constructing a retaining wall

How to build a retaining wall with steel posts

Whether you're adding landscaping around your home or need to stabilize an incline, a retaining wall provides structure and curb appeal. Constructing one with durable steel posts offers strength and longevity. From planning to installation, let's explore the steps for success.

What is a Sleeper Retaining Wall?

A sleeper retaining wall is a basic yet hardworking type of retaining wall system that relies on large rectangular or square timbers laid horizontally to support soil behind it.

These sleepers act as ledges that enable stacked configurations to build walls up to several feet high. The sleepers can be made from long-lasting materials like redwood, cedar, or pressure-treated pine, as well as natural stones or concrete.

Their slots and connections allow soil retention and drainage while providing an organic, natural texture and look. Grasses, ground covers, and shallow-rooted perennials paired with sleepers integrate well into landscape designs.

Compared to a traditional concrete block wall, sleeper walls blend easily into sloping yards as a more casual barrier option. Their assembly lies mainly in level preparation and spacing sleepers on a solid foundation, similar to laying patio pavers.

Periodic checks ensure the wall maintains integrity over time. But once established with proper drainage and plants, sleeper walls demand little other than occasional weed pulling or leaf removal from their open slat construction.

For projects where a simple gravel-free yet cost-effective solution works best, a sleeper retaining wall delivers reliability alongside aesthetic charm befitting any garden space it enhances.

Why Should You Include Steel Posts in Your Retaining Walls?

When constructing a retaining wall, it's important to ensure that the effort and resources invested in the project will endure. We suggest using robust steel posts for building the retaining wall. 

Opting for galvanized steel beams is ideal as they are resistant to rust and corrosion. Although painted steel beams may be more affordable, they do not meet the same durability standards. Many retaining wall systems utilize thin steel, which can easily bend or warp under pressure.

A useful guideline when working with steel posts is: "The height above ground level of your retaining wall should match how deep your steel beams go into the ground." This provides a solid foundation for your retaining wall, capable of withstanding heavy soil pressure when combined with concrete.

How to build a retaining wall with steel posts?

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty of building the wall. Here’s how:

1. Preparation

Proper preparation prevents poor performance, so take time on the front end. Call utility companies to locate underground lines and plan for adequate drainage. Remove grass and level the base area, compacting the soil. Mark out the wall location and run a string line for a straight guide. Additionally, check local codes for regulations.

2. Materials

You'll need steel posts, rail ties or landscape timbers, concrete mix, gravel, and hardware including brackets, clips, and spikes. Galvanized steel holds up best against corrosion. For an 8-foot wall, estimate posts every 4 feet on center. We, at Austrina Steels, have a range of Galvanized steel posts from 50mm to 150mm. For universal beams from 150 and above, we can organize the steels with a certain lead time based on availability.

3. Laying the Base

A well-drained base is crucial for the wall's integrity. Cover the leveled area with 4–6 inches of compactable gravel. Tap it firmly with a tamper. This will settle the soil and allow water to move freely. Optionally, lay landscaping fabric between gravel and soil as a weed barrier.

4. Digging

Dig the footing to a depth similar to that of the retaining wall. For post holes, excavate holes with a 450mm diameter at this same depth, ensuring there is a minimum concrete cover of 100mm below the post.

5. Securing and Building

After preparing the holes, position the posts along the retaining wall and ensure they are vertically aligned. Fill the holes with concrete and level it before bracing the posts in place until the concrete sets. Next, put in the first sleeper (maximum 83mm) and verify its alignment. Then, you can proceed to add the remaining sleepers. Finally, include any necessary drainage and plastic membrane before backfilling to complete the process.

6. Ongoing Care

Check the wall periodically, especially after heavy weather, and promptly address any shifts early on. Drainage is an ongoing key. Consider plants with shallow, non-invasive root systems nearby. With maintenance as simple as cleaning debris and trimming weeds 1–2 times per year, the wall will stand strong season after season. Enjoy your beautiful new landscape feature!

Back to blog

Leave a comment