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Retaining Walls: What Are They And How Can They Entirely Transform Your Property

What Is A Retaining Wall? 

retaining wall is a structure used to keep the bottom surfaces of a structure at strategically different elevations. Therefore, retaining walls can offer level grades or even terraced places for gardening or enjoyment in hilly and mountainous terrain. You can produce levelled surfaces on inclined planes by placing a retaining wall near a boundary or slope. To build one of these, a  contractor must put a compacted foundation material under it to give a level surface ideal for construction. Instead of one large building, some people build a succession of smaller retaining walls and terrace the hillside for a distinct aesthetic.

Retaining walls aren’t always about looks. Rather, they are frequently beneficial in matters of safety as well. One of the most common uses of a retaining wall is to prevent erosion on hillsides where you grow your plants. Furthermore, these architectural elements protect the soil from collapsing into another shape. In flood-prone locations, retaining walls keep soil in place and prevent floods and erosion during heavy rains. Not only that, but you may be able to move backfill, adjust slopes, and shape your property to make it more appealing and welcoming by employing a professional retaining wall builder

When Is A Retaining Wall Necessary?

You really do not need that many reasons before you decide on building a retaining wall. However, if you need a little more convincing before hiring a professional builder, here are a few reasons why you should construct a retaining wall in your backyard: 

You really do not need that many reasons before you decide on building a retaining wall. However, if you need a little more convincing before hiring a professional builder, here are a few reasons why you should construct a retaining wall in your backyard: 

  • Your House Is Perched On The Crest Of A Hill

Let us begin with a reason that concerns your safety. Make a few “steps” or terraces on your land by erecting few retaining walls to optimize the surface on your property. Furthermore, A sloping and otherwise unreachable section can be leveled down to provide an outdoor living space, such as a patio or new garden beds. Also, rainwater that would otherwise be drained may be redirected and used for greater use in your home gardens and grass turf by an inventive retaining wall design.  

  • You Wish To Improve The Appearance Of Your Home

Natural slopes in your yard may be used to create attractive and distinctive landscapes. Furthermore, you may make a beautiful retaining wall that serves as a focal point in your backyard or a complicated retaining wall design that showcases an attractive vertical flower bed. Basically, the option designs for retaining walls are endless, and you can select any layout that you believe will serve as a visual asset to your area. 

However, before you start planning and selecting aesthetics for your wall, you must first analyze the location and environmental variables that might cause your wall to fail. To avoid becoming a danger of collapsing, a retaining wall requires early design and precise layout. Furthermore, the issue of selecting the appropriate retaining wall design for your property will be addressed later in the article.

  • You Need More Functionality In Your Outdoor Property 

A retaining wall serves several purposes, one of which is to make your outdoor space safer and more practical. These structures serve as a barrier between the soil on one side and the rest of the landscape, allowing room for different purposes. 

You can also utilize retaining walls to build wheelchair ramps with a gentle slope. Also, a retaining wall can be used to turn a slope into a level surface. This can enable the development of buildings such as parking lots, sports fields, or structures that would otherwise be impossible to build on such land. Lastly, another function the retaining wall offers is improving your drainage system, as they fix slope problems around bodies of water. 

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How To Set Up The Retaining Wall 

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the design of your retaining wall that will influence the material and type of wall you create.  


Make sure you have a thorough grasp of property lines, as well as both above-ground and underground utilities, such as stormwater management systems and irrigation, before deciding on a place for your wall.  Additionally, you must limit soil excavation and backfill, maximize grading and drainage patterns, and consider existing site characteristics on your chosen site. 


For best results, the base soil should be hard, robust, and sturdy. Most importantly, when constructing a retaining wall, the soil should not be wet.  Clay soils absorb moisture, causing pressure to build up behind the walls. Most soils fall under the clay category and can be utilized in your project. They may, however, require further support.

Meanwhile, when the pressure is removed, organic soils will cling together but not hold. Thus, only the top 8 in. (200 mm) of a wall should be finished with them. Lastly, since sandy soil is granular and lacks tiny silty particles, it will not stay together. Furthermore, these soils drain well and are suitable for constructing walls. Overall,  sandy soil or sandy gravel is the finest retaining wall backfilling material for draining areas considering that they allow water to flow readily through them.


Every retaining wall should have a drainage stone installed behind it. Furthermore, given that water is the most prevalent cause of failure, it is critical to ensure that your wall has adequate drainage and that there will be no water buildup behind it. 

In this case, you should consider possible surface water sources and ensure that drainage is strategically positioned next to the wall. To reduce the hydrostatic pressure created by groundwater, grade the land for drainage patterns and install a drainage system behind the wall. The first step is to ensure that your landscaping contractor backfills at least a foot of space with gravel behind the wall. Next,  The second option is to place a perforated pipe along the inside or bottom of the wall. Finally, determine whether weep holes are required to allow water to drain through the wall. 

Different Types Of Retaining Walls

Retaining walls are vertical or almost vertical structures used to keep material from collapsing, sliding, or eroding on one side. They support terrain where the angle of repose of the soil is surpassed, causing it to collapse into a more natural shape. The different types of retaining walls you can choose from are the following: 

Gravity walls: 

Gravity walls are the most basic reinforced walls used to carry the soil treed due to their sheer weight and bulk. They mostly rely on their proportions and dimensions to withstand pressure from behind.  In other words, the resistance to lateral earth pressures depends on their weight and any soil lying on the concrete. Considering all that, heavy materials, like concrete, boulders, or dirt, are typically used to construct them. Meanwhile, dry-stacked gravity walls are relatively flexible and do not require a hard or complex foundation. The measurements can be as low as four feet high or as high as 10 feet without support. For walls greater than 4 feet, most municipalities require building permits. 

Semi-Gravity Walls:

 A relatively smaller amount of steel reinforcement is utilized towards the rear face of this retaining wall to reduce the size of the wall section.  On the other hand, gravity and cantilever wall styles will be used to create semi-gravity walls. Similar to Gravity Walls, the lateral earth pressure is often withstood by the bulk of the wall. Also, they are commonly utilized for the infill of earth-holding structures and bridge abutments.  In this case, the lateral earth pressure is mainly resisted by the bulk of the wall.

Segmental Retaining Walls: 

Segmental retaining walls may reach heights of more than 40 feet and are meant to be utilized as a gravity wall with or without reinforcing. Furthermore, they are concrete modular blocks that are frequently dry-built without cement. Slopes can collapse, droop, or slide if there is not enough retention. In this case, higher and steeper walls may be built with the ability to hold the force of lateral earth pressure. Furthermore, a broad range of colors, sizes, and textures are available for this type of retaining wall. Straight or curved lines, stairs, and corners can also be incorporated. They are great for slope support and expanding regions that would otherwise be inaccessible due to the land’s natural slope.

Cantilevered Walls: 

The counterforts connect the slab and the foundation, and their purpose is to minimize the soil’s shear pressures and bend moments on the wall. Furthermore, they are built in an inverted T with reinforced concrete or mortared masonry and work on the principle of leverage. These structures use less building material than a gravity wall, and they can be constructed on-site or built at a precast concrete factory. Another notable feature is that they are made up of a slender stem, and a base slab split into two sections, namely the heel and toe.

Counterfort Retaining Wall: 

While these walls are similar to cantilever retaining walls, the rear of the counterfort retaining wall requires slender vertical concrete webs at regular intervals. Counterfort retaining walls are also more cost-effective than cantilever walls for those with heights more than 25 feet. Moreover, the counterfort wall connects the stem to the heel block at regular intervals of roughly 1/3 to 12 of the wall height. On the backside of the wall, the counterforts are hidden among the well-kept soil. For heights more than roughly 7m, this wall is cost-effective. They also divide the vertical block into rectangular panels and support them on two sides, acting as vertical T-section cantilever beams with varying depths. Furthermore, counterforts decrease the bending moment caused by ground pressure, making the stem and heel slab smaller and more reinforced. 

Sheet or Bored Pile Walls: 

Sheet piles are a type of flexible retaining structure that provides a temporary building area for construction. They are often composed of wood, steel, or reinforced concrete. Although timber sheet piles have been employed in the past, their usage is now restricted to temporary constructions of up to a shallow depth. Vibrating and pounding the boards into the ground ensures their solidity, and they can be linked with a groove and tongue. Taller walls necessitate the use of an anchor that is connected to the wall and then embedded in the soil. Ultimately, they are helpful for beach erosion, shoring, excavations, and cofferdams and can be used along waterfronts. 

Buttressed Retaining Walls:

A buttressed retaining wall is nearly identical to a counterfort wall, except that this retaining wall has a support wall on the exterior. This retaining wall is utilized when space is restricted, or a thin retaining wall is required. You may also use this sort of construction method to build very high retaining walls. To put them up, the buttresses would have to be crushed for the retaining wall to fail or topple over.  The buttress principle was widely used in the construction of churches throughout Europe. Because of their height, they stabilize the cathedral walls. They serve the same purpose in a retaining wall.


Retaining wall constructions are used to keep the soil mass of embankments and slopes from sliding and degrading. They serve several purposes, ranging from utilitarian to beautiful. To add to that, you can use them to avoid landslides and soil erosion along roads and pathways with steep, vertical, or near-vertical slopes. However, a retaining wall’s most fundamental duty is to combat gravity. Moreover, the lateral force of the slope must be compensated for in the retaining wall’s construction.

In the end, it is crucial to hire a professional engineer or a house landscaping specialist to install your new retaining wall, regardless of which style you pick. A competent landscape contractor will offer years of knowledge to your retaining wall project, which may save you money and prevent an engineering disaster.