’ll Need a Retaining Wall

Do I Need a Retaining Wall?

You’ve invested a lot of time, effort, and money into keeping your home and landscape beautiful. To protect this investment, it is important to preserve the health of your home, which relies on the layout and the design of your land surrounding it. (more…)

My Yard Keeps Flooding

Tips for Flooding Yards 

Flooding yards are a common issue for many Pittsburgh homeowners. If your yard looks like a swamp after a rainstorm, this is a sign that you have drainage issues that need to be fixed as soon as possible. (more…)

Benefits of Retaining Walls

Best Parts of Having a Retaining Wall

Retaining walls serve as a popular landscaping tool and offer homeowners a variety of benefits. From seating to enhancing curb appeal, retaining walls open a world of possibilities! With the experienced team at J Birds Landscaping, homeowners can utilize retaining walls at their South Hills area homes in a variety of amazing ways. (more…)

Start Overseeding This Fall!

Tips for Overseeding this Fall

The cooler nights, paired with mild, shorter days common in the fall season, make for the perfect time to overseed your lawn and repair any thin or bare areas of grass. These conditions are perfect for seed germinations, allow grass seed to better maintain moisture. The lower temperatures also allow seedlings to thrive rather than die out due to the extreme heat of the summer. (more…)

How to Fix a Dry Yard

During hot, humid summer days in Pittsburgh, your lawn may not be getting enough water to grow full and green. At J Bird’s Landscaping, we have provided you with a few tips to help you make sure your dry yard is getting enough water. 

(more…)

Popular Outdoor Landscaping Ideas

Updating Your Outdoor Landscaping

With the weather in Pittsburgh warming up, you’ll be spending more time outside at home with friends and family. To get the most out of your landscape, the team at J Bird’s Landscaping, your lawn care experts in South Hills, has put together a few creative landscaping ideas to impress. 

(more…)

When Do I need a French Drain?

French Drains: How Do They Work?

Having issues with water in your crawl space? Then a French drain may be the solution you need to keep water out of your home. While an expert can tell you if you need a French drain or not, there are some signs you can look for yourself to determine whether you may need one or not. (more…)

When Should I Start Planting Seeds?

You Expert Guide to Seed Planting 

Starting seeds at the right time is crucial to ensure your plants thrive during the growing season. To begin, it is important to start your seed indoors to ensure that your crops get a head start on the growing season. 
This also gives them the chance to grow in a stable environment resulting in a better harvest. At J Bird’s Landscaping, your premier source of lawn care in the South Hills, we’ve put together some tips for planting seeds to help you get the most out of the garden this year. 

(more…)