Everything You Need to Know About Building Retaining Walls
Retaining walls are structures that help withstand soil pressure, especially in hilly areas. They prevent erosion and keep the soil in its place where it would otherwise slope down.
There are different types of retaining walls. Some of these include gravity walls, cantilevered walls, anchor walls, and crib walls. These structures cater to different weights and soil pressures. Seek professional advice to know which structure you need to use before you start building retaining walls.
It can be DIY-ed, especially if you’re only using it for small-scale decorative purposes. If you’re feeling a little adventurous and have time on your hands, you can do this project by yourself. It saves you money and also gives you a refreshing experience.
For more technical applications, it would be best to call a professional to help you. If putting up retaining walls is necessary for you and you have the budget, leave it in the hands of people who know what they’re doing. Hiring a professional also saves you from the stress of doing the project yourself.
3 Dos of Building Retaining Walls
Here are three things you should do when building retaining walls. Keeping these in mind will help you as you tackle this project.
Putting up retaining walls isn’t something you can get to do. You’ll have to dig deep into the soil to install the retaining structures. It’s a rather complex task to take on.
Some towns require obtaining a permit before you can build retaining walls. This is to make sure that you will not cause unintended damage to other properties and utilities nearby.
Do some research to see if you’re required to get a permit for building retaining walls. If it’s not required, you may still want to let local authorities know to make sure there wouldn’t be any inconveniences to water pipes or drainage systems underground.
Once you’re in the clear to build retaining walls, do consider the material you’ll have to use. Make sure it serves its purpose and fits your budget.
Stone is a good material to use for retaining walls. These are available in home depots and stone gardens. Unless you’ve trained in masonry, you’ll need to bring in a mason to do the job for you.
Wood walls are affordable. They’re also available in home depots and hardware. The good thing about wood walls is that they’re sturdy and can last for 20–40 years. You can DIY your retaining walls if you’re using this material.
Poured concrete is the strongest material you can use for a retaining wall. It’s also versatile enough to achieve different finishes. It can even be carved to mimic stone. Take note, though, that poured concrete walls are best left to professionals.
If you want to try DIY-ing concrete retaining walls, look for large landscaping blocks. These are lightweight and made to interlock even without mortar. Complete beginners can try using these for their retaining wall projects as they’re easy to handle.
Do allow for drainage when you build your retaining walls. When the soil absorbs groundwater, it puts more strain to the wall. Not having proper drainage for your retaining wall might cause it to collapse due to the added pressure.
If you want to build retaining walls yourself, make sure you do the backfill correctly. Install a drainpipe together with some porous materials like sand or gravel. These will give your walls enough drainage for groundwater.
3 Don’ts of Building Retaining Walls
Here are three things you should be careful about when building retaining walls. Make sure to remember these to avoid making crucial mistakes.
Don’t build your foundation on an uneven surface. Doing so will defeat the purpose of building retaining walls in the first place. If your foundation isn’t done properly, you risk having the whole wall collapse from not being able to hold the soil pressure.
Don’t think your foundation isn’t that important. It should always be sturdy enough to hold the soil’s weight. Building a strong foundation prevents your retaining walls from shifting or collapsing.
Don’t just stack your blocks any way you want. You have to make sure that each row you add is leveled. Otherwise, you’ll get a wall that wouldn’t look good at all in your landscape.
It’s also not advisable to stack your blocks perfectly vertically. This might cause the structure to collapse as well. Instead, stack them at a backward slope to lower the risk of being pushed or toppled over by the soil.
Large landscaping blocks take care of the job for you, especially if you’re doing the project by yourself. These blocks are engineered to interlock at a backward slope so you can go ahead and stack them as instructed.
Don’t build one tall wall when you can have layers of shorter walls instead.
Tall walls would be easier to build, but they wouldn’t be as sturdy. You’d also have to use materials and structures that can hold all the weight of the soil it will retain. If you miscalculate, you might end up with a wall that fails to do its job.
Layered walls, on the other hand, allow the pressure to be distributed. In this way, you build sturdier walls that can hold more weight in total. If you have the space and a lot of soil to retain, consider having layered walls. It’s also more aesthetically pleasing than single tall walls.
Building retaining walls is a complex project to work on, but you can take on the challenge and try it for yourself. Just remember to do thorough research before you start. Be ready as well for unexpected problems you might encounter as you work on the project.
Again, here are the dos and don’ts of building retaining walls.
- Apply for a permit or ask for permission from the authorities before you start building retaining walls. Be responsible for the different ways it might impact your neighbors.
- Research the right material to use for your walls. Make sure it fits your budget and serves its purpose.
- Allow for drainage in the retaining walls to prevent them from collapsing due to the added pressure from groundwater.
- Make sure your foundation is good. It’s just as important as the wall itself.
- Stack your blocks at a slightly backward slope to make them sturdier.
- Divide your wall into layers if possible. It’s stronger and more aesthetically pleasing than just a single tall wall.