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Concrete wall footings vs. compacted base


LawnSite Member
Glocester, RI
I have been lurking here for a while and I certainly appreciate all you and this site has to offer. That said, I'm afraid I have a somewhat foolish question to ask, but it's bugging me and I sincerely hope some experts can weigh in.

I'm going to be building a concrete block wall that is going to be covered using cultured stone. The wall is going to be about 4' high and will be constructed to "hide" a retaining wall built out of roughly 3' diameter boulders. The wall is only going to retain the drainage stone behind the block as the boulders are doing their job retaining everything else. The virgin soil is the typical New England rock garden variety with a little gravel thrown in.

Normal practice for any concrete wall is to pour a footing, but (and this is the embarrassing part) I was wondering if a compacted base is the preferred method for retaining wall blocks, why wouldn't it be "good enough" for a cinder block wall that's mortared together? It seems to me that the vertical sheer pressures would be basically the same given the wall size/weight. And yes, I understand the importance of a footing for a concrete wall with a structure built on it, but we're talking about just the weight of the wall.

Anyone care to add their thoughts on the differences of compacted base vs. footings?

Thank you for reading this.