Characteristics Of Different Residential Retaining Walls

By: Aron Callahan


If you have a garden that unevenly elevated, you need a retaining wall. It's the only way to prevent soil runoff from messing the lower level. Depending on the state of the landscape, you can choose cantilever, gravity, counterfort, anchored and sheet pile walls.

Retaining walls can be made of stone, concrete, brick and metal. Homeowners choose those that match their gardens. Do the same before deciding on what type of wall will suit your needs.

Cantilever walls

Cantilever walls are best for tall slopes as they're capable of supporting large amounts of earth. They have irregular thickness with the bottom being considerably thicker than the top. At the base is a slab on which the wall rests. This slab is what absorbs heavy weight.

Constructing a cantilever wall is not an easy job and shouldn't be performed yourself even if you are a skilled DIYer. Calculating the dimensions and building them requires professional expertise.

The wall is reinforced with rebars and cast with concrete. Buttresses may be used to counter heavier weights. An advantage of cantilever walls is that they don't use much material because the design is such.

Gravity walls

Gravity walls are not as solid or weight-resistant as cantilever walls. However, they're less complex to build and don't cost as much. If the elevation difference in your garden isn't steep, the walls will work perfectly.

From the top down, gravity walls resemble cantilever but don't have a second lever arm. This difference and the absence of buttresses is responsible for decreasing efficiency but not to a great extent for small walls. For added stability, however, a concrete footing may be constructed but only with the help of professional excavators.

Counterfort walls

Counterfort walls closely resemble cantilever walls but with the addition of concrete webbings on the rear that connect the wall and the lever arm. This added feature means the walls are able to counter shear forces cause by the earth. As such, counterfort walls are the best solution for high walls of 25 feet and more. They're economical too, more so than cantilever walls.

Anchored walls

Anchored walls use anchors in the form of cables driven into soil and rock. Requiring complex construction techniques, they're more expensive but effective for high loads. Cantilever walls may achieve the goal but are too thick whereas gravity walls are not designed for high loads.

Sheet pile walls

Sheet pile walls use wood, steel or vinyl planks to hold them up sort of like the support used when planting saplings. Soil on both sides of the piles holds them up towards the bottom. If the piles can bear the bending forces of the soil, the wall can endure heavy loads.

Materials used in retaining walls have a bearing on how strong they are. Concrete is a common choice because it's easy to build and sets fast. It'll be used in the form of concrete blocks of varying thickness and size.

Wood walls are no longer popular because the material is weak. However, they work well for gentle slopes and to complement landscapes. They have to be used together with spikes or screws for stability.

Stone in the form of rubble is a great choice for a natural look. It's difficult and time-consuming to build, however, and requires engineering expertise.

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