For a very long time you did not pay attention to retaining walls. And then recently you might have heard about it or seen it from one of your neighbors, and it gave you some ideas. You have thought of design. Because after all, retaining walls can be a piece of landscaping. Both aesthetic and practical, the retaining wall can be integrated into many garden designs, so why not yours?
What is a retaining wall?
A retaining wall is a structure that retains a sloping patch of soil. Retaining walls are made from a number of different materials and can vary in height from a few decimeters to several meters, so retaining walls can take very distinct shapes. They don’t need to be straight and a wall that isn’t straight can be a very attractive option for some landscapes. Most are less than four feet tall because walls taller than that usually require design by an engineer and may require permits. Sometimes retaining walls blend in with other landscaping elements such as ponds or fountains. If your exterior is already finished and you don’t want to renovate everything, you can still find a retaining wall option that will fit very well with your current layout.
What is the principle of a retaining wall?
The pressure of the soil against a wall is not negligible, so a retaining wall must be effective in being able to contain it. The functionalities of a retaining wall are manifold, and some are quite technical. Basically, a retaining wall should be strong enough to hold the soil that would not stay sloped if the wall were not there. The corner of earth just behind the wall would give way to gravity and fall downhill if it wasn’t there. The rest of the ground would normally stay in place, like a natural slope.
Retaining walls are usually built with a slight inward slant so that soil pressure does not cause them to slant outward. They should be carefully designed to prevent water from collecting behind them as this will create additional pressure and may damage the wall. Some designs incorporate more sophisticated drains than others, but all require some form of drainage. Have you ever heard of barbican? It is a tube or an opening in the wall that allows water to flow. This makes it possible in particular to reduce the water pressure to avoid excess pressure behind the wall.
What are the most popular retaining wall designs?
You can choose from several different designs when building your retaining wall. Here are some of the more popular types of retaining walls.
- Self-stable retaining walls. Self-stable walls use their weight to hold the ground behind them, which means they have to be built with heavy materials like stone or concrete.
- Gabion retaining walls. These walls are held together with trellis and filled with large stones. They are generally used when the issue of erosion is a major concern. They have the advantage of allowing the water to drain well.
- “Weight” retaining walls. These walls are very strong due to their design to create leverage.
- Dry stone retaining walls. This is a type of wall that uses a structure filled with crushed stone. These walls are generally good for facilitating drainage.
When do you need a retaining wall?
There are two main reasons why you might need a retaining wall:
- Either to create more space: Flat spaces created with retaining walls can be great places to garden, set up a patio or just relax. If you have an exterior that has very little flat usable space, building a retaining wall could allow you to create and maintain a slope-free area.
- either to prevent an inclined plane from losing soil: if your garden or exterior is regularly covered with mud and soil in wet weather, a retaining wall will help prevent this. This situation is unpleasant but happens a few times, especially when you live in mountainous territory. It can also affect the foundation of your home in extreme cases. A well-constructed retaining wall can hold hillside soil in place and help prevent these problems.
What materials are used for a retaining wall?
There are a number of options when it comes to retaining wall materials. Some of the most common are wood, concrete block, and natural stone. Other options include reinforced concrete and brick or cinder blocks. Wood and concrete block walls are relatively easy to design and install, while natural stone retaining walls take more work and knowledge. Cost, strength and durability will probably be the criteria that will guide your choice. Be aware that roughly the cheapest material is wood and probably the most resistant and durable concrete.