How To Install Landscape Timbers On A Slope

Installing landscape timbers on a slope can be a daunting task, but with a little preparation it can be accomplished relatively easily.

Completing landscape projects on sloped terrain can be generally challenging since it is more prone to soil erosion and shifting of the ground due to the slope.

Landscaping timbers can be used to form retaining walls, containing the soil and giving your landscaping project a neat and polished appearance.

But before we continue, are you interested in learning more about retaining wall deadman anchors? Or perhaps you’re curious about how to build a railroad tie retaining wall and then cover it? If so, we have two other articles that delve into these topics in detail. In “What Is A Retaining Wall Deadman Anchor?“, we explore the concept of deadman anchors and their importance in reinforcing the stability of retaining walls. And in “How To Build A Railroad Tie Retaining Wall Then Cover It,” we provide an overview on constructing a durable retaining wall using railroad ties and offer tips on covering it for added protection. So, if you’re looking for more valuable insights and practical guidance, make sure to check out these related articles as well!

But back to landscape timbers on a slope. Be sure to check with your local building authority if a permit is needed before you start the work. It is always better to get the red tape out of the way first. There is nothing worse than having to pull the wall down later because you didn’t cross all the ts and dot all the β€˜i’s with the relevant authorities from the start. 

1 Planning

Installing landscape timbers on sloping ground may seem like a daunting task, but with proper planning, it can become a straightforward and successful project. It is crucial to create a detailed plan that outlines the specific requirements of the area and establishes the most effective methods for securing the timbers in place.

To begin the construction process, start by driving wooden stakes into the ground to mark the corners of your project area. Next, tie string tightly between the stakes to create clear boundaries for the top and bottom edges of the timber installation. This step ensures accurate alignment and helps maintain a level appearance throughout the project.

By carefully considering the layout and taking the time to plan ahead, you can ensure a smooth and well-executed installation of landscape timbers, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound outcome.

2 Dig A Trench

The initial step in installing landscape timbers on a slope is to dig a trench that will accommodate the timbers securely. The depth of the trench is determined by the steepness of the slope. For gentle slopes with an inclination of under 10 degrees, an approximate depth of 8 inches should suffice to provide stability. However, for steeper slopes, it is recommended to dig a trench that ranges from 12 to 16 inches deep. Ensuring the appropriate depth of the trench will establish a solid foundation for the landscape timbers, allowing for a secure and long-lasting installation.

3 Fill

Before placing the landscape timbers in the trench, it is crucial to prepare a solid foundation that promotes proper drainage and ensures the longevity of the timber structure. To achieve this, create a base layer of gravel or sand where the timbers will rest.

This layer serves multiple purposes: it aids in efficient drainage, prevents the timbers from coming into direct contact with soil, and provides a stable and secure support for the timber structure. To ensure optimal performance, evenly distribute a minimum of 1 inch of sand or gravel across the entire bottom surface of the trench.

By incorporating this essential step into the installation process, you can enhance the durability and lifespan of the landscape timber structure.

4 Cut Timbers To Fit

To ensure a proper fit and seamless appearance, it is essential to cut the landscape timbers to the appropriate size for the trench. Begin by aligning the first row of timbers end to end within the trench, taking care to make the necessary measurements.

Using a chainsaw, carefully trim the timbers to ensure they fit snugly and securely into the trench. This precision cutting will not only enhance the overall aesthetic of the project but also contribute to the structural integrity of the landscape timber installation.

Remember to exercise caution when operating power tools and follow all safety guidelines for a successful and professional-looking outcome.

5 Cut Second Row Of Timbers

When it comes to cutting the second row of timbers for your landscape project, precision is key. Lay the second row of timbers on top of the first row, ensuring a staggered pattern that aligns the seams above the previous row. This intentional placement adds strength and stability to the overall structure. As you progress with subsequent rows, remember to pitch each one into the slope by 1/4 inch compared to the row below it. This technique helps with water runoff and prevents excessive pressure on the retaining wall. To secure the wall, drive galvanized spikes between the first and second rows. For ease of use, consider predrilling the wood to facilitate smoother installation. With these careful steps, you’ll achieve a perfectly constructed landscape timber wall that showcases both functionality and aesthetics.

6 Deadman And Header Pieces

In order to enhance the stability and strength of the retaining wall, it is crucial to incorporate deadman and header pieces into the construction process. These pieces serve as integral components in reinforcing the structure and preventing soil erosion.

Start by excavating perpendicular ditches into the sloped hillside where the wall will be erected. These ditches will provide a secure placement for the deadman and header pieces. It is recommended to have a deadman piece for each 6 to 8 foot section of the wall, ensuring proper reinforcement along its entirety.

Once the ditches are prepared, carefully install and level the deadman and header pieces, consolidating the strength and integrity of the retaining wall. By paying attention to these important details, you can achieve a reliable and durable wall that effectively withstands the pressure of the hillside.

7 Rinse And Repeat 

Once you have successfully completed steps 4 to 6 and established a solid foundation for your wall, it is time to proceed with building it up further. To continue the construction process, repeat these steps as necessary, maintaining consistency and attention to detail.

As you add each new layer of retaining material, be sure to carefully align and secure them in place, ensuring a sturdy and seamless progression. The repetition of these steps not only contributes to the physical integrity of the wall but also serves as a testament to your dedication and craftsmanship.

With each iteration, the wall will grow stronger, showcasing your expertise and resulting in a visually pleasing and functional structure. Keep the momentum going and watch your wall take shape, standing proudly as a testament to your hard work and perseverance.

8 Backfill

When it comes to the backfilling process, using the right materials is crucial for the stability and longevity of your landscape timber installation. Opting for a combination of sand and gravel provides excellent drainage capabilities while ensuring a firm and secure base.

Begin by layering a generous amount of gravel along the trench, ensuring it is evenly distributed to support the second row of timbers. Next, add a layer of sand on top of the gravel, spreading it out to create a smooth and level surface.

This dual-layered backfill not only aids in proper water drainage but also adds essential reinforcement to the structure, minimizing the risk of shifting or settling over time. By taking the time to select and properly apply the right materials for backfilling, you can enhance the overall stability and durability of your landscape timber project.

9 Backfill With Soil

Once the landscape timbers are securely in place, it’s time to proceed with the final soil backfilling process. Gently fill the trench with soil, ensuring that the entire top area is covered evenly.

Take care to pack down the soil as you go, using a tamper or the back of a shovel to consolidate the backfill. This step is vital in providing additional stability and support to the landscape timbers, ensuring they remain in place and creating a solid foundation for the overall structure.

As you backfill and tamp the soil, pay attention to any gaps or uneven areas, filling them in and compacting them properly. By taking the time to complete this crucial step, you can enhance the strength and longevity of your landscape timber installation.

10. You’re done. Maybe time for a beer??

Once you have completed the installation of your landscape timbers, take a moment to appreciate the satisfying accomplishment of a job well done. You have successfully transformed your outdoor space with the addition of a beautiful and functional landscape feature. Now, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Relax in the serene ambiance created by the newly installed landscape timbers. Perhaps savor a refreshing beverage of your choice while basking in the satisfaction of a completed project. Celebrate your hard work and dedication, knowing that you have created a lasting and visually appealing addition to your outdoor environment. So kick back, raise a glass, and toast to your success! Cheers!

πŸ’§ Drainage is a big issue on the slope, so drainage pipe will be installed to divert water away from the house.
πŸ”¨ Pressure-treated landscape timber will be used to build the terraces, held together with timber screws.
🌿 Additional soil will be needed to backfill the garden beds.
βš’οΈ The first step is to dig a trench, lay paver base, and set the landscape timber in place, making it level.
πŸ“ A long level is used to ensure the landscape timber is at the right height.
πŸ”© Timber screws are used to lock the timbers together and a section is notched for a perforated pipe drain.
🌱 Landscape fabric is placed under the perforated pipe to prevent weeds and debris from entering.
🏞️ The process is repeated for each terrace, with offsetting joints for the landscape timbers.
🌳 Optional dead man installation is recommended for walls higher than three courses on steep slopes to prevent wall movement.
🌸 After completing the construction, the fun part begins: planning and planting the garden beds.
🌞 Choose plants that thrive in partial shade and consider using the Lowe’s grow together method to select compatible plants.


In conclusion, the installation of landscape timbers offers an array of benefits, both practical and aesthetic. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this guide, you can create a visually pleasing and structurally sound landscape feature that enhances the overall appeal of your outdoor space. The careful planning, precise cutting, and proper backfilling ensure the longevity and stability of the timber installation. Additionally, by incorporating deadman and header pieces, you reinforce the retaining wall, providing added support against soil erosion and pressure. The use of suitable backfill materials promotes adequate drainage, further contributing to the overall durability of the structure. With attention to detail and a touch of creativity, landscape timbers can transform your yard into a picturesque haven. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your tools, and embark on this rewarding project. Let the journey of landscape timber installation begin!

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