Complete overview about retaining walls and its types of materials

retaining walls

Hardscapes refers to hard landscape built into a landscape. It can include driveways, retaining walls, sleeper walls, paved areas, stairs, walkways, and other landscaping that is made up of hard materials like wood, stone, concrete, etc.

Commercial landscapes include large features like paved roads, driveways, fountains or small pools. Most water features are considered hardscapes because they require a barrier to retain water instead of letting it drain into the surrounding soil.

Retaining Walls

A retaining wall is a structure designed to prevent erosion. It is designed such that it retains the pressure of the material it is holding back. They are used to create usable outdoor space from steep slopes or add more attraction to a flat yard.

A retaining wall must be built on a suitable base. It should be set below ground level. The taller the wall, the further below ground level it should be set. A good base is made of compacted soil and at least a layer of compacted sand and gravel. Properly compacted backfill is also essential in a retaining wall. A backfill is basically dirt behind the wall that will provide proper drainage. Since water cannot pass through the wall, an efficient drainage is crucial in a retaining wall to avoid damage such as bulging and cracking. A perforated pipe or a weep hole can help to drain water. Lastly, the retaining wall’s height will determine the load it can bear and how much reinforcement will be necessary. It may require anchors, cantilevers, or other additional reinforcements.

Retaining walls can also create beautiful outdoor multi-use living spaces. They can also be created curved to add more creativity to your landscape. If the wall is less than four feet, it can be easily planned without worrying too much about the structure. For larger walls, an engineer is needed. Also, do not forget to check with your local area of any building specifications.

Types of Materials

There are several types of materials you can use to build a retaining wall, some of them are easy to install, while some of them can last long. In choosing the right material, you have to consider the look you desire, the purpose of your retaining wall, and your budget.Here are the types of materials to use in creating your retaining wall:

Here are the types of materials to use in creating your retaining wall:

a) Concrete Block – These types are used to create curves, and can be used only up to 4-feet. They are popular among Spanish and mid-century properties.

They are built heavy-duty and can be easily assembled by stacking blocks on top of one another and secure them with pins, clips or interlocking edges. Because they are set on a compacted gravel base, they can flex slightly with ground movement and still remain strong.

b) Stone Veneer – With this material, you can custom-made any design to suit your property. To achieve the best results, a landscape architect or a capable contractor is usually required. The color and style of this stone vary, and it’s important to match the stone to your property.

c) Poured Concrete – Stronger than a block wall, its variety of design options is often used in modern landscapes.

It is recommended to hire a skilled concrete contractor when working with poured concrete. Cracks, wave, or bulge can still be fixed, but it is not meant to last. It is also important that there is no moisture intrusion in your concrete wall.

d) Brick – Its strength and durability complement traditional homes and landscapes.

There are 2 types of Brick Retaining Walls:

1. Cavity Wall – This is a retaining wall made entirely of bricks. It is made of two standard brick walls inches apart that share the same foundation. In between is a gap for steel that runs up from the foundation to the top of the wall.

2. Block Core Wall – The wall is made of concrete masonry unit (CMU) block which holds the steel within its cells filled with concrete. Brick is then laid outside of the structural block. They are economical, strong, and easy to waterproof and may not need highly skilled masons.

e) Wood – They are fairly simple to install, and its materials are accessible. They have a shorter life span, and can only be used up to 4 feet. If installed with proper materials, waterproofing and preservatives, it can last long for 20 years or more.

A waterproof sheeting is applied to the back side of the retaining wall to separate it from direct contact with fill. Gravel packing is also behind the wall, particularly at the bottom where water accumulates during a rainy season.

f) Dry Stone/Boulder – They are ideal for colonial, country and English-style properties. There’s a wide variety of choices that will fit your property.

Also known as “dry walling”, the stones are laid in a way that the core remains dry in all weather to avoid it from tumbling over. The large boulders are hand selected and are lifted using heavy equipment.

g) Gabion – Consisting of wire or mesh wire “boxes” filled with roughly cut stone or other materials like glass. They are great to be placed among waterfront areas.

They are created in any alignment due to the flexibility of the materials. These type of retaining walls are highly valuable in coastal areas. The gabion wall acts to hold bank and soil layers with a single, flexible mass of great weight. It can move with the earth despite the fast moving water. They are also widely used in shore and bank protection.

Types of Retaining Walls

1. Gravity Retaining Walls – These are the type of retaining wall that relies on their huge strength to resist pressure from behind and may have a setback (materials that are stacked together, and at the same time lock into place) to retain the soil, and are typically shorter in height.They can be made of concrete, stone or even brick masonry. Dry-stacked gravity walls are somewhat flexible and do not need

They can be made of concrete, stone or even brick masonry. Dry-stacked gravity walls are somewhat flexible and do not need rigid footing.

2. Cantilever Retaining Walls – Often shaped in an inverted T, a cantilever walls are connected to a foundation. It must be well engineered because it holds back a significant amount of soil. Usually made from steel-reinforced, cast-in-place concrete or mortared masonry, these walls work like a beam, converting horizontal pressures from behind the wall to vertical pressures on the ground below.3. Counterfort / Buttressed Retaining Walls – Using much less material than a traditional gravity wall, counterfort walls are walls slabs connected to a base to reduce the pressure. It can be buttressed in the front, or with a counterfort at the back. These type of wall require a rigid footing.

3. Counterfort / Buttressed Retaining Walls – Using much less material than a traditional gravity wall, counterfort walls are walls slabs connected to a base to reduce the pressure. It can be buttressed in the front, or with a counterfort at the back. These type of wall require a rigid footing.

4. Sheet Pile Walls – These walls retains soil by driving steel sheet sections with interlocking edges into a slope or excavation. Usually made from steel, vinyl, or wood planks driven to the ground, they are mostly used in soft soil and tight spaces.

5. Bored Pile Walls – Made from reinforced concrete pile, cast-in-place concrete piles are cast on the construction site to support high buildings with a heavy vertical load. These type of walls are recommended when the construction requires minimum vibration and noise levels.

6. Anchored Walls – Usually driven into the material with boring, anchored walls include additional strength using cables anchored in the rock or soil behind it. The cables used are very strong, prestressed steel.



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