Seven Types of Residential Retaining Walls
Whether you’re just renovating your backyard or you need to prevent soil from eroding, there are many reasons to build a residential retaining wall. In this article, we’ll take a look at what a retaining wall is, its seven different types, and what to consider when choosing one to build.
Let’s get started!
What Is a Retaining Wall?
A retaining wall is a wall that holds up soil. It’s often used to stabilize or support sloped terrain, prevent erosion, or create level areas when landscaping. Retaining walls can be made from a variety of materials, including stone, brick, wood, steel, and concrete. Many are designed with reinforcement and drainage in mind.
Retaining Wall Benefits
What all retaining walls have in common is that they help retain soil and other materials and keep them from sliding or eroding away. But there are many other benefits, as well. Retaining walls also improve the overall aesthetic of your property by adding visual interest and structure. With proper maintenance, a residential retaining wall can last for many years and help maximize the value of your home. Additionally, investing in one is an excellent way to make long-term improvements to your property.
Here are a few different types of retaining walls for you to consider:
1. Gravity Retaining Wall
A gravity retaining wall is the most basic form. It relies on its own weight to resist the pressure from soil and water. This also makes it best suited for small to medium-sized projects.
Gravity retaining walls can be made from many different materials, but usually, they’re made from stone or large concrete blocks. They can be as small as four feet or as tall as ten feet. When it comes to actually building one, you’ll probably need to dig a trench for the wall to fit into. It may also need a concrete footer to sit on. However, the wall won’t require soil
2. Cantilever Retaining Wall
A cantilever retaining (aka reinforced retaining wall) is one that uses geogrid reinforcement for additional stability. When gravity isn’t enough to hold the soil and water back or you need to build higher, this is a great option. Cantilever retaining walls are built with concrete slabs that extend out from the base of the wall into which long projecting beams or girders are fixed.
These walls require much less construction than a traditional gravity retaining wall. However, they require firm soil and rigid concrete to support themselves, so they tend to be more expensive.
3. Sheet Piling Retaining Wall
A sheet piling retaining wall is a basic wall made of steel, vinyl, or wood sheet piles. It’s ideal for when you don’t have much space to work with. Sheet piling retaining walls require less excavation than other types and can be built relatively quickly. However, they only work on softer soils.
4. Anchored Retaining Wall
An anchored retaining wall is similar to a sheet piling retaining wall. The difference is that its walls are supported by steel cables or rods that are anchored into the ground behind it. Anchored retaining walls are great for areas where there is a lot of soil pressure to keep the anchors secure. But if the soil is soft, there may not be enough support for the anchors.
5. Gabion Retaining Wall
If you’re looking for something that has good drainage and requires little maintenance, the gabion retaining wall may be a good option. It’s built with wire cages that you fill with rocks or other materials that blend in with the surrounding landscape. The spaces between the stones allow for drainage. Gabion retaining walls are often used for landscaping or controlling erosion.
6. Segmental Retaining Wall
A segmental retaining wall (SRW) is one made up of precast concrete blocks designed to interlock with one another. They are available in curved and straight designs so that you can easily install them across different spaces. Typically, SRWs are reinforced by some form of geosynthetics.
7. Counterfort Retaining Wall
A counterfort retaining wall is similar to a cantilever retaining wall, except that it requires additional support in the form of vertical concrete structures called counterforts that are spaced out on the backside of the wall. If you need a retaining wall to be higher than 20 feet, a counterfort wall may be the way to go. Why? Their counterforts can support the extra weight.
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What to Consider When Choosing a Residential Retaining Wall Type
Before you choose a retaining wall type for your next project, consider the following:
- Location: You need to understand your property lines, your property’s drainage patterns, and the slope of the property. These details will help you determine what type of retaining wall would work best.
- Soil: Check your soil’s type, bearing capacity, and friction angle. Generally, you want the soil to be firm and strong since moist soils can cause a variety of issues during the wall installation process. In addition, soil that is prone to freezing may expand and contract, which could damage the wall later as well.
- Design: When choosing a retaining wall, consider its height, footprint size, and setback angles. You also want to choose a wall material that best suits the wall’s surroundings.
- Enforcement: Gravity alone may not be enough to support the retaining wall. So you may need to choose a reinforcement method, such as a geosynthetic material like a geogrid.
- Drainage system: Water is the leading cause of retaining wall damage and failure, so you need to make sure yours has a good drainage system. Otherwise, the integrity of the wall could be compromised.
Once you’ve narrowed down all of the above factors, you can choose a retaining wall type that best fits the bill.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, building a retaining wall can be a delicate project. It’s crucial that you be thorough in your research and make the right choice for what type to use. If you need help choosing or building your retaining wall, we’re here to help. At RSP Group, we have years of experience in completing residential landscaping projects just like yours. Feel free to contact us today to learn more. We look forward to chatting and learning more about you and your retaining wall needs!
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