Going to be building a retaining wall in the front yard on a slope. I'm going to be using King size residential bricks to make a 2 wythe wall. Because of the slope I'll need to have 3-4 steps in the concrete footing and was planning that the rise of each step would be the height of the brick plus the thickness of the mortar. Is this the correct calculation for the rise of the step?


  • Are these steps for walking up? Apr 17, 2013 at 12:40
  • No, this is for a concrete footing. The term "step" in this context refers to the rise of the footing over a sloped distance. Apr 18, 2013 at 0:07

1 Answer 1


Finally found an obscure article that confirmed my calculation is correct. The Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU) defines the various sizes of blocks used in US construction. They are each given a nominal size but the actual size is slightly smaller and accounts for 3/8" mortar joints. So when building lets say a retaining wall out of 16x8x8" "cinder" blocks your step rise should be 8" which is the nominal height of the "cinder" block but the blocks actual height is 7 5/8" to allow for a standard 3/8 mortar joint.

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