Retaining walls can be practical solutions for many landscaping, gardening, and beautifying projects on your rural, urban, or suburban property. If you have concerns about building a wall, perhaps due to the horror stories you’ve watched develop or heard from neighbors, family, and friends, the following hints go a long way to making your retaining wall creation a success.
Ward Off Water Woes
The integrity of your retaining wall requires planning for and execution of a proper water management system. Water is a natural force never to be underestimated as it can destroy your carefully built structure if not diverted or drained, before, during, and after construction. Many a beautiful wall leans, topples, or scatters after a thunderstorm or spring snowmelt if you skip this step. Establishing good drainage and placement away from known waterways — even the ones that seemingly subside after rain — is crucial for stability and longevity of retaining walls.
Focus On Foundation
Underlying every well-constructed retaining wall is a solid, precisely thought-out base. This foundation makes all the difference in accomplishing a retaining wall you enjoy for years or a tettering collection of blocks, bricks, or rocks you repair and rebuilds every year. The ground beneath the wall must be evaluated for stability and need for an amendment with a wide range of materials such as gravel, sand, and other reinforcers to craft the perfect foundation. This step cannot be rushed and is hard to redo if it misses the mark. Take the time to decide how to form the best foundation for your unique circumstances.
Consider The Components
Although your retaining wall may hold back and contain topsoil that receives amendment with other organic materials over the years, the structure of the wall itself cannot be of organic components. Contractor David Lee from Retaining Walls Vancouver | Bur-Han Garden & Lawn Care had this to say about retaining wall components: “by their very nature, natural materials evolve in shape and consistency, eventually decaying to essential elements taken back up into the plants grown in them. Retaining walls by their design lend their stable and relatively stagnant structure to enclose areas of your yard or grounds safely and permanently. Avoid building your wall of materials that proclaim their “organic” origin, looking instead for items that withstand the test of weather and time.”
Grab The Geogrid
Many times construction materials that differ in their application can look much like another item that would be a poor choice. Be sure that you purchase geogrid to hold and maintain the layers of fill, drainage gravel and tiles, and blocks, brick and rocks that make up your retaining wall. It is specially manufactured to have the tensile strength and flexibility to stabilize retaining walls. Other materials that look the same, such as snow fencing, cannot perform as needed and will fail if used instead of geogrid.
We have all heard the rule — measure twice, cut once. Failing to follow this maxim can delay the project and waste expensive materials. Whether you construct a sharp angled and straight block surface or a more general meandering course of fieldstone, understand how vital measuring and managing the planned blueprint is in the appearance and durability of retaining walls. Using string lines and continually reassessing the measurements are the keys to a beautiful and enduring retaining wall that you can hand down as a legacy to others who inhabit your property.
Engage An Engineer
If any — or all — of the above recommendations seem overwhelming, hiring an engineer to help you plot and plan your retaining wall can be a cost-effective and anxiety-alleviating decision. An educated professional, trained and experienced in designing and building retaining walls, can evaluate the site, adjust for issues, and provide you with a textual and visual representation of the top to bottom, side to side proper construction of your dream wall. Geotechnical engineers can anticipate problems and provide the solutions that allow you to proceed with confidence when building your retaining wall. They are also familiar with the need to contact utility companies and local authorities to avoid severing lines and obtaining needed permissions and permits. Not only will the wall be as you envisioned but it integrates the safety and tenacity just an engineer can offer.
Armed with these tips you are ready to tackle the job of constructing a retaining wall on your property. When you approach the task with these suggestions in mind, your fence has the best chance of emerging as you dreamed and performed as it must.