5 things you need to know before you install a retaining wall

Offering reliable landscaping services to homeowners in British Columbia since 2013

Picture of Natasha Maerz

Natasha Maerz

Owner/Office Manager

Are you hoping to install a retaining wall in your yard this year?

As retaining wall builders, we understand how exciting it can be to replace your old failing retaining wall with a new one, and are happy that you are taking the steps to replacing it.

But what are some retaining wall problems that you need to think about before having your retaining wall installed? What do retaining wall owners wish they had known before their retaining wall build?

In this article we will talk about the five things that people wish they knew before they had a retaining wall installed to help you decide if you want to get one done.


Walls can take 1 week – 1 month to build

In the scheme of things, this timeline is nothing to be worried about, however, if you are wanting to have a party in your backyard or just use your backyard in the summer, you may want to have the retaining wall done in the winter so that you can use your yard uninterrupted.

Remember, depending on the access to your yard your wall could take longer to build.

You will need to remediate your lawn after your retaining wall build

The machines that will be coming in and out of your yard make a lot of mess. They will be driving in and out of your yard thousands of times, causing the grass to be torn up.

In some cases, this can be avoided by putting plywood down to protect the grass, but in most cases, it makes sense to have the lawn remediated after the build rather than taking the time to lay plywood down.

When it comes to having your lawn remediated you can either do it yourself, or get your contractor to add it to the scope of work for your retaining wall build.

Remediation will look different to each and every yard, and homeowners’ preference for how their yard looks.

This remediation can include:

  • Seeding or sodding the area
  • Fertilizing
  • Watering the sod or seed
  • Bringing in new topsoil to level the yard



It’s not as easy to DIY a wall as you think

While we see many homeowners take on the task of building a retaining wall, DIYing one is not as easy as it may look.

One of the most difficult parts of the retaining wall build is ensuring that your first row of block is straight. This is done with a laser level and string line. If this step is not done correctly your wall will be wavy and uneven.

This takes practice and skill, and is usually why DIY retaining walls are failing,  

Keep in mind that to build a retaining wall to Allan Block specifications:


  • The trench needs to be dug at least a minimum 10 inches deep and 30 inches wide (machines are likely needed to do this. Digging this deep and wide with a shovel is hard work!)
  • The excavated soil is disposed of, and not used as backfill. (excavated soil expands 1.3x in size, this is a lot of soil and you are responsible for figuring out how to get it out of your backyard and pay to have it disposed of)


  • Gravel needs to replace all of that excavated soil (this is a lot of gravel, wheelbarrows and shovels can be used, however, again this is very labor intensive)


  • Every row of the wall is compacted (Do you have a compactor? Compacting the bricks can be intimidating!)


A certified retaining wall builder knows what to do in each step of the build, is able to handle any problems that pop up during the build, and have the tools to complete the job on time, and on budget.

If you do decide to build your own retaining wall, be sure to do plenty of research beforehand, and consider reaching out to a local retaining wall builder for help.



There is some maintenance required

It can be daunting preparing for Spring/Summer. Your patio needs to be pressure washed before taking out all of your patio furniture, the BBQ is still dirty from your end of summer party, your grass needs to be cut and the garden beds need to be weeded.

While most homeowners are accustomed to having to do a little work outside to get ready for nice weather, many people think that their retaining walls do not need any maintenance.

While retaining walls are certainly less maintenance than most things in your backyard, there are still some things you can do at the beginning of spring to make it looks nicer and prevent issues from happening to your wall.

One thing that is recommended is to check your wall after winter. Snow fall can do some damage to a wall, and the earlier this damage is detected, the better.

Walls can be pressure washed if dirty, and the mulch, grass or gravel in between the retaining wall tiers or behind the wall will need to be replaced or topped up.

One nice thing about Allan block retaining walls is that they can be painted any color you like, but that paint will need to be redone every couple of years, so keep this in mind when it comes to maintaining your retaining wall.

None of these things are incredibly time consuming (unless you choose to paint the wall yourself) but will ensure that your wall keeps looking great each year.

Not all retaining walls are built the same

Retaining walls cannot be compared Apples to Apples because it is impossible for two contractors to build their wall the same.

Why are not all retaining walls built the same?

  • Contractors have different certifications
  • Attention to detail varies from contractor to contractor
  • Each contractor has different tools for the job
  • The contractors do not use the same amount of materials for the job
  • Not all companies that you hire are insured or warranty their products


Take a deep dive into why no two retaining walls are built the same


If you are interested in having a retaining wall built and would like a quote, contact us today!