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Retaining Walls 101: All You Need to Know for Your Project

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Walls are typically thought of as interior structural elements. However, they can be used in landscaping and defining exterior space in the form of retaining walls. Building a retaining wall is an easy project that requires easy-to-obtain materials and simple techniques. Read on to find out more about retaining walls and how to complete a successful project.

Types of retaining walls

Before embarking on this project, you should determine why you need a retaining wall. Doing so will help you settle on the design that satisfies you. Retaining walls can be categorized in two ways:

•    Decorative retaining walls: They are primarily used as landscaping features. The design chosen for decorative walls should complement and add curb appeal to your home's exterior.

•    Functional retaining walls: Functional retaining walls are used to achieve a certain purpose. In this case, efficiency is preferred to aesthetics. They can be to manage water runoff, control erosion, provide usable land, or for privacy purposes.

Functional walls may be more expensive as the type of material chosen, and installation techniques should be sufficient for the set purpose. Decorative walls are usually cheaper as you can play around with less expensive materials to come up with an appealing landscaping feature.

Materials used in construction

Various materials can be used in the construction of retaining walls. For decorative walls, you may opt for interlocking concrete blocks, treated pine sleepers, or natural boulders. Interlocking concrete blocks are available in different colors and textures, are cost-effective and durable. Treated pine sleepers may not last as long as concrete, but with proper care, they can last a decade or more. Natural boulders are inexpensive but require a lot of time, labor, and skill to install.

For functional walls, especially those meant to control erosion and manage water runoff you may need to use reinforced concrete blocks, brick, or natural stone. When using a stone, you may need to reinforce it with mortar or steel mesh for extra support. These materials are highly durable and resistant to any lateral forces from the soil.

Installation of retaining walls

Retaining walls need to be built correctly; otherwise, you will have to pay for expensive repairs in future. Ensure the wall is constructed leaning slightly toward the dirt rather than straight up for stability. Also, ensure there's drainage around it to prevent accumulation of water, which could compromise the wall's stability. Also, if municipal codes regulate the construction of walls in your area, you should ensure you don't violate them.

Building a retaining wall should be a one-time project. If it's too complex, you can hire professional services for a retaining wall that will stand up to years of harsh weather.