Landscape Elements: Retaining Walls

   

Retaining walls, when done properly can be a beautiful way to enhance your outdoor living spaces and quality landscape design. They have many uses:

  • Enhance walkways
  • Prevent erosion
  • Control backyard drainage
  • Convert unusable space into usable space
  • Create lines and boundaries without installing a fence
  • Direct the flow of foot traffic
  • Improve outdoor safety
  • And many other uses

 

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Retaining walls offer many options for landscape design and improved outdoor living. If your property has retaining walls, make sure that they are well maintained and take the task of repairing a retaining wall seriously. They can often hold back a lot of soil and water. If your yard needs a retaining wall, then plan for its' construction carefully. Beyond just making an area look good, retaining walls are tools that turn dangerous or unusable space into a place where you can relax, entertain, and unwind.

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Will a Retaining Wall Improve My Yard?

It depends on your property but most retaining walls can help improve your yard structurally and aesthetically. Let's start with what a retaining wall does. In short, its blocks earth from moving or sliding. Gravity is a strong force, and a retaining wall buffers the effects of gravity by preventing earth and stone from behind the wall from being pushed down (hill) by gravity.

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Here's more:

  • Stops Landscape Erosion - If you have a situation where gravity is causing a problem - most likely in the form of erosion or slides then a retaining wall will likely help. Sometimes the job requires more than one retaining wall, such as in a terraced landscape.
  • Pairs with Other Landscaping Structures - If you have a slope that is slippery because of water or loose gravel, then a retaining wall can help hold back the dirt when you put in stairs.
  • Levels Out Slopes - If your property is sloped you can use a retaining wall to hold in added topsoil so that you can create a level area.
  • Directs Water - In areas where water infiltrates your yard or property, a retaining wall can help shuttle water, such as rainfall runoff, in a managed way. You can pair these with French drains, and other water control structures.
  • Creating Accent Spots - One of the most popular ways to use a retaining wall is when you create an accent spot in your yard. This might include an outdoor living space such as a living room, fire pit or fireplace, or an outdoor kitchen.

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These are just a few of the many ways that retaining walls could help improve your backyard landscape. Reach out to a landscape design team if you think you have a situation where a retaining wall might be beneficial. A professional can provide you with information and advice about the pros and cons of installing a retaining wall for your property.

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Building a Retaining Wall or Replacing a Retaining wall?

There are a variety of reasons to build a new retaining wall, rather than to repair one. Say you want to change the structure of the existing wall or the material from which it is made - at that point, you should think about replacing it. Retaining walls are commonly made from:

  • Wood
  • Cement
  • Natural Stone
  • Concrete blocks
  • Interlocking blocks

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When the role of the wall changes, it may also be time to think about rebuilding it. Maybe the weight of the soil behind the wall has increased or the erosion has caused the wall to lose its' integrity? Structural weaknesses in retaining walls are like structural weaknesses in dams. In fact, the two structures play a similar role.

The bottom line is that you always want to err on the side of caution when building a retaining wall. It is important that they do their job and that they do their job for the long haul.

For more information about replacing, repairing or installing retaining walls, contact a local landscaping professional near you.

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