A retaining wall is an element of hardscaping—the parts of your outdoor space that are inanimate and unchanging—that can be highly functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. A retaining wall is simply a wall that retains or holds back soil. They can be built for many different purposes, and with many different materials. We’ll explore some of them below.
The main purpose of a retaining wall is to hold back soil. They are often used when an outdoor space has a steep slope to help stave off erosion. However they can have many other purposes as well, including:
· Adding interest and height to a flat outdoor space.
· Creating terraces that can be used for outdoor living spaces.
· Incorporating raised gardens or flower beds to your landscaping.
The most important element of any retaining wall is the one you’ll never see once it’s built: the base. Since the base is the part of the wall that will support the rest of it, it has to be solid and well-constructed. The base of the retaining wall is set below ground, in proportion to how high the wall will be above ground. The taller the wall, the deeper the base should be.
In addition to a good base, a retaining wall also requires at least 12 inches of gravel or a similar material as backfill behind it, and a good six inches of soil over that if you are going to be planting behind the wall. Both the gravel and soil should be well compacted to avoid further settling later on.
The final crucial element in building a retaining wall is drainage. Since the wall will most likely be impermeable, it’s vital to incorporate proper drainage. This is often done by placing a perforated pipe into backfilled gravel.
Retaining walls can be made from many materials, but some of the most common are brick, concrete, stone, and wood. Each material has its pros and cons, and an experienced landscaper can help you decide which is best for your environment and for the function your retaining wall will serve.
Retaining walls can also have decorative and functional elements incorporated into their construction. Wall caps are a popular decorative feature, but retaining walls can even have seating areas, benches, or water features built into them.
Depending on the style of your home and outdoor space, and the need you are addressing with your retaining wall, you will have many options to choose from in material and design. Consult a professional landscaper with your questions, and enjoy the added beauty and functionality a retaining wall can bring to your landscaping!