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Do’s and Don’ts of Retaining Walls

Frequently, the need to install a retaining wall stems from the desire to prevent erosion, hold back soil, separate two areas of your yard, or create a raised garden bed. Well-built retaining walls transform unworkable inclines into usable outdoor space for the garden.

Despite their simple appearance, these walls require a good deal of planning—sometimes professional engineering—to keep their shape. So first, let’s understand the basics behind retaining walls.

What Is a Retaining Wall?

Retaining walls are structures designed to restrain soil to a slope that it would not naturally keep to. They are often found in places where extra support is needed to prevent the earth from moving downhill with erosion. 

The most basic function of a retaining wall is to battle gravity; the lateral force of the slope must be offset in the retaining wall’s design. There are four basic types of retaining walls: gravity, cantilevered, sheet piling, and anchored. 

Now let’s go over some of the do’s and don’ts of retaining walls.

Do: Be Creative

Think of the aesthetic potential of your retaining wall. If its purpose is purely practical, you can significantly increase its visual appeal by choosing a brick that compliments your home or other structures on your property. Be creative with your material choice, as your retaining wall will be a dominant feature of your space for many, many years.

Don’t: Forget About Structure

Smaller retaining walls, such as those less than four feet, can be efficiently planned and created without worrying too much about structure. Larger walls above that height may need an engineer’s touch. They’ll need additional reinforcement to stay solidly in place without risking eventual leaning or sagging and ultimately becoming a safety hazard. Also, be sure to check with local codes before starting one more than four feet tall.

Don’t: Skip the Base

A retaining wall installation is only as good as the base upon which it’s built. Remember to plan appropriately and spend considerable time on your substrate. Make sure the ground is level and that you’re using sufficient solid fill, and spend significant time on this part of the project. You’ll thank yourself down the line.
Well-built retaining walls transform unworkable inclines into usable outdoor space by reducing soil erosion, turning steep slopes into terraced backdrops, creating focal points in the landscape. So if you’re tired of the hard-to-maintain slope near your home or business, it may be time to transform your outdoor space with a beautiful retaining wall.