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How high and how long is the wall? Personally, I like either wood or Fortress Blocks for retaining walls. I would consider wood for walls under 2' AND if it 'fits in' with the landscaping. Otherwise, I'd go w/the Fortress Blocks. A poured wall is fine but it would look like a foundation wall more than a retaining wall.
The key to no matter how you do it is how you construct the wall. The pad, the back-fill, and possibly tie-ins are important along with proper drainage for long lasting durability. This is why height is important in my question.
If you give more specifics, perhaps I can give more specifics back to you. For now, my best to ya and hope this helps.
Jay J -Moderator
PS: What's on the 'front side' of the wall? Your yard? A stream???
Yes, retaining wall blocks ARE made of concrete. AND, they would be GREAT for your project. And yes, if you're handy and can read Instructions (as you will see), a DIYer can do the job. The key to a block retaining wall is the base, the gravel back-fill, proper drainage, (the 'tie-in' if necessary), and filter/landscape fabric.
Oh, and thanks for the details. In your case, after you read the instructions at Allan Block, you'll know more about your abilities. Don't get TOO hung up in the specs. I believe you'll need to do a tie-in but I'm not sure. (Since you're 4' high at the highest, for some reason, 3'+ requires a tie-in. Just keep your eye open on that.) It will be a lot of work but the HARD part is the prep and the easy part is the block building. If you want, you can kinda talk to an Excavation Pro to see if he can do the digging and then you can fine tune that, and then build the wall. Talk to him about gravel too. You DO want drain pipe and filter/landscape fabric. Again, it's in the instructions. No, you don't need dirt in front of the wall at all. When you look at the pictures in the instructions, you'll see how it's done and probably know why. Since the backside of the wall is 'drainage', the dirt 'hill' WON'T move (or push on the wall) because of the drainage. It's all about Physics.
The block will cost but it's better AND it looks nicer. I'm sure you'll get your $$$ back if you move. And you can save on some labor by doing some of the work yourself. You'll just have to weigh which part of the job you want to do. Hey, if you don't have the $$$ now, start saving and revisit the project later. That's OK - At least you'll get the job done the better way AND you'll have the $$$ to do so.
If you have any more ?'s, e-mail me directly because the Post will get 'buried'. My best to ya and hope this helps.
Jay J -Moderator
PS: Shop around at Home Depot, Lowes, Gravel Yards, Concrete Block Mfgrs., and so on for pricing on the block ...