Quality matters when hiring for a big project. Call a Five Star Rated professional now!
Which Type of Retaining Wall Is Right for You?June 2nd, 2022 by
Retaining walls have an important function—holding back (retaining) soil and water—to prevent downhill erosion and whatever damage run-off soil/water might do to structures and property.
There are many factors that go into building the right retaining wall. In this article, we’ll look at when to build a retaining wall, the different types of retaining walls, and other crucial considerations that inform what material or design is best for your purposes.
The Importance of a Retaining Wall
Where you have one stretch of the earth at a different height than a neighboring stretch of earth—and the slope is steep—you need to hold the slope in place by supporting the ground at the higher level. Where there is a significant height distance and slope, you are likely going to be growing plants or building one or more retaining walls to keep the slope intact. The structure you erect must be strong enough to withstand the potentially huge pressure created by the soil/water and provide an adequate outlet for the run-off. If the slope is gradual or slight, you may not need to do anything to stabilize the higher ground.
There can be an aesthetic component to retaining walls as well. You can use retaining walls to imbue your property with gorgeous stonework and/or hardscaping to elevate its beauty and value. Some landscapers can turn residential properties into immaculate pieces of art with well-placed flowerbeds, gardens, and retaining walls. Retaining wall systems can be versatile. You can have smaller retaining walls in lieu of one giant retaining wall and form terrace patterns on the hillside. You can also level usable ground behind retaining walls and create a patio or other outdoor living space.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Six Most Common Exterior House Repairs
The Four Main Types of Retaining Walls
There are numerous variations, but you will find that most retaining walls fall into one of these four groups.
1. Gravity Retaining Wall
This is the most basic type of retaining wall, which essentially holds soil back through sheer mass and weight. Most gravity retaining walls need a trench to fit into — sometimes even a concrete footer — but short ones usually don’t need these reinforcements. Gravity retaining walls can be made from various materials, such as bricks, unmortared stone, and dry-stacked stone.
2. Sheet Pile Retaining Wall
This is another basic retaining wall, mainly used when you have limited space. Sheet pile retaining walls are thin and tend to be made of steel or wood (even vinyl). They are driven into the ground — but only in soft soils since you should aim to have one-third of it in the ground for every two-thirds that will remain above ground. Sheet pile retaining walls often possess vertical corrugation for reinforcement. Larger sheet pile retaining walls may require further anchoring.
3. Cantilevered Retaining Wall
This is generally a concrete or stone retaining wall with steel bars running through it and affixed under the soil to a slab foundation, making an L shape. Cantilevered retaining walls are very strong and often seen in commercial projects. They are designed such that the ground holds the slab down so the wall won’t tip.
4. Anchored Retaining Wall
Anchored retaining walls are made up of anchors that are installed in the ground and connected to thin retaining walls in front of them by strong cables or strips. The anchors themselves are held in the ground by expanded ends created through mechanical means or the injection of pressurized concrete. This type of structure is sometimes called a “tie-back system” and is used in most cases where there is a high soil load. Any of the above types of retaining walls can be reinforced using this kind of anchor system.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: The Best Way to Clean Your Gutters This Spring
Using a Professional
There are quite a few stakes when building a retaining wall system. You need to consider what type of soil you have, its weight/mass load, any secondary purposes for the wall (such as usable living space or to showcase gardens), and the integrity of the hillside.
You also need to make sure you know where you should dig, lest you damage utility lines buried on the property. The whole point of retaining walls is to prevent damage. Negligently destroying existing lines can be disastrous not only for you but also for your neighbors. Furthermore, improperly built or placed retaining walls can affect the area’s natural flow of water and drainage.
Experienced professionals will know what type of wall best suits your needs as well as the most appropriate materials. They will also have the expertise to ensure all calculations are done properly to prevent weakness, bulges, or collapse.
A retaining wall may seem challenging to take on, but with the right help, you can get it started in no time. Use our tips to choose which type of retaining wall you prefer and contact a professional today.
KEEP READING: What to Know About Garage Door Panel Replacement