landscape architecture

Building A Retaining Wall? Here's What You Need To Know!

10 Things To Think About When Building A Retaining Wall

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs


Retaining walls are incredibly important when it comes to controlling erosion or decreasing the dangers of a steep slope but they can also be used as a decorative structure to highlight or define your garden areas. They have become increasingly popular over the past few years and not only add to the beauty of your outdoor space but increase the value of the property itself. To build a successfully constructed and well-designed retaining wall, there are several factors you need to keep in mind. 

1. When designing your wall, you want to make sure that it will be incorporated into your lifestyle. Retaining walls are now being used to create multi-level garden areas or multi-use outdoor spaces. You want to make sure that your retaining wall enhances not only your outdoor space but your lifestyle as well.

2. Get creative with the design of your retaining wall; it’s important to remember that when it comes to transforming your landscape, the possibilities are as endless as your imagination. A retaining wall with a curve is more interesting than a straight line. A garden hose or a large rope can be used to help you layout your retaining wall design – then use a shovel to mark it out. 

When planning the construction of your retaining wall, there are two main factors you need to consider:

3. Size definitely matters when building a retaining wall. Walls that are 4 feet and under in height can be easily designed and built without thinking too much about structure. For larger walls, structure is important because you don’t want it to collapse; you will also need to check your local building regulations as permits might be required for the construction of a wall more than 4 feet in height.

4. Plan for drainage; a wall that has a slope dropping towards it will need added drainage at its base. To allow for drainage you can install a fabric-covered drainage pipe and some gravel at the base (the fabric will keep the pipe from becoming clogged).

Leveling and grading are incredibly important when it comes to constructing a retaining wall:

5. If you are building your retaining wall up a steep slope from a lower grade you will need to gradually step up the retaining wall to achieve a greater slope. Think about terracing, you essentially want to turn your one steep slope into several more level areas slightly resembling a staircase. This will allow you to be able to maneuver the slope safely and the newly created level areas can then be used for planting.

6. Keeping your wall and the surrounding area level is incredibly important as it will ensure that your wall is not only well balanced but sturdy as well. Before building your wall make sure to level out the space and as you continue to build the wall be sure to check that each block is level – this will also give your wall a consistent look.

How long your wall will last and how sturdy it is both depend on how well constructed your wall is:

7. Creating a solid base is key because this will set the tone for your entire project. When creating the base you want to dig out a trench several inches below grade and tamp it (compact it) to ensure that it is level. Then you add gravel and tamp it as well before constructing your first row.

8. Backfilling your wall provides support for your structure. When you complete a row of blocks, backfill with gravel and tamp it – remember that every row must be level. You want to do this all the way up your wall; when you are about 3 inches from the top of the wall you can backfill with soil so that the gravel is not seen.

The style of blocks you use should flow with the design and atmosphere of your outdoor space:


9. Using manufactured blocks and stones are easier when it comes to uniformity and stability. Since no stone is exactly the same, make sure to color match and space out stones that are uneven in color to create a consistent look. You can also use natural stone to build your wall, it might not be as easy to work with but there is such beauty in a creatively designed natural stone wall. 

10. Cap blocks will provide your wall with the necessary finishing touch. You can use masonry adhesive to secure the cap blocks to the top row of your wall to hold them in place. This will give your wall a clean finished look – much like adding edging to a garden bed or paver patio.

Installing a retaining wall can allow you to organize your garden areas in the most elegant way. A well-designed retaining wall can completely transform your property and a well-constructed one can stand the test of time. Following these pointers will allow you to design and construct a retaining wall that has both stability and beauty.

Top Trends in Residential Hardscapes

Top Trends “Rocking” the Hardscape World

By: Lauren Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs


         Hardscaping has become increasingly popular as of late and the trends in hardscape design have shown to be primarily centered on outdoor entertainment. Homeowners are paying more attention to architectural details and materials when designing their outdoor space. Natural stone textures, eye-catching patterns and unique designs are being seen a lot more as homeowners want the exterior of their home to reflect the same atmosphere and functionality as the interior. Let’s discuss some of the current trending details in the hardscape world.

         It’s no wonder that fire pits are one of the top “must-haves” in any outdoor space. However, it is not just a simple fire pit design that is taking the hardscape world by storm. Homeowners are learning that built-in benches, seat walls and ledges made of natural stone, all surrounding a fire pit, do indeed make the space more elegant and more inviting than the fire pit alone. The popularity of this design displays the developing trend of multi-level seating as well as eclectic paver choices and designs.

         Outdoor kitchens also continue to grow in popularity especially with the technological advances in audio-visual equipment and Wi-Fi accessibility as well as a growing interest in sophisticated lighting. Another trend within outdoor kitchens is the desire for multiple cooking surfaces; homeowners now want their outdoor eating area to more than just a grill. Gas burners, convection ovens and brick ovens are now almost seen as a necessity when designing an outdoor kitchen.

         Aside from an outdoor cooking space, outdoor living rooms are also becoming a standard in new construction especially for the design of higher end homes. One of the newer trends in outdoor living rooms is the faux rug paver design. Homeowners are now turning their backyards into literal extensions of their home – the concept of “bringing the indoors out” is beginning to prove to be one of the more popular home improvement projects. Water features have always been a statement piece in a outdoor space, from ponds to fountains to man-made streams – they are showing a large increase in residential popularity as of late.

         With the shape the environment is in today, homeowners everywhere are looking for more ways to “go green”. Thus creating the new trend of permeable pavers. These pavers improve the quality and reduce the quantity of storm water runoff. With a cistern and a pump, the water that filters through the pavers can be collected and recycled for irrigation. Commercial and large residential developers have also found that with these pavers there is no need for a retention pond, thus increasing the amount of usable space.

         Years ago, when you thought of an outdoor space it consisted of maybe a pool and a grill. Slowly but surely times are changing and homeowners are now taking full advantage of the advances in design techniques, outdoor appliances and hardscape materials. A backyard has become so much more than what it used to be. Now you are able to design, create and totally enjoy your own oasis outdoors with every comfort of the indoors.

Why Should I Have an Outdoor Kitchen?

Outdoor Kitchens: What They Can Do For You and Your Property

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs


There is no better way to spend a warm summer night than dining with friends and family on a beautiful stone patio, surrounded by the delicious smells of a home-cooked meal. Having an outdoor kitchen will let you do just that! Of course, you might ask, “Why spend the money on an outdoor kitchen?” The answer: An outdoor kitchen is a great investment, and one you will enjoy for many years to come.

The first (and most popular) reason for adding an outdoor kitchen is that it instantly converts a ho-hum backyard space into a breath-taking cooking and entertainment center. Imagine what it would be like to mingle with guests outdoors while dinner is on the grill, the sides are simmering on the stovetop, there’s more than enough space to move around, and the cook won’t have to miss out on all the fun!

Also, did you know that an outdoor kitchen could increase your property’s value? Experts agree that a homeowner who installs an outdoor kitchen can expect a return on investment from a low of 70% to a high of almost 200% percent. And that makes sense. Stainless steel grills and other modern outdoor appliances are easy to clean, and able to withstand the changing outdoor temperatures. So, your new kitchen will serve you well for many years and add to your property’s value, if—and when—you decide to sell. 


Often, the first thing that comes to mind when considering an addition is the disruption (and mess) that comes with construction. For an outdoor kitchen, the transformation takes place, well, outdoors. Building an outdoor kitchen gives you that desired extra living space by using the room you already have on your back patio. Outdoor kitchens can lead to quicker cleanups and healthier lifestyles. Strong cooking odors will no longer fill your home, and grilling beats frying any day because there’s no batter coating or dripping grease.

Everyone likes to save money, right?  Well, did you know that an outdoor kitchen may help you cut your utilities bills? When you cook up a storm inside, the temperature rises, causing air conditioning to work harder than it should. Cooking outdoors will help you save on energy consumption. Want to hold on to even more money? Having your own outdoor oasis may slash your restaurant budget, too; you can enjoy a “night out” experience in your own backyard and keep your wallet in your pocket.

When you consider the decision to build an outdoor kitchen, it’s clear to see that the pros greatly outweigh the cons. Building an outdoor kitchen truly is an investment and will prove to be more rewarding than costly. The design can be customized to your budget and your needs. When your project is completed, you can sit back, relax, and congratulate yourself on a decision well made.