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How do I get started in building retaining walls

JMiller08

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Brunswick, Oh
Check your local vocational school. By me they sometimes offer different classes for various things. Also check your local community colleges they too often offer classes like i mentioned. Not sure you need a license, unless your building something very elaborate. For a simple 6 or 8 course wall you should be fine. Maybe do one of your own on your own property too play with and get the understanding of it down. Once you do one its all repetition. And remember, always check that our level!
 

JMiller08

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Brunswick, Oh
Also always check for permits, call the city and talk to the building dept. they will let you know. And to dont for get Call Before You Dig. If you are near a home or any other building always call them and they will mark out all your utility lines that you need to be aware of.
 

KeystoneLawn&Landscaping

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Erie, PA
If you are serious about building SRWs then you should get as much educational materials as you can get your hands on. NCMA is a good place to start. Do a google search and see if there will be any educational seminars in your area for building walls, given by a NCMA certified instructor. Building SRWs isn't rocket science. HOWEVER if you don't follow EVERY step exactly, your walls WILL fail. You can also check with your local suppliers for educational seminars. Be smart for about your first dozen projects, build SMALL projects and learn from them. SMALL walls, planters, fire features, etc. are less likely to fail if you make MINOR mistakes. Good luck.
 

White Gardens

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Bloomington IL
I agree with all the posts.

I just want to expand on one suggestion and that is to figure out what block is available to you in your area. Once you figure the companies, contact them and see if they do seminars.

I know Paveloc in IL does some, Allen Block I think does some training.

Don't forget green industry trade shows too. Sometimes they offer day long classes.
 

dubb

LawnSite Member
Location
chattanooga
you can take all the classes you want, go to as many seminars as you want and so on but you need hands on experience to learn how to build retaining walls. i have been in the retaining wall buisness myself for awhile and the best way to learn is hands on. try to get a job with a good hardscape/landscape company. that will teach you more than any classes will. although, i just got back yesterday from belgard university that was held in nashville. i took the ncma class and attended some seminars. it was great and i learned alot but you cant just take classes and know how to build a wall. there are alot of factors into building retaining walls so working with a contractor for a year or so would be the best way to learn.
 

KeystoneLawn&Landscaping

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Erie, PA
Dubb your correct about hands on, but don't casually dismiss seminars, education, or certifications. Knowing the basics of the technical and engineering aspects of wall building are VERY important. If you don't know the why behind what your hands are doing then chances are your walls may fail. As far as learning from on the job with "experienced" landscapers, that only works if they do the job correctly! For example, a local large LCO built a wall here on Peach Street. Not positive on height and width, but its long and not very high, maybe 4-5 ft. The wall is about 3 years old and it is failing. I knew it would fail because of the way they built it. I don't have all the specs on the wall and wasn't there for all the construction, so the reasons I'm going to give for failure are based on what I could see from the road. The first big clue they wern't building it correctly was the excavation behind the wall. The excavation was only about 2ft behind the wall. With the height of the wall and the slope above, its my opinion there should have been geogrid in that wall. With the excavation being so short I'm fairly sure there wasn't any. I'm thinking with the slope and height of the wall, excavation would have been around ten ft behind the wall. Again, I wasn't there and I'm not an engineer, but with what I've learned about the technical and engineering aspects of wall building, I was sure it would fail. I agree hands on is very important to hone your skills. Thats why I suggest the first dozen projects be small. While honing your skills on small projects, the mistakes you make will less likely cause failures. Education is a powerful tool in the tool box!
 

dubb

LawnSite Member
Location
chattanooga
Dubb your correct about hands on, but don't casually dismiss seminars, education, or certifications. Knowing the basics of the technical and engineering aspects of wall building are VERY important. If you don't know the why behind what your hands are doing then chances are your walls may fail. As far as learning from on the job with "experienced" landscapers, that only works if they do the job correctly! For example, a local large LCO built a wall here on Peach Street. Not positive on height and width, but its long and not very high, maybe 4-5 ft. The wall is about 3 years old and it is failing. I knew it would fail because of the way they built it. I don't have all the specs on the wall and wasn't there for all the construction, so the reasons I'm going to give for failure are based on what I could see from the road. The first big clue they wern't building it correctly was the excavation behind the wall. The excavation was only about 2ft behind the wall. With the height of the wall and the slope above, its my opinion there should have been geogrid in that wall. With the excavation being so short I'm fairly sure there wasn't any. I'm thinking with the slope and height of the wall, excavation would have been around ten ft behind the wall. Again, I wasn't there and I'm not an engineer, but with what I've learned about the technical and engineering aspects of wall building, I was sure it would fail. I agree hands on is very important to hone your skills. Thats why I suggest the first dozen projects be small. While honing your skills on small projects, the mistakes you make will less likely cause failures. Education is a powerful tool in the tool box!


I agree, wasnt meaning for it to sounds like classes and seminars, etc. didnt mean anything. the more you can learn, the better you will be in the industry. Also, it is hard to find a good experienced contractor to work for. I would do a little research on the company i wanted to work for and see what they are capable of doing and what they have done. This way you will learn the industry better. But i have worked from not so good contractors that skimped out on things and then some that make sure everything is absolutely perfect, needless to say i learned alot of what to do and what not to do. So, working for someone and also getting certifications, taking classes and such will definatley set you on your way with the knowlege of how to build retaining walls and also a little bit of how to operate a business.
 
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