Retaining walls protect property on a hill and improve its curb appeal. Imagine a slanted lot that not much can be done with and that has water and mud sliding toward the house every time it rains. The homeowner can reclaim their property and get a lot more use out of it by hiring a landscaping company and a retaining wall contractor to level the backyard and build a strong, attractive retaining wall where the yard meets the hill. Sometimes, homeowners choose to have a set of terraces with retaining walls to make even more use of the sloped area. The terraces can be planted with attractive plants and shrubs.
Who Needs a Retaining Wall?
How do homeowners know if they need a retaining wall? People need retaining walls for several reasons, including the following.
- Manage runoff from rain.
- Create terraces to add to the usable flat outdoor area on home lots.
- Upgrade the building lot.
- Provide stability for hilly lots and prevent soil and rocks from washing downhill.
- Keep soil from washing down onto a yard and to protect a yard that is above the sidewalk from eroding.
A person can click here for more reasons a lot might require a retaining wall. In addition, retaining walls can provide privacy, seating, and a division of outdoor living spaces.
The Importance of a Properly Built Retaining Wall
Retaining walls are holding back tons of soil rocks and water, so they need to be built correctly to be stable and strong. This is not a project to cut corners on or to try to save money on by hiring unqualified builders. It is important to hire retaining wall contractors with good reputations and proper licensing and insurance. Retaining walls will not last if they do not have the correct support and design. They can crack and degrade quickly if they are not properly built.
Do not attempt to build a large retaining wall as a DIY project unless you have the skills and experience to complete the project correctly. Property owners trying to build their own retaining walls often do not have the experience and equipment to do a good job. Because of this, the job will take longer to complete and might fail in a short time. Never attempt to build a retaining wall more than three feet tall.
This is a job for professionals with the training and experience as well as the right equipment to move soil and rocks, mix cement, and haul large quantities of the correct kind of rocks, cement blocks, or other materials. Retaining walls must be properly designed and built to withstand high winds, hard rains, changing weather conditions and temperatures, pressure from the dirt and rocks being held back, and more. In addition, no one wants a functional retaining wall that is unattractive and reduces the property values.
How Are Retaining Walls Properly Built?
Retaining walls should be built using advanced installation methods and materials after careful planning and design. Building permits are usually required, and all neighborhood restrictions and rules must be followed. The utility providers or a locating service in the area need to be called to come to the property and mark all utility lines that may be buried on the site.
Depending on the size of the retaining wall and what it is holding back, there are several kinds of construction methods to choose from.
- Walls less than three feet tall can be built using a dry stack method requiring no mortar. These walls do not require a concrete footing and will drain well. This form of retaining wall should be back-filled with rock for better drainage.
- Concrete retaining walls in several forms including poured, cinder block, or split-face block. Poured walls can have a veneer of stone or other material.
- Wood or timber retaining walls may cost less to construct but last only five to 20 years, depending on materials and wood treatments used.
- Stone retaining walls or gabion retaining walls are strong and attractive but vary widely in cost depending on the materials chosen.
- Brick retaining walls are usually one brick thick and are used as a veneer on poured concrete or block concrete walls.
- Metal retaining walls have many material options. They can last for decades if treated correctly and installed properly.
Each type of retaining wall requires its own construction techniques, but these steps are required for stackable concrete blocks and other types of retaining walls.
- Choose the materials to be used, obtain permits, design the wall, and order the materials in advance.
- Mark the placement of the wall on the lot, and dig the trench as deep as the height of the wall and the material to be used requires. It should be at least eight inches deep. The finished trench needs to be tamped and have a layer of gravel added.
- The first course of stone needs to be laid partially below ground and must be level in all directions to be a good base for the remaining materials.
- Install drainage pipes and add a cover to protect them.
- Add the additional layers of stone, block, etc., checking each layer to make sure it is level and firmly placed with no movement.
- Lay the top layer of blocks or material using the correct method for the finishing layer.
- Backfill with gravel and other materials as the design calls for.
- Add a layer of topsoil to support any landscaping being used.
A reputable retaining wall contractor such as Masonworks Landscapes will explain every step they will be taking to the homeowner or business owner. Ask for a detailed contract that lists the construction steps to be taken and the materials to be used. Take the time to check on the construction of the wall as it is being installed. Insist on inspecting the finished wall before signing off on it and paying for the job. If possible, ask for a warranty for a set amount of time so that, if defects appear, the contractor will come back and fix them.