3 Reasons You Need a Concrete Footing for a Retaining Wall

A retaining wall is a type of structure commonly used to keep land from eroding away. It can be constructed from various materials, including brick, wood, stone, and concrete.

For larger retaining walls, you’ll need a concrete foundation beneath them. A landscape gardener will pour a concrete base below the frost line to construct the structure’s foundation (the frost line is the depth at which the ground will freeze in the winter).

Construction of your wall on flatter ground with no risk of erosion may eliminate the need to install a concrete footing beneath the wall. However, if this is not the case, check with the appropriate authorities before proceeding with the installation process. In this article, I’ll go over the steps involved in constructing a concrete footing and the circumstances under which such a structure may not be required.

A concrete footing for your retaining wall is an important part of the construction process.

For larger retaining walls to be supported by concrete footings, it is good to learn how to construct a concrete footing if you intend to build a DIY retaining wall in your yard.

It is not particularly difficult to construct a concrete footing for your retaining wall. Still, due to the size and weight of wet cement, you will require the assistance of at least one other person when constructing this type of foundation for your new walls.

To construct a concrete footing for your retaining wall, you will need the following materials:

Water boards and cement shovels create a form for the concrete footing.

The following steps to take when installing a concrete footing for your retaining wall.

1. Prepare the Surface Area

As with any construction project, the first step in installing concrete footings for retaining walls is to prepare the ground where the new structure will be built.

Next, remove all small plants and large roots from the area so that you can create a solid surface on which to pour the foundation.

Once this has been completed, remove any additional dirt that may be in the way of the concrete footing’s installation, allowing enough space to be poured.

2. Determine the size of your pouring area.

Before you begin pouring concrete into your retaining wall structure, you must determine where the concrete should be placed.

You should ensure that the area where you will pour your footing is level and flat so that the cement does not pool at an unusual angle when it dries. Ensure that this area is delineated with wooden boards or stakes.

Footings for concrete walls should typically be at least 6 inches (15.24 cm) thick to provide adequate support.

The depth of your footing, on the other hand, will vary depending on how much weight your wall is required to support.

To ensure that you include a proper concrete foundation for constructing a retaining wall, you should double-check the building codes in your area.

Return to the area you just marked off and dig about 4 inches (10.16 cm) deep into the soil to complete the task.

This is referred to as “grubbing.” Prepare this area so that it can withstand the weight of your wall when it is completed.

Remove any roots or weeds from the ground, but take care not to disturb anything else in the area. After you have completed this step, you will be able to begin constructing your walls!

3. Create a Form to use.

Afterward, construct a form for your concrete footing from boards at least 4 inches (10.16 cm) wide and approximately an inch smaller in size than the footing’s dimensions.

A greater number of boards may be required if you intend to construct multiple levels of concrete footings; however, one board per level is sufficient if only one footing is to be constructed.

Using the height of the retaining wall and adding 6 inches will give you a footing for your new retaining wall! (15.24 cm).

It will be necessary to calculate the total additional height to determine how much gravel must be placed between each level before pouring the cement.

4. Construct a concrete footing.

Before placing the first layer of concrete, wet the dirt beneath it to ensure that it does not absorb too much moisture from the setting cement during the curing process.

Alternatively, you can allow water to drip onto your poured concrete footing slowly until it is moist but not soggy wet.

Ensure that each section has enough concrete to form a solid foundation that is approximately 2 inches (5.08 cm) thick. Allow time for the concrete to settle before adding a second layer until you have reached the desired depth.

5. Allow drying completely before adding retaining wall block.

The wall block should be left in the concrete footing for at least five days after being installed to ensure that it is completely dry and strong enough to withstand wind, rain, and freezing temperatures without shifting.

The footer is protected from additional pressure for at least five days until it has hardened sufficiently to support the additional weight without shifting or sinking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about the need for concrete footings for retaining walls, as well as answers to those questions:

Does a Concrete Footing for a Large Retaining Wall Require More Work?

Concrete footings should support the weight of your blocks because of the horizontal pressure exerted on a retaining wall during construction.

While dirt is usually sufficient for supporting vertical pressure on a wall, it lacks the necessary strength to withstand horizontal pressure on the same wall.

The foundation for a large retaining wall must be made of concrete. It is possible that a concrete footing will not be required for small retaining walls; however, for large or taller structures, it may be necessary to prevent the structure from shifting.

Your soil conditions may prevent you from constructing a footer to support the weight of your small retaining wall.

However, construction on solid ground or rock, without soil or sand, should present little difficulty in supporting the walls with only stone blocks.

The more stable the ground, on the other hand, the more material will be required to construct your wall.

If your soil is soft and weak, it will be necessary for you to consider using concrete footing because dirt will not be strong enough to withstand the pressure of a building foundation.

What is the proper way to measure a footing for a retaining wall?

The process of measuring a footing for a retaining wall is fairly straightforward. You will need to measure the length and width of your footing and the height of your wall before you can proceed.

It is recommended that the base width be between half and one-third the height of your retaining wall when measuring a footing for your retaining wall.

The base thickness should never be less than 12 inches (30.48 cm) and should be approximately one-eighth the height of the wall.

What is the minimum depth of footings required for a retaining wall?

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Many factors, including the width, height, and length of your wall, will influence the depth of your footings.

In addition, the weather conditions in your area should be taken into consideration when determining the footing depth for your project.

Generally, retaining walls require at least 6 inches of depth in the footings; however, you should consult an engineer or architect in your area to determine the exact depth required.

Also, check your soil type; in some cases, deeper footings are required with softer soils, so be sure to check that.

Is it necessary to use concrete footings for small retaining walls?

The use of a mixture of gravel and sand for smaller projects may be a good way to reduce the overall cost of your retaining wall.

However, you may need to use concrete footings to build a taller or larger-scale project to ensure that your wall remains stable.

Retaining walls less than six feet high do not require concrete footings. So depending on how short your retaining wall is going to be, you may be able to get away with using gravel and sand instead of concrete.


It is not always necessary to construct retaining walls. However, if you decide to do so, make sure that the wall’s foundation is solid. The use of concrete footings provides a strong foundation for smaller walls and may be beneficial for taller walls depending on the situation.

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