The timber retaining wall in my yard was decaying. I decided to replace the landscape timbers with retaining wall blocks. Lowe’s hardware store sells a chisel wall block that I like. The face of the block has a smooth, decorative surface, unlike the castle wall variety, which has a rough faced surface that crumbles. The blocks have a lip in the rear that creates an interlock with each other, so no mortar is required. I purchased tan/brown chisel wall blocks for my project.
I enjoy landscaping projects around the house. Building a retaining wall is an enjoyable project as long as I can take my time with the construction process. It provides me with a sense of accomplishment while allowing me to step back and observe something that I created.
I needed a way to cut the retaining wall block. I am not very skilled at using a brick hammer, nor did a brick hammer leave a precise, sharp edge on the face of the block. I experimented with using a side grinder to cut the block, but this process took too long and created a lot of dust. A table tile saw seemed too cumbersome and inflexible. A table tile saw is better suited for floor tile and is not ideal for cutting retaining wall block.
A hand held tile saw was the best tool for my application. Tile saws are designed to cut tile and stone. A hand held saw is portable so it can be used at the construction site. It functions the same as any wet tile saw, the water captures dust from the atmosphere while cooling the blade. A hand held, wet tile saw is similar in appearance to a skill saw that is used for cutting wood.
I selected a Skilsaw hand held, wet tile saw for my retaining wall project. The saw that I purchased is rated at 120V AC power, 11.0A, 60 Hz and 12, 000 RPM. It included a 4-3/8" diamond blade and a 10 ft. water hose. The range of cut for this saw is up to 1-1/3". The cutting angle can range from 0 to 45° and it weighs 13 lbs.
The Skilsaw hand held, wet tile saw is equipped with a water shut off valve. This allows the operator to shut the water off when the saw is not in use without having to turn the water off at the outdoor spigot. A garden hose can be attached to the water supply line for longer distances from the water source. This tile saw also includes a guide fence, a switch lock button and a cutting line guide. These features help an amateur like myself achieve professional looking results.
While the saw blade will cut through a cap block by cutting from the top and bottom of the block, it will not cut completely through a regular block. I cut a regular block from all four sides and then use a hammer and chisel to finish the cut. This leaves a rough edge in the middle of the block. This surface is hidden in the finished wall, while the edge that is seen is straight and smooth.
This retaining wall project was constructed on a gentle slope which required a step down at various intervals. The tallest part of the retaining wall is three regular blocks and a cap block high. The lowest part is one regular block and a cap block high. I used the hand held tile saw to cut across the block face (a task that is difficult with any other tool) to create rounded corner transitions within the wall. The last corner is square. The finished project contained three level flower beds that stepped down with the wall, which I filled with mulch. I spread top soil to cover the leveling sand at thebase of the wall and then planted grass seed in the new soil.
A hand held, wet tile saw allowed me to create an artistic retaining wall that I could not have easily created with any other tool.