Retaining walls help homeowners to overcome sloped or uneven areas. Not only are the useful, but they also create visual interest in a space. Using retaining walls allows a homeowner to increase the amount of land in their yard that can actually be used. Retaining walls are also used commercially to create usable roadways. They can protect full hillsides or create a safe area for a backyard barbecue.
When looking at retaining walls, it is important to remember that there are four different types of retaining walls.
Gravity walls hold in material by the wall material itself. These walls could fall quickly, so they should only be used for short slopes. They are often made from large rocks or can be made from pavers.
Piling walls are created by using long poles they go far below the soil as well as above it. They are made from metal or treated lumber, and they have an excellent capacity to hold back the soil they need to.
Cantilever walls start out like a piling wall but add it an “arm” that extends back into the soil. This “arm” makes the wall stronger and able to hold back more soil.
Anchored walls are the strongest type of retaining wall you can get. They can also be combined with the other forms of walls we have already discussed. This type of wall comes with an anchor that is wrapped around the wall and has it’s base deeper into the soil, which makes it much more stable.
Retaining walls are made for the purpose of holding soil back against gravity, so it is important that the correct type of wall is chosen for the area and purpose you need it for. You need to look at the climate, terrain, and type of soil you have when making this decision. Many times a professional will need to be called in to help determine all of these things and let you know the best type of wall for you. Some retaining walls can easily be installed by a homeowner, and some require the help of a professional. When deciding if you can tackle the job yourself, think about these things.
- How much of a slope am I working with?
- How much frost and freeze does the area get each year?
- What is the drainage of the area? Will drainage need to be added into my wall?
- What type of soil am I working with?
- Are there other buildings near the area I am putting the wall at? If so, will my wall affect those other buildings?
- Are you in an area that gets frequent earthquakes?
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Having the correct answers for all of these questions will help to determine the type of wall you need as well as what materials to build it from and if any extra stabilization methods are needed. Some areas and some types of retaining walls will require the homeowner to obtain a permit before work starts. Make sure all permits are secured before starting work on any retaining wall.
Retaining walls should lean into the hill they are being built into 1 inch for every 12 inches of wall height. This ensures a safe load is being put onto the wall. This will also help with drainage. Before beginning your wall construction, the grade of your slope may be able to be redesigned to make work easier and give a better end result. Drainage could cause severe damage to a retaining wall and the areas around it, so always make sure drainage is correct before work begins. Some slopes will need the use of drainage tiles behind the wall to get proper drainage.
When choosing the materials for the wall, you need to look at what function they will provide, cost and height of the completed wall. If the wall is for decorative purposes only, it can be made of any material you want. Structural walls will need more thought put into the materials.
Segmented blocks are one type of material that can be used. They use gravity to work and gradually step back into the soil to provide more strength and long life on the wall. These blocks are easy to install and do not require any type of adhesive to secure the blocks. The blocks are usually secured with pins.