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If your backyard is hilly or has uneven terrain, you might benefit from adding a retaining wall to your landscape. With a retaining wall, you can create functional, level outdoor living areas. Below are some tips and tricks to get started on this landscape-enhancing project.

1. Do your due diligence before you start

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Before you get started on your retaining wall, you’ll want to check on a few things.

First, check your local codes. Most local codes, require that walls taller than 4 feet be designed by an engineer and built by a professional. Codes vary by location, so make sure you check yours for compliance before you start.

If you’re project is up to code, the second thing you’ll want to do is call before you dig. Call either 811 a few days before you plan to start the project. Local utility companies will be dispatched to your dig site to mark the approximate location of buried utility lines with flags or paint. This free service could save you a lot of trouble down the road.

2. Make a plan

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With any landscaping project, you always want to make a plan before you get started. With retaining walls, you’ll want to figure out how tall and how long you want the wall to be. Knowing this will help you estimate how much material you need, and your approximate cost.

3. Be creative

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Retaining walls don’t have to be perfectly straight! Experimenting with curves can add texture and dimension to your backyard. An easy way to plan out a curve in your retaining wall is to lay out a piece of rope where you want the curve and use that to guide you as you dig.

4. Choose the right materials

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Retaining walls can be made out of a variety of materials, including stones, interlocking concrete blocks, poured concrete, and timbers. The type of material you choose on your preference, budget, and skill level. Poured concrete tends to be the cheapest option per square foot, but may also require a professional. For the DIYer, stones or interlocking concrete blocks are the better route. Not only do they provide a consistent look, buy they also offer structural integrity and an even base with which to work.

5. Plan for drainage

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If your retaining wall is going to be at the bottom of a slope, you’ll need a good drainage solution to keep water from building up behind it and potentially causing damage to your wall. An easy drainage solution is to Add gravel and a fabric-covered drainage pipe at the base. The fabric helps prevent clogging so you don’t have to dig out the pipe later to unclog it.

6. Keep it level

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As you build your retaining wall, it’s important that you take the proper steps to make sure it remains level.

This starts with creating a proper base for the wall. Start by digging your base several inches below grade, and then tamp it to level. Next, add some filler, such as gravel, before you add your first stone or block. The base sets the tone for the rest of the wall, so you’ll want to make sure that you get it right before moving on.

As you build your wall, you’ll constantly want to check that the wall is level. After each layer you add to the retaining wall, check it using a level. Doing this will help maintain a sturdy and balanced wall, as well as help you keep an even and consistent look.

7. Know when to call a professional

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Building a retaining wall is a more complicated DIY project. If you feel like it’s a project that’s out of your depth, call a professional, like DSLD Land Management. A professional can make quick work out a project that might take you the whole weekend. Also, remember that if your wall is going to be taller than 4 feet, your local codes might require that a professional build it.