Best-type-of-retaining-wall

Retaining Walls 101: How to Choose the Best Type of Retaining Wall

Jun 5, 2020 12:33:50 PM Christina Wilson

Several factors need to be considered when choosing to build a retaining wall for residential or commercial use. You'll need to decide what type of structure will work best for your location and what materials to use. Building a retaining wall requires careful planning to prevent it from becoming a hazard.

Here are tips on how to choose the best type of retaining wall for your unique application.

Consider the Location

Before building your retaining wall, it's a good idea to have a thorough understanding of the location where it will be built. It's essential to have details of the property lines, including above-ground and underground utilities, when engineering your design. Will the retaining wall impede natural drainage patterns? Will there be additional weight above the wall, such as fencing, pools, or parking lots?

Examine the Soil

You’ll want to examine the soil to ensure it will create a strong foundation for your retaining wall. It’s important to know the soil type, its bearing capacity, the friction angle, and stress parameters. The soil used should be completely dry and firm.

Check for Proper Drainage

Water buildup is the most common reason for retaining wall failure. The selected area needs to have proper drainage. Identify potential water sources in the location and construct a drainage system behind the building's retaining wall.

Create the Design

The slopes, footprint sizes, corresponding wall heights, and setback angles will need to be calculated to begin the retaining wall's design. Gravity will also need to be counteracted to prevent the retaining wall from naturally moving downslope. There are numerous types of reinforcements that can support the retaining wall. Conventional reinforcements include mechanically stabilized earth, geogrids, and rock bolts.

Determine the Right Wall Type

Once you’ve evaluated the location, soil, design, and drainage, it's time to think about which retaining wall type is best suited for your project. There are many different options to consider.

  • Gravity walls can be either straight or curved and are typically between 4-10 feet high. They’re made from cast-in-place concrete or concrete blocks, brick or stone. 
  • Segmental retaining walls are made from concrete modular blocks and can be conformed to any shape, making them ideal for high sloped terrains.
  • Cantilevered walls are ideal for deep excavations and are formed into an inverted T using reinforced mortar or concrete. They can be poured on-site to heights up to 18 feet.
  • Counterfort walls are similar to cantilevered walls and can be built to heights up to 40 feet.
  • Sheet walls are typically built around marine locations and can help prevent issues from erosion.
  • Panel walls are typically used in tight spaces where there are heavy loads.

Building a retaining wall takes careful thought and planning to get the project done right. By following these tips, you’ll have a strong retaining wall that will last you for years. If you need further help on choosing the best retaining wall for your location, contact our professionals at Renaissance Development to get more information.


Renaissance Development, a firm of masonry contractors in DC, builds and restores retaining walls  using traditional materials – brick, stone, or concrete – that complement the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century residences in the District’s oldest neighborhoods. Contact us for a free site visit and project quote.

Categories: Retaining walls, Hardscaping

 

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