Cladding a retaining wall with backed off paddlestones

2 May 2024
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United Kingdom
Hi all diy-ers, I just joined this forum to ask for some help and advice on a project I'm about to start.
Last year my wife and I did a big garden renovation and part of it was building two retaining walls at the front of the bay windows. Basically what were two sloped flower beds now are two retaining walls and create a kind of terrace. In between the two walls there are some steps to get to the house front door.

I have attached a sketch of the walls, behind the greenhouse on the right there is the second wall and on the far right there is a hedge.

We built the walls using concrete hollow blocks, they are not high, only two and a half block rows over the ground and we purchased a crate of backed off paddlestones with the idea of cladding the walls. The two separate walls have a U shape so there will be corners to clad too, although in the middle of the two Us there are the steps. The total length I think is around 9m (I need to measure again as I don't remember). One side of the left U shaped wall is secluded and has a hedge so it does not need cladding.
Now before I do that I was hoping to get some advice or tips just to avoid big mistakes as I'm not a builder and this is all improvised. To be fair we asked for quotes from professionals to do this job and it turned out to be really expensive (even considering I already have almost all the materials).

My plan is to dig a very shallow trench in front of the wall and lay some sharp sand just to create a levelled surface to begin with, tampering it down to compact it. After that I plan to lay the paddlestones to create the first bottom layer. To do this first row I was thinking of using the longest pieces I have just to have a solid base. I'd be using mortar to make sure the stones are attached to the wall blocks and among each other, then more mortar on top (mainly on the wall side) and then add a second layer of stones and continue with this approach. For the corners I'd be trying to overlay the row from one wall side over the end of the row of the other side.

For the sides in between the two walls where there are the steps I think I will need to break the stones to measure so that they would fit with the steps border, again using mortar to keep everything together.

The paddlestones came with different width and length, they generally are all the same "long and thin shape" but there are variances of course and one question I have is if I should lay them so that they are all aligned at the front, therefore leaving a gap between some paddlestones and the wall blocks which can be filled with mortar. In this way I would get a more or less flat wall face. Is that the way to do this?

In the end I will find some slabs to use as coping stones and cap everything.

Does the above plan make any sense? It sounds simple but I thought it was good to double check before doing something very wrong.


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