Aug 13, 2018: If you’re like me, you’re tired of hearing all the talk these days about border walls and immigration. A lot of yadda-yadda and nothing is getting done. In the end, if you want to get-r-done, well you’ve just gonna have to do it yourself. So I’m here today to encourage you to build your own border wall!
Now as I see it, there are two kinds of border walls: those that exclude and those that retain. I much prefer the latter, as it creates usable space and helps to stop the erosion of land or human decency. And my material of choice for the DIY’er is segmental retaining wall block, or SRW as the pros call it. Civilians often refer to them as “Keystone block” but Keystone is one manufacturer out of many today that are making the units.

SRW’s hold many advantages. They are extremely diverse in color, texture and size, which give a multitude of design options.They are easier than many other wall materials to create curves, corners, caps and steps. They are considered to be flexible structures,meaning that they can accommodate some soil shifting from frost heaving without failing. You don’t have to dig down to the frostline to lay a wall foundation. You don’t need to have heavy equipment like a tractor/loader (though it’s handy) for working with the block. Block weights can range from 25 lbs for small garden wall block to 80 lbs for heavy duty walls.

There’s a ton of information in your local library or the internet about how to build SRWs. so I’m not going to reiterate all those iterations you can find, but I would like to highlight some personal tips to consider before building your border wall.

- 4 feet. That’s the maximum height a SRW can be before being required (by Oregon law) to be designed by a landscape architect or civil engineer. As I mentioned above, SRW’s are flexible but sometimes that flexibility leads to failure. The higher the wall, the more engineering is needed. Things such as soil type, angle of repose, surcharge, and anchorage become important factors. So my tip to you, study the installation manuals published online for the SRW units you’re thinking of using. The manufacturers do a pretty good job with their educational support materials. Under 2’ high, you can do yourself. 2-4’ , think about getting some professional advice or some serious self-study. 4’ or higher, hire a professional, preferably a landscape contractor with retaining wall experience and a portfolio they can show you. Several SRW manufacturers, such as Allan Block and Belgard have their own professional training programs for contractors.

- Foundation, foundation, foundation. It’s the key to the walls success. Follow the manufacturer’s specs in the dimensions. materials and techniques to follow. Many is the wall failure I have seen that was directly attributable to an inadequate base foundation.

- Drainage, drainage. It’s the second most important reason for failure. Soil water trapped behind a wall puts hydraulic pressure on that wall. Because SRW’s are modular they have some porosity. Water can weep through them from the backfill behind, but only if proper backfill procedures and porous backfill materials and drain pipe in some instances are used. The higher the wall the more slope it retains, the more important drainage becomes. Make sure you make the accommodations for hydraulic relief.

- Compaction. It’s the third most important factor to wall success. Unless it’s a small 18” high wall, I’d recommend renting a vibra-tamper to mechanically compact your gravel base. Hand or foot tamping just doesn’t cut it.

- SRWs and back health. Once you’ve selected the SRW block you’d like to use, go the supply yard and heft it up repeatedly. Even if you’re using a tractor loader or Bobcat or a big burly teenager named Bob, you’re going to be manhandling this block a lot. Learn how to safely kneel down and lift block as well as safely turn with it. Pay heed to my heart felt and hernia felt advice.

I hope I have, in some small way, inspired to you to step forth and be a patriot and build your own border wall. What this country needs is not one big border wall, but thousands of individual border walls keeping American land on American properties. So get out there now, without waiting on anybody, and start retaining what’s good in this country, before it erodes away.

F & P