How To Install Landscape Timbers Retaining Wall: A Handy DIY Guide

Retaining walls are both functional and aesthetic additions to any landscape. They can help prevent soil erosion, create terracing or usable land on a sloped property, and add visual interest to the space. One popular choice for building a retaining wall is landscape timbers. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about constructing your landscape timbers retaining wall, including the pros and cons, comparisons to other materials, frequently asked questions, and case studies of successful installations.

A landscape timbers retaining wall is a structure built using landscape timbers, which are long pieces of lumber that are specifically designed for outdoor use. The timbers are arranged in a horizontal or vertical manner and joined together to form a wall that holds back soil and maintains a level area on one side of the wall. This type of wall not only serves a practical purpose of holding back soil and preventing erosion, but it can also be a beautiful and natural-looking addition to your property.

There are several reasons why landscape timbers may be the right choice for your retaining wall project:

  • Natural appearance: Landscape timbers have a wood-like appearance that can easily blend in with your outdoor surroundings.
  • Affordability: Landscape timbers are generally less expensive than other retaining wall materials, such as concrete or natural stone.
  • Ease of installation: Building a retaining wall with landscape timbers is relatively simple and can be accomplished by most DIY enthusiasts with a step-by-step guide.
  • Durability: With proper maintenance, landscape timbers can last for many years, making them a cost-effective option for retaining walls.

Before you begin any construction, it"s important to plan and design your retaining wall, considering factors like location, size, and appearance. Assess the slope and make note of any drainage issues, as these will need to be addressed during the installation process. Additionally, check with your local building department regarding any permits or regulations that may apply to your project.

You will need the following materials and tools to install your landscape timbers retaining wall:

  • Landscape timbers
  • Rebar or wooden stakes (to secure the timbers)
  • Gravel or crushed stone
  • Drainage pipe
  • Landscape fabric (to act as a barrier for weeds and drainage)
  • Level, shovel, pickaxe, and other basic construction tools
  • Power drill and long drill bit (to create holes for rebar)
  • Hammer or mallet

Mark the area where your retaining wall will be built and excavate the soil to create a level base. You will need to remove enough soil to allow for the depth of your first row of landscape timbers, as well as a layer of gravel or crushed stone underneath for drainage. Additionally, you may need to excavate further if you plan to install a drainage pipe behind your retaining wall.

Once the area has been excavated, install a layer of gravel or crushed stone to serve as a stable base and aid in drainage. Tamp down the gravel to create a level surface, then begin laying your first row of landscape timbers, ensuring that each timber is level and securely connected to the one beside it. You may need to trim or adjust the timbers as needed to fit the space.

Using a power drill, create holes through the timbers and into the ground below at an angle, then drive rebar or wooden stakes into these holes to secure the timbers in place. Make sure the retaining wall remains level and straight as you continue with each additional row.

If you have drainage concerns, now is the time to address them. Place a landscape fabric against the soil behind your retaining wall, which will act as a barrier for weeds and aid in drainage. Install a perforated drainage pipe along the base of the wall, then cover it with gravel or crushed stone.

Continue adding rows of landscape timbers, ensuring that each row is level and securely connected to the one below it. Use rebar or wooden stakes driven through pre-drilled holes to secure the timbers in place. Repeat this process until your retaining wall reaches the desired height.

Once your retaining wall is complete, backfill the area behind the wall with soil, compacting it as you go to ensure the wall remains stable. Finally, plant grass, flowers, or other foliage to create an attractive landscape around your new retaining wall.

  • Natural, wood-like appearance.
  • Cost-effective compared to other materials.
  • Relatively easy installation for DIY enthusiasts.
  • Can last for many years with proper maintenance.
  • Not as strong or durable as materials like concrete or natural stone.
  • Requires regular maintenance, such as staining or sealing, to maintain its appearance and prevent rot.
  • Wood materials are susceptible to insect damage and decay.
  • May not be appropriate for very large or tall retaining walls.

Appearance: While landscape timbers offer a natural wood-like look, concrete blocks can be molded into various shapes and sizes, allowing for more intricate designs. Concrete blocks may also be easier to level and align due to their uniform shape and size.

Cost: Landscape timbers are generally more affordable than concrete blocks, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious homeowners. Concrete blocks, however, may require less maintenance over time.

Strength and Durability: Concrete blocks are generally stronger and more durable than landscape timbers, making them a better choice for larger or taller retaining walls that require additional support.

Appearance: Both landscape timbers and natural stone can provide a beautiful, natural aesthetic to your property. Natural stone, however, may be perceived as more upscale due to its unique appearance and texture.

Cost: Landscape timbers are significantly more affordable than natural stone, which can be quite expensive, especially if requiring professional installation.

Strength and Durability: Natural stone is extremely strong and durable, making it an excellent choice for retaining walls that require significant support. Landscape timbers may not be suitable for large or tall walls due to their comparatively lower strength.

Landscape timbers can last for many years if properly maintained. This includes regular staining or sealing to protect the wood from moisture and decay, as well as periodic inspections for signs of insect damage or rot. Pressure-treated landscape timbers are more resistant to decay and insect damage, potentially extending their lifespan.

While it"s technically possible to construct a landscape timber retaining wall without rebar or stakes, it"s not recommended. Rebar and stakes provide additional strength and stability to your wall, ensuring that it remains level and secure. Without them, your retaining wall may be more susceptible to shifting or collapsing over time.

Permit requirements vary by location, so it"s essential to check with your local building department before starting your retaining wall project. Retaining walls exceeding a certain height or built near property lines may require a permit, and some localities may have specific requirements for materials, engineering, or drainage.

Homeowners and landscapers alike have successfully installed landscape timber retaining walls in various projects. Case studies and reviews often highlight the natural appearance and cost-effectiveness of landscape timbers, especially for those on a budget or tackling the project themselves. Some users note the challenges of maintaining the appearance and strength of a timber wall, but with proper maintenance and attention, many landscape timber retaining walls have lasted for years.

Landscape timbers can be a beautiful, natural, and cost-effective choice for constructing retaining walls. With proper planning, installation, and maintenance, a landscape timber retaining wall can provide both aesthetic and functional benefits to your property. Before embarking on a retaining wall project, carefully consider factors like material, size, and appearance to ensure your new retaining wall is both safe and visually appealing.