I am renting an excavator this weekend to take advantage of the holiday and I intend to start a retaining wall. I really appreciate getting some of the expertise from fellow board members. Below are pics and a rough drawing of the back yard. My questions are such: 1) Changing elevations: If I only built the wall to the height of the current terrain i'd be changing the level of my base multiple times. Which doesn't sound right. Given my lack of experience, should I just make the the base the same throughout? I hesitate to do this given additional dirt removal and cost. 2) Drainage: I had planned on using a single PVC pipe behind the base layer running the length of the way and draining on the far side away from the patio. Open to the air by point F. Additionally, 12 inches of gravel will be placed behind the wall per mfg specs. Is this sufficient drainage? 3) How do I over build?: I plan on being in this house for some time (perhaps 50 years) and later building a paver patio on top of it. My son will play on this, so I want it to be fail safe. I plan to use geogrid every other level starting with base and bury the entire first layer. Is reasonable? Any other considerations I should make? 4) Stairs: I tenatively would like to put stairs in between points B and C (though not 12 ft wide of course). Do i need to dig out that entire area or just step cut with new levels of base? Any special drainage requiredments? Many thanks to all that reply. Other pertient information: - i chose the base of the tree as the target height becuase the base of the cement pad is even higher and would require a much taller wall. I am not tied to this though. - climate is northern KY (clay soil) - product I plan to use is Mesa Block - Standard unit block since I can get it for $5.60 a block. Dimenstions are 18x12x8 (http://www.tensarcorp.com/index.asp?id=476) - since I am impatient and cheap, I have not consulted a civil engineer Questions comments? Any other considerations I should keep in mind?