Building a Wall Step 3: Contruction

Deciding Who Should Build Your Wall

You’ve taken the time to determine the structure and choose the look and feel of your wall, and now the time has come to actually build the wall you have been planning. The most critical question is, should you try to build it yourself, or not? Several factors should be considered in evaluating whether or not you should attempt this as a do-it-yourself project.

  • Technical difficulty
  • Risks or impact of making serious mistakes
  • Availability of time to work on the wall
  • Personal physical fitness
  • Enjoyment
  • Urgency of schedule to finish the wall
  • Access to needed tools and equipment
  • Cost
Assessing Difficulty and Risk

Assessing Difficulty and Risk

This diagram charts the relative technical difficulty and cost of mistakes of major hardscaping projects, including wall (shown in red) projects. Technical difficulty is based on knowledge needed to execute the project, complexity of the construction steps, breadth of tools and equipment needed, physical demands on the construction crew, and the need for specialists and/or permits during the construction process. In general, the higher the wall and the more stuff behind the wall, the greater the technical difficulty. The cost of mistakes refers to the kinds of problems that incorrect construction can produce. In the case of a sidewalk, a typical mistake will result in poor grading, puddles forming, and ultimately the need to redo the work. Physical harm is unlikely. In the case of a wall, the worst case scenario is that it falls down and destroys what it lands on. The cost is not only reconstruction but liability for injury and damage.

Assuming you can convince yourself that you are willing to deal with the technical and liability risks, the next thing to consider is timing. Do you have big chunks of free time to work on this project? Is there a deadline for completion (e.g., your daughter’s graduation party) that is going to put a lot of pressure on you to find time you don’t have or work in unpleasant weather conditions.

Then you should consider your health. Building a wall, even a garden wall, is a lot of heavy lifting. How’s your back? Do you really enjoy this type of physical effort and are you in condition to do this work without injury?

Finally, consider the costs. While it will definitely cost more out-of-pocket dollars to hire a contractor, there are hidden costs to doing this work yourself, including renting excavation equipment, buying or renting the special tools you need (e.g., laser levels), and potentially the cost of hiring a contractor to fix your mistakes.

A simple, flat garden wall is a doable project for almost anyone. But, once you introduce grade changes, products with complex installation steps, large heavy wall materials, or heights above 18″, it is time to look for a contractor. Our website offers a list of referrals for your assistance in finding qualified help.