Common Mistakes to Avoid in DIY Retaining Wall Projects

DIY retaining wall

Written By Benjamin Eyth

Published on 2 Apr, 2024

Blogs | Retaining Walls

Do you already have some DIY retaining wall ideas and are excited to plan and build your project?
Do you have a soil erosion problem in your yard? A retaining wall not only counters this issue but also adds aesthetics, enhancing your property’s curb appeal and maintaining the integrity of your outdoor spaces.

But while the idea of retaining wall installation might seem straightforward, it’s a complex hardscaping task. Improper planning and execution can lead to unexpected expenses and complications.

The risk of a poorly constructed wall becoming a safety hazard is genuine. Even minor errors can cause cracks, which can potentially lead to a collapse.

Mistakes can be cost-prohibitive since building a retaining wall is a considerable investment.

Before proceeding,please know the most common mistakes to avoid when building DIY retaining walls.
Here are three:


Mistake #1: Poor drainage


Did you know that most retaining wall problems are due to inadequate drainage?

Without proper drainage, groundwater and surface water will accumulate in the soil and weaken the wall, especially when it freezes and thaws. This water can also undermine the ground, cause erosion, and cause the wall to crack, bulge, and collapse.

Adding adequate backfill gravel and a perforated drain pipe is one way to prevent those problems.

Could you include this step in your easy DIY retaining wall to prevent water accumulation and reduce hydrostatic pressure?


Mistake #2: Inadequate base prep


Different retaining walls require different bases or footing. Without sufficient site prep, the wall will bulge out or tip forward later.

Additionally, think about how high the retaining will be. The higher it is, the more weight it will bear — which means it needs proper reinforcement to handle the increased pressure.

Some walls may require engineering to meet local building codes.

Consult a professional to ensure everything’s up to standard and avoid significant issues.


Mistake #3: Wrong choice of material


How do you know if a material suits your easy DIY retaining wall? Look at the following factors:

  • Wall height
  • Soil quality and type
  • Slope
  • Drainage conditions in your area
  • Climate

Avoid using wood to build your retaining wall if you don’t want to deal with moisture damage, termites, and wood rot because of rainy weather.

Is the foundational soil too soft? You do not want to build a retaining wall without proper reinforcement, or it will shift and collapse.

A professional landscaper can take the guesswork out of choosing the best materials.


Tips to build a successful, long-lasting retaining wall

Here are a few tips to help make your project more successful and ensure longevity.


  • Hire a pro – Complex projects require professional expertise from a structural engineer, a seasoned retaining wall installer, and a certified arborist.

These experts will work closely with you to ensure a structurally sound wall that lasts decades. They know their way around complicated installations (such as taller walls, building with heavier materials, and erecting a fence on a steep slope).

Do you want to face expensive repairs in the future, or would it be wiser to invest in professional expertise today? Hiring professionals shouldn’t be considered an extra expense because their expertise and knowledge can save you money.


  • Remember to inspect your wall periodically. Regularly check it for leaning, bulging, and cracking. Don’t put off repairs. You should also regularly clean the surface, remove any weeds growing around it, and monitor the drainage system.


Let Outdoor Cedar Structures build your retaining wall.

You don’t have to do those DIY retaining wall ideas yourself. Leave the entire project to our experts at Outdoor Cedar Structures.

We’re certified by the CMHA to install segmental retaining walls.

As a local retaining wall installer in Spokane, we’re very familiar with the inland northwest landscape, and we use this to build decorative and functional walls. Schedule your free design consultation by calling (509)329-6054.

Contact us today toschedule a design consultation