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What is the Purpose of a Retaining Wall?

by | Nov 24, 2020 | Outdoorscapes

When it comes to retaining wall installations, whether it is for commercial or residential use, there are some factors to consider. For instance, types of retaining walls vary from one application and location to another. As well as its reinforcement, material, and footing depth. Figuring out the answer to, “what is the purpose of a retaining wall?” will vary from each wall use.

What Is the Purpose of a Retaining Wall
What Is the Purpose of a Retaining Wall

In order to prevent your retaining wall from being a hazard or collapsing, you need to make a careful and detailed plan. Continue reading to receive some guidance on types of retaining wall construction that will help you make the best decision.

What is a Retaining Wall For?

Even when the specific needs vary from one project to another, the general purpose is the same. So, what is the purpose of a retaining wall? Regardless of whether it is surrounding a garden, the purpose of any type of retaining walls is to hold soil behind them. Some of the factors that will determine the type of wall and its material are the following:

1. Soil

Prior to building the wall, you must examine the soil and determine its bearing capacity. This is to ensure it is strong enough to be the foundation of the wall. Furthermore, the base soil should not be moist. This would not allow additional moisture to make its way through the drainage channels. In locations where there is freezing, the soil can damage the wall due to its expansion and contraction. In a few words, the soil must be solid, dry, firm, and strong that allow good drainage to avoid damage.

2. Location

Make sure to fully understand the property lines as well as the underground and above ground utilities before you choose your wall location. Additionally, the following aspects should be considered too:

Natural drainage patterns: a retaining wall is able to impede natural drainage patterns. This can lead to environmental consequences downstream depending on its size.

Additional weight loads: Besides temporary construction equipment, be aware of any possible additional weight over the wall. This may include driveways, fencing, guardrails, or swimming pools.

Excess of soil: Think of where the excess of soil will be stored if you are cutting into a hillside to build your wall.

Additional infill storage: Think of where to store the additional infill you will need if your wall is on a slope.

3. Drainage

What is the purpose of a retaining wall drainage system? As water is the main reason that retaining walls fail, ensuring there is a great drainage system behind the wall is crucial. To minimize the amount of hydrostatic pressure the groundwater could create, it is essential to identify potential surface water sources and construct a drainage system behind the wall. Therefore, you need careful planning for any adjacent presence of water, such as your future inground pool. While large wall projects require a hydrology analysis, smaller projects may include backfilling with gravel, drain pipes, and weep holes as a drainage system.

4. Design

In order to design your wall, it is necessary to calculate the wall heights, slopes, footprint sizes, and setback angle. Consider that your wall height depends on soil and slope, setback, and block size.

Reinforcement: What is the purpose of a retaining wall reinforcement? Depending on its type, design, height, soil material, and other factors of your wall, there is a variety of reinforcement methods available if gravity will not support your wall. For instance, high-tensile fabric woven such as geogrids, are included in MSE (mechanically stabilized earth), a type of soil with geosynthetics or steel reinforcements. These reinforcements are placed between the layers of the retaining wall blocks and rolled back into the earth.

Concrete Retaining Wall
Concrete Retaining Wall

Choosing the Right Type of Retaining Wall

When it comes to choosing a type of retaining walls, the available options are plenty. Continue reading to find a brief description of different types of retaining walls.

Panel Wall

These walls are made of precast concrete reinforced with steel, and they are frequently used near areas where there are heavy loads.

Gravity Wall

Typically made with heavy materials such as concrete blocks, cast-in-place concrete, and stone, these walls can be under 4-feet high to even 10-feet high without reinforcement. What is the purpose of a retaining wall when it is the gravity type? These walls are constructed to hold the soil, and also use their mass to resist pressure from behind.

Sheet Pile Walls

Commonly used in soft soil and tight spaces, these walls are made of steel, vinyl, precast concrete, or wood planks, which are later hammered into the ground to ensure stability. They are a good option along waterfronts and are helpful with excavations, beach erosion, and shoring.

Segmental Walls

With or without reinforcement, these walls are used as gravity walls, and they can have heights of 40’. They usually meet industry standards, with similar strength, durability, and weight. They are also available in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and textures.

Gabion Mesh Walls

This type of retaining walls includes wire mesh boxes filled with rocks and stones stacked together and angled back towards a slope. They are commonly used in water applications to prevent erosion, in military applications, or in commercial or residential settings where the wire mesh is filled with an aesthetically pleasing material.

Will You Feel Confident Choosing Your Own Wall?

Regardless of the retaining wall you choose, make sure to evaluate the soil, drainage system, and location for your wall. When it comes to outdoor design, there are accents with paver patterns that you can use to accomplish your outdoor design goals along with your retaining wall.