How to Build a Rock Garden Wall (Basic Guide) – New Life Rockeries

How to Build a Rock Garden Wall (Basic Guide) – New Life Rockeries


Rock Garden Wall

A rock garden wall or retaining wall is a type of wall that you can build in your garden without the use of mortar or the need for concrete footing. This type of wall can be built using a variety of rock types but there is a method to follow if you’re wondering how to build a rock garden wall. 


To help you build your retaining wall, the rockery experts here at New Life Rockeries have written down the following step-by-step process for how to build a retaining wall of your own.

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One thing to note before beginning is considering the size and purpose of your retaining rock wall. If it needs to be four or more feet in height, and if the thing it is retaining is particularly important or expensive, then you should consider building a properly engineered wall instead. If your wall is around three feet high and is retaining a layer of lawn or a flower bed, then you can certainly tackle this yourself using this process.

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How to Build a Rock Garden Wall (Basic Guide) - New Life Rockeries

How To Build a Retaining Wall: Materials and Preparation

Two of the most popular stone types for this kind of wall are fieldstones and flagstones (made from limestone). Both are of an ideal size, shape, and weight for a retaining wall, and are manageable enough for any homeowner to use as building materials.

The main tools you will need are a shovel, hammer and chisel, and a spirit level. Make sure to wear thick, sturdy gloves when handling your rocks. Sturdy shoes are also essential.

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Before you begin stacking your wall, sort your stones first. This saves time and makes the process simpler. Your wall will begin and end with the flattest stones you have, so sort those into their own pile first. If your wall has corners, sort the roundest stones into a pile which will be used to form the corner of the wall.

How To Build a Rock Garden Wall

Now that your stones are sorted, it’s time to follow this step-by-step process on how to build a small retaining wall: 

  1. Select the location of your wall and dig a trench approximately twelve inches deep. The trench should be wide enough to fit your flattest stones. These flat stones will be the retaining wall’s first layer (also known as a course).

  2. Lay the flat stones in the trench, keeping them close together. Check them with the spirit level as you go to ensure they are consistently level across the trench. Your goal is to build a solid first course of flat stone as a foundation for the rest of your wall.
  3. From here, keep enough flat stones leftover for the top course and use the other, less flat, stones to build the middle layers of your wall. This method of placing the flattest stones at the bottom and top is key when considering how to build a rock garden wall.
  4. As you continue to steadily build your wall’s layers, make sure to fill in any gaps with smaller rocks and pebbles, and avoid using anything like soil or mud. Your retaining wall should be made entirely of stone.
  5. Remember to complete one layer before moving on to the next. It is essential that the wall remains constantly level, so keep checking and measuring the level of each layer as you go. Also make sure that you are selecting stones which slot together well, ensuring the smallest number of gaps possible.
  6. To complete your wall, make the top layer out of your remaining flattest and smoothest stones. This will ensure the strongest and most aesthetic finish.
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Get Expert Help for Your Rock Garden Wall

If you are wondering how to build a retaining wall on a slope or need help with other technical questions, please contact the rock wall experts at New Life Rockeries. Our team has been building walls since 1975 and can answer your questions or provide you with a construction estimate for your own rock garden wall.  [external_footer]