Retaining walls are essential to any landscape and can make or break a property’s value. Landscaping around a home is expensive, but retaining walls can help to curb that expense. The price range of these structures varies widely, so here are some ideas for retaining walls and fences, in the price range of your budget.
Retaining walls are made from concrete and other materials, designed to retain topsoil. The walls are most attractive when they are used to divide large lots or to divide two properties into separate spaces. How much do retaining walls cost? Costs begin at $4.00 per square foot, with most materials available at most hardware stores for less than this.
Types of Retaining Walls
To keep the structure sturdy, homeowners choose from several different types of retaining walls, ranging from simple single block wall systems to multi-block systems containing multiple stones or metal slabs connected by tiebacks. There are also retaining wall systems composed of precast panels that can be bolted together or nailed. Inground retaining walls are made of earth or heavy stones and filled with either loose-fill dirt or a type of concrete mixture (copper) to hold soil in place.
Many homeowners choose to include a built-in drainage system with their retaining walls since the structure of these walls often results in wet areas behind the house. The use of a built-in drainage system, whether man-made or natural, can greatly enhance the aesthetics of the home and curb damage due to flooding. Landscape architecture can vary greatly depending on the type of retaining walls chosen.
Building a Retaining Wall
If a homeowner is considering building a retaining wall, the first step will be to create a detailed site plan. This plan should include accurate measurements of the retaining walls, surrounding vegetation and any foot traffic. Measuring the area beneath a retaining wall is particularly important if it is located below the frost line, as groundwater can cause excessive groundwater pressure. In areas where foot traffic is high, it is especially important to take into account the amount of foot movement associated with the typical activity in that particular area. Measuring the ground depth will also help determine the amount of footing drainage needed.
Once the site plan is complete, it is time to start drawing the retaining walls, which will require professional design assistance. If a homeowner can locate a contractor who specializes in landscape construction, then the first step should be to schedule a free consultation. During the consult, the contractor should discuss the proposed design with the homeowner and obtain further information about the property, such as existing vegetation and foot traffic. The contractor should evaluate the proposed design with the homeowner to ensure that the design will not result in barriers that will interfere with building activities. If changes are required to accommodate existing buildings or structures, the contractor should discuss these with the homeowner as well.
After the consult, the contractor should submit a set of retained wall drawings for the homeowner to review and make suggestions for the retaining walls. An example of retained wall drawing includes stacking concrete blocks to form a forty-five-foot high retaining wall. The blocks should be arranged in four levels and six sides, with each level retaining ten feet of surface area. Three feet of topsoil should be left between the concrete blocks to allow for expansion during rain or snow. The concrete was selected to match the specific gravity of the surrounding soil to maximize the stability of the wall.
To complete the design of the retaining walls, the top layer of soil, which has been excavated, should be filled with topsoil, or equivalent soil material. After the excavated earth is compacted, about one inch of topsoil should be removed to create an opening for the bottom layer of gravel. Backfills are a cost-effective way to fill holes in retaining walls. They are made by compressing the gravel to make a thick enough layer to withstand any weather conditions and to blend into the surroundings.