What Is a Retaining Wall?
A retaining wall adds a unique and one-of-a-kind look to your landscape. They also provide many functional advantages. For example, Retaining Wall Colorado Springs redirect lawn run-off and help reduce the rivers of water that erode soil, especially around your home. They can also create defined spaces for your yard.
Most homeowners can build a 3-foot-tall concrete block retaining wall independently, but any taller walls require a professional engineer. The material used to build retaining walls can impact the structure’s functionality and aesthetic. Various materials are available, including concrete blocks, natural stone, and timber. The type of material used will depend on design preferences, project scope, and budget. It is also important to select a material compatible with the surrounding landscape.
The first step in building a retaining wall is to create a foundation. Digging a trench with the proper dimensions and depth to support the wall would be best. Once the foundation is complete, you can begin constructing the wall itself. Ensuring the soil is compacted properly is important, as loose soil can cause the wall to crack or break.
Concrete block retaining walls are built using interlocking blocks with a flange on the back side designed to slip neatly over the block below. They are one of the most popular types of retaining walls for gardens and landscaping. They are inexpensive, easy to construct, and have great visual appeal. They are best suited for retaining walls that are four feet or less. Fences over this height require a permit and must be designed by a professional engineer.
Another common type of retaining wall is the poured-in-place or mortared wall. This type of wall can be constructed with various stones, bricks, or other decorative elements to add visual interest and flair. It is important to note that this type of retaining wall is more rigid than others and will not be as flexible in response to changes in soil pressure.
A more aesthetically pleasing and durable option is a boulder retaining wall. This retaining wall is often built with native stone or field stone with a natural look. Boulder retaining walls can be affordable and look gorgeous when planted with creeping groundcovers and succulents that grow well in the cracks.
A contractor can use bricks or poured-in-place concrete for more structurally sound and visually appealing retaining walls. These retaining walls are more expensive than other options but can be sturdy and long-lasting. It is also important to ensure the structure is stable by installing a geotextile fabric, which prevents soil erosion and allows water and air to pass through.
A retaining wall is a structure that prevents a mass of material, often earth or rocks on a slope, from collapsing. Retaining walls are commonly used for building sites on or near slopes. A retaining wall can be made from a variety of materials and be constructed in a variety of styles. Some are rigid, like masonry, while others are flexible and can move slightly under the load.
A cellular retaining wall stabilizes gentle slopes by placing a series of “honeycomb” cells on the ground surface. The cells are then filled with soil or other fill and covered with a waterproof membrane. These walls can be used to construct parks, garden areas, and other landscape features.
The construction of a retaining wall begins with the design of a plan that includes a description of how the wall will be built. Embedded walls are generally made using concrete or reinforced earth, but other methods can also be utilized. Choosing the best way depends on the site conditions, how watertight and solid the walls need to be, constructability (e.g., time and cost), how much weight the walls need to support, and how deep the walls must be.
The design engineer will usually use software based on code prescriptions to develop a design for segmental retaining walls. However, it is common for the installing contractor – who is not a registered design professional – to prepare the creation of the wall on his own, especially for walls less than 48 inches in height. This practice is typically only acceptable where it is based on code requirements or experience.
The engineer will check for stability against sliding and overturning when the design is complete. He will also evaluate the bearing pressure beneath the footing of the wall. If the lateral forces are too high, the engineer can try lengthening the base of the wall to allow the stresses to distribute more evenly. In some cases, he may be able to add a shear key to help resist shear forces at the base of the wall.
Retaining walls add structure and character to the outdoor spaces around your home. They help with drainage and landscaping, minimize erosion, protect soil and rock, and can help keep your property safe from earthquakes or floods. Choosing the right design and construction method for your landscape can save you money and time in the long run.
Several types of retaining wall materials exist, from poured concrete and pressure-treated railroad ties to natural stones, bricks, and manufactured blocks such as Belgard’s retaining wall systems. Manufactured block systems feature a locking flange along the bottom edge, allowing them to interlock and create strong, sturdy walls. They are available in various sizes, shapes, and earthy colors to match your home and landscaping.
To construct a simple retaining wall, start by excavating a trench about 12” deep and 24” wide for the length of your proposed retaining wall. Line the channel with landscape fabric and backfill with 1 1/2” processed gravel or 3/4” crusher run base material, firmly compacting it in layers until it is 6” thick. Place and level the first course of blocks on the base, checking with a carpenter’s level to ensure that each block is perfectly even left-to-right and front-to-back. If necessary, use half blocks to fill in gaps, making sure that each joint is staggered with those of the row above.
Continue laying rows of level, perfectly even, staggered blocks to your desired height, backfilling with crushed stone between each course. Place a perforated drainpipe behind the wall for drainage, and tamp the backfill every 6” with a hand tamper to compress the material tightly.
Unless you plan to use an engineered design for your retaining wall, you must have a structural engineer or home landscaping specialist oversee and sign off on the project. This will ensure that your retaining wall is constructed to the specifications of your specific site and conditions. It will also help you avoid costly engineering failures, like a retaining wall that collapses during heavy rain or an earthquake or that fails to meet city or county regulations.
Like all structures, retaining walls require regular maintenance to ensure their safety and durability. Keeping an eye out for problems can help prevent extensive damage before it occurs. When issues arise, it is important to call professionals to fix them. Retaining wall repair costs vary depending on the material and the extent of the work needed to restore the structure.
One of the most common problems with retaining walls is water leakage through cracks and crumbling sections. The cost of repairing this issue can range from $200 to $1,250, depending on the severity of the damage and the labor required to fix it.
Water leakage through a retaining wall can be caused by several factors, including harsh weather, soil movement causing the retaining division to shift, and poor drainage. Checking the drainage system helps homeowners identify the source of the leak and take steps to fix it before it worsens.
Another cause of leaking retaining walls is the presence of weeds and other plants that still need to be removed from the area. The roots of these plants can eventually penetrate the concrete and create holes in the structure. It is recommended that weeds and other vegetation be regularly pulled and weed killer applied around the base of a retaining wall.
Other problems with retaining walls include vertical cracks, shifting blocks, and leaning or bowing of the wall. These issues may require unstacking and re-stacking the blocks in the retaining wall or replacing the concrete with a different type. Additionally, salt-based de-icing products can also create erosion issues around concrete.
It is essential to have professional masonry services perform any repairs to a retaining wall to ensure the safety of the property and the workers performing the repairs. Attempting to do this alone can be risky as the retaining wall and surrounding soil can collapse if not done properly. Professionals are trained and experienced in building retaining walls and are skilled in the safety procedures to follow when working on a retaining wall. They will also be able to identify any structural issues that need attention and will recommend the proper course of action.