Installing garden walls

You’ve probably worked on a fairly wide range of walls throughout your career, and have seen them used for many different purposes. In some cases, your client might be after a purely functional wall that will act as a dividing line between their property and their next-door neighbours’.

In other cases – and these are usually among the more interesting commercial landscaping jobs – you might have dealt with clients who’ve wanted something more decorative, and have asked you to exercise a bit of creativity in the design process.

If you’ve already been working on the rest of the client’s gardening landscaping, this is where you get to pick a wall that will perfectly frame and complement your finished work.

  • 1. Building a retaining wall, step by step

    You probably know the steps to building any kind of stone wall by heart, but in case you need to explain them to a client in a hurry, this quick list can help.

    Step 1: Draw up your plans

    Some people like to start with a sketch, but you’ll know what works for you. You’ll take the position of elements such as drainage and guttering into consideration before you start marking out the bed area with string, stakes and a shovel.

    Step 2: Calculate the number of blocks needed

    As you know, the best way to work out the number needed per row is to divide the length of the wall by the length of a single block.

    A quick note regarding block choice – Stonemarket walling products are probably already on your radar, but if not, we recommend finding out about them. This Stonemarket Excelsior Walling product video will tell you more.

    Step 3: Dig your trench

    Go with your gut, but optimal depth for a trench usually falls between 4 and 6 inches or so. You’ll have your spirit level to hand to keep things even, as well as a hand tamper for flattening the dirt.

    Step 4: Spread and rake your paver base

    The layer of sub-base will be around 3 inches deep. Keep your hand tamper close by, as you’ll need it again here.

    Step 5: Lay your first row of blocks

    As always with any wall, you’ll start at the least elevated end, with your spirit level in hand.

    Step 6: Install the remainder of the blocks

    Continue laying the other rows of block, ensuring you’ve implemented some good drainage solutions.

    Step 7: Put down landscaping fabric

    Put landscaping fabric down before filling in the space behind the wall with gravel. Then fill in directly behind the wall with gravel as you continue to build.

    Step 8: Finish up

    Lay your final couple of rows of blocks, spreading concrete adhesive on the wall beforehand. Finally, fold any excess landscaping fabric out of the way and finish with soil and plants.

  • 2. Building a garden wall, step by step

    As there’s a fair bit of overlap with building a retaining wall, we’ll go into a little less detail here.

    Step 1: Plan, mark and calculate

    Just as when you’re building a retaining wall, you probably tend to start your garden wall projects by sketching a detailed plan to scale. Then you’ll go onto mark out the area with string and stakes. Finally, calculate how many blocks or bricks you’ll need. Decide if you’ll be cutting enough to require an angle grinder, or if your trusty hammer and bolster chisel will be sufficient.

    Step 2: Lay your foundations

    Measure out the area for your foundations, dig your trench, and place timber pegs at regular intervals along its centre. Then pour your concrete in and tamp it down. The 24 hours it takes to set always leaves a nice opportunity to get any other garden landscaping work your client has requested out of the way.

    Step 3: Lay your blocks

    You’ll know the best kind of mortar for the bricks you’re working with. With it mixed up, you can start laying down the first course of the blocks themselves. It goes without saying, but keep the mortar off the face of the blocks to keep your wall neat and stain-free. With the first course in place, move onto the second, cutting any blocks you need to as you go. Here – and at all the other stages – you’ll be checking evenness with your spirit level regularly.

    Step 4: Final touches

    Smooth out the mortar with your trowel and clean away any excess. Top the wall off with coping stone on a bed of mortar.