Things You Need To Know Before Building a Retaining Wall

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Retaining walls are practical and may add depth and character to attractive garden landscapes, but building one that is durable and structurally sound may be trickier than you think.

Retaining walls have a variety of uses, including preventing soil erosion, transforming rocky terrain into a background of terraces, and establishing focal points in the environment. Indeed, they are some of the most popular methods for fixing issues brought on by hilly locations! Unworkable inclinations are transformed into a functional outdoor area for the garden by properly constructed retaining walls.

But before deciding on anything. know these important things first before building your home’s retaining walls.

Table of Contents

Retaining wall tips - Hammer Excavation

What Are Retaining Walls?

A retaining wall is used to keep land from slipping down if not for it. Generally, retaining walls were included in your home’s original construction blueprints. These walls can be substantial constructions, such as those supporting basements built into hills or smaller walls used in landscaping.

Retaining walls are frequently seen in locations where additional support is required to stop the ground from sliding down due to erosion. The most fundamental job of a retaining wall is to resist gravity; the slope’s lateral force needs to be balanced out in the design.

Most Common Types of Retaining Walls

Retaining walls come in wide varieties, each unique way of keeping the soil in place. Others rely on deep pilings, cantilever systems, or anchors to offer additional strength. At the same time, some employ the weight of the wall itself. The strength of retaining walls that depends on their weight must be sufficient to support the wall’s and the soil’s weight. The pressure on a retaining wall may rise as groundwater collects. Drainage holes are frequently added at the base to alleviate this strain and keep the wall from collapsing.

Gravity retaining wall

Many examples of gravity retaining walls have been utilized throughout history. It is one of the most known types of retaining walls and is said to be the first of its sort to be developed. A gravity retaining wall is often constructed by stacking stones on one another and depends on its weight to withstand soil pressure.

Cantilevers Retaining Walls

These kinds of retaining walls also referred to as reinforced retaining walls, are supported by poles securely embedded in the ground or by a T- or L-shaped footing that is sunk in the soil. These are the most typical retaining wall kinds utilized in construction when more support could be required. However, they are less typical for a residential retaining wall.

Sheet Piling Walls

Sheet piling walls are most frequently observed close to bodies of water. They can be used as temporary or permanent retaining walls. The advantages of sheet piling are its rapid construction and versatility in application. Sheet piling is an alternative to cantilever retaining walls that doesn’t involve any excavation. However, because it’s challenging to install on top of cobblestones and rocks, it’s not a viable option for places with rugged terrain.

Anchored Retaining Walls

Gravity walls may not be the best retaining wall if you need to support a large bank of soil or have a limited area for a thinner wall. These link the top and bottom of the wall with cables that run through concrete so the structure can withstand pressure.
Anchored retaining walls are frequently employed when an existing retaining wall is in danger of collapsing or when a wall is insufficiently robust on its own. Due to the additional support the cables provide, anchored retaining walls are excellent at regulating and avoiding soil erosion and can resist heavy loads.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Retaining Walls


  • They stop soil from washing away and overflowing into your yard.
  • Retaining walls save your landscape from floods.
  • These barriers protect neighbouring structures from damaging elements.
  • They provide an excellent ornamental addition to a beautifully planted yard.
  • Many homes have to deal with a lot of care because of erosion, but retaining walls do just that.


  • Retaining walls can be costly to build
  • Retaining walls can be hazardous.
  • It might need some complete maintenance.

Things To Consider Before Building a Retaining Wall

Efficiency and aesthetics

Although retaining walls are typically thought of as a means of keeping soil in place, you may also utilize them to improve the visual appeal of your property. Consider how you may use them to design stylish and practical outdoor living areas that suit your lifestyle.

Make sure the foundation is solid.

Dig out the base of your retaining wall a few inches below grade, then add fillers like gravel to provide a solid foundation. The wall’s stones or blocks should then be added.

Plan the materials you will be using.

Make a strategy for the materials you’ll need. Retaining walls are frequently constructed from concrete blocks, pressure-treated wood, boulders, stones, or bricks. The ideal material for your retaining wall will rely on your budget, the material’s suitability for the intended use (after all, you want this wall to survive), and the aesthetic you’re going for. Aim for a seamless transition between the wall and the remainder of your house. The choice of material will affect how long the wall will last.

Think about size you are planning to construct

It is helpful to remember that less substantial retaining walls, about 4-5 feet high, maybe efficiently planned and constructed. However, when constructing taller barriers, you might need advice from a qualified landscape architect to ensure the construction follows local building requirements.

Don't forget about the drainage

Based on our previous experience, inadequate drainage is the main reason retaining walls fail. While installing a drainage building, a retaining wall is something that every competent contractor is aware of. It is still to the resident’s advantage to comprehend how drainage functions and why it is so crucial.

A sloped retaining wall will need additional drainage at the base. For this reason, using gravel and a fabric-covered pipe can prevent clogging and guarantee adequate draining.

Make sure that the area is well-prepared for construction.

Depending on the surroundings, constructing a retaining wall can be a costly and disruptive undertaking. Digging the area before beginning to build the wall will be necessary. Depending on how extensive the work is, you could need a shovel and some elbow grease, or you might need to hire an excavator.

Frequently Asked Questions

If a retaining wall cannot sustain the pressure the earth behind it puts on it, it will collapse. Failure of a retaining wall can stem from either faulty wall construction or insufficient wall design.

A drainage pipe could be required if the retaining wall is at least four feet high or higher. Behind the wall are soils that do not drain well, such as clay. Within 50 feet of the placement of the retaining wall, there are underground water sources.

The primary failure is poor drainage, which causes saturated soil and frost heave. For this reason, the foundation of every sturdy retaining wall consists of landscaping fabric, backfill, and a 4-inch perforated drainpipe.

The spacing between retaining wall posts should be at least three feet. The distance might be greater or shorter if it fits better with your dimensions. To ensure that your wall is durable enough, you should space your bricks no more than seven feet apart.

Final Thoughts

Retaining walls are found on many residential and commercial buildings for various reasons. A retaining wall is a building constructed to hold back earth that would otherwise slope and deteriorate over time, levelling the area and making it usable for other projects, structures, or even simply a large backyard. These are some of the primary reasons for a retaining wall, although they can have decorative applications.

So if you think you are ready to start your next project, it’s still the best decision to talk to your trusted contractor first. This will save you a lot of stress and money on finishing the project.

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