In its most basic form, a retaining wall is essentially a structure commonly found in gardens and yards that holds or retains soil behind it. There is a plethora of different materials that can be utilized to create a retaining wall such as rocks, timber, boulders or concrete. Some are simplistic, some more complex, some with a long-life span and some with a shorter-life span – let’s deep dive into the world of retaining walls.
When would you need to use a retaining wall?
Retaining walls serve a variety of different purposes, let’s look at a few of the most common:
- Stability – when landscaping a sloped garden, lots of challenges can arise. A sloping garden can cause enormous lateral pressure that can lead to movement of soil downwards. A retaining wall will redistribute and accommodate this pressure asserted, allowing you to efficiently landscape your garden without the risk of soil sliding down the way (nobody wants that!)
- Soil Erosion Prevention – A retaining wall is regularly used in the prevention of having soil washed away through the process of erosion. It will prevent water from irrigation or rain from washing off soil from your property.
- Visual – Retaining walls can also be great on the eye. An example would be that you need the walls to create an artificial hill to enclose your garden, or to simply create a useable surface area that you can go crazy on with your ambitious landscaping ideas! (let’s face it, we all want to one up the neighbors!)
Materials – choose them carefully to pack a visual punch
Okay, so let’s get creative. Whilst the humble retaining wall serves several extraordinarily useful purposes, don’t overlook the aesthetic component of a retaining wall (as previously mentioned, we want to one up the neighbor!). When delving into aesthetics you’re really not limited in your options – the proverbial ‘sky is the limit’ applies here – you can revel In your creative genius!
Think about your overall design goal of your landscape when thinking about what materials you’re going to use for your retaining wall. Opt for a picturesque natural material for the construction that will enhance design in the way that any quality hardscape feature does. Stone is always an excellent option, although it’s worth mentioning that techniques for building stone retaining walls differ greatly from building a standard stone wall.
Again, the look of your retaining wall is subjective based on design goals. Although stone retaining walls are great for the natural look, this may not be what you’re going after. Concrete blocks are an option that aren’t necessarily natural but can look great if they fit into your design plans. Other popular materials include pressure-treated timbers and wood – which are extremely popular in rural settings.
How to build a retaining wall
So you’ve decided a retaining wall is just what the doctor has ordered – the next question of course is; are you going to build it yourself or hire a specialist to erect the structure? You can certainly build smaller walls (such as a 3 foot retaining wall) yourself – if you have just basic DIY skills and a back that’s in good fettle. Anything taller than 3 foot though and you’ll probably need professional assistance (I can recommend Kelowna Retaining Walls if you’re based in the area). Not only will they have the experience to ensure your retaining wall structure is erected properly, but they will also know local building regulations to ensure that you’re not breaking any laws!
- Concrete blocks designed specifically for retaining walls
- Landscaping fabric
- Stakes, string, carpenters level and a screed
- Hammer and chisel
- Circular saw (diamond blade preferably)
- A back brace, safety gloves and safety goggles
- Stone / crushed stone
Good luck on your new retaining wall!