How to Create a Retaining Wall with River Rocks or Stones

How to Create a Retaining Wall with River Rocks or Stones


River rocks tumbled and polished by flowing water make for a beautiful addition to any yard.  When you want to add a hardscaping element that’s smoother and more approachable than rough hewn stones, river rocks are an ideal alternative.

The question is, how can you stack them into a serviceable and attractive retaining wall?  When you know what steps to take, you’ll end up with a beautiful wall that could last for decades, and beyond.  Here are a few simple tips to build a functional and lasting retaining wall with river rocks or stones.

Choose the Right Rocks

River rocks are hardly uniform, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find rocks that are better suited to your project.  Mainly, you’ll want to look for larger, flatter stones to go toward the bottom, creating a solid base for your wall.  Smaller rocks can be added as you build up the wall, but you’ll want to save flatter stones for the top layer to create a relatively uniform surface.

Create a Solid Foundation

The foundation of the wall starts with a trench that reaches below the frost line.  Make sure the trench is a couple of feet wider than the intended width of the wall to ensure you have plenty of room to work – you’ll fill it in later when the wall is complete.

The trench should be as even as possible.  Smooth the area and tamp the soil firmly before laying any rocks.  Next you can line the trench with landscape fabric and pour a bed of small rocks onto it to cover with mortar for the base, or you can lay wire fencing and cover it with concrete.  You’ll need to choose the method you prefer.

Build Your Wall

It’s finally time to build the wall, and it’s relatively straightforward.  You place larger rocks at the bottom and add mortar on each layer to adhere the next row, wiping away excess mortar.  Don’t forget to add pipes for drainage when you start so that water doesn’t back up behind your retaining wall.

Get Professional Help

If all of this seems like a lot for a DIY project, there’s good news.  You can find professional help when it comes to building your retaining wall.  Your best bet is to call a reputable local landscape designer to help you plan and install your river rock retaining wall.

Don’t forget, you can also find premium decorative rock, filling materials, and more at Tigard Sand and Gravel.  Contact us today at 503-692-1800 or online to learn more and get your project underway.