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Retaining Wall Basics

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Retaining Wall Basics

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 3:32 PM

Like you, I'm ready for the return of Spring weather and spending some time outdoors.  One of my favorite projects for this time of year, is designing and building retaining walls.  If you're planning to upgrade your surroundings, make sure that the contractor you choose provides you with a durable wall that will last a lifetime.

Over the years when I've been called in to repair and/or reconstruct an existing wall, I find one of two problems exist ... either 1) a shallow footer; or 2) backfill using dirt only without stone drainage(sometimes both!).  Because dry dirt takes up less room than wet dirt, each time it rains or you water the planting bed within the area, the dirt will expand as it absorbs the moisture which puts hydraulic force on the wall.  As it dries, it shrinks and takes the pressure away.  This process repeats over and over and after just a few years the wall will bulge, crack, and eventually fail completely.

Keep these practices in mind when choosing a quality-driven contractor:

  • The concrete footer is critical to the durability of the wall (recommend at least 32" deep, 8" wide with a concrete mix of 3,000 psi).

  • On the back side of the retaining wall, make sure that a 4" perforation pipe is included for drainage with backfill comprised of #2 stone and a soil separator incorporated between the stone and top soil.

Not only are retaining walls functional, they are pleasing to the eye and can improve curb appeal and the resale value of your home.  By keeping these tips in mind, you will be able to bypass contractors with limited knowledge and questionable work practices and find the contractor worthy of your trust.

Categories: Retaining Wall Basics

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301 Comments

Reply Timur Sener
8:26 AM on March 27, 2014 
Rich in content, specific, every point is very good, is to this article, thank you. By the way, could you see our goods, you will like it.
Reply Mike Sturgeon
9:06 PM on March 30, 2014 
Timur Sener says...
Rich in content, specific, every point is very good, is to this article, thank you. By the way, could you see our goods, you will like it.

Timur - Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on our blog about retaining walls. We'll check out your line of products and let you know what we think. Thanks again, Mike
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10:46 AM on July 14, 2014 
Wow,this is really a nice post and you share such an awesome information about the retaining walls basics. i like your post and say thanks for the work which you have to do.
Reply Jade Brunet
11:45 PM on September 21, 2016 
Thank you for sharing your experiences concerning retaining walls. It is good to know that there are two problems that seem to resurface including shallow footers. When dealing with these situations, I think it is best to reach out for professional help to ensure that the issues are resolved properly.
Reply John Ferrell
11:40 PM on December 22, 2016 
I like the suggestion to hire a contractor that provides a durable wall. If I was going to get a retaining wall then I wouldn't want it to move. I think that if your wall moves then you are going to need to get it replaced, and that might be a lot of money.
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Reply Annika Larson
11:54 PM on April 27, 2017 
My husband and I are looking to add to our landscape. Specifically, we are looking to have a retaining wall put in. We want to make sure we find the right contractor to help us. Like you said, it's important to know the practices to ensure a durable wall that will last a lifetime.
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Taller walls may require more than one drain pipe to sufficiently relieve the hydrostatic pressure. ... The grading behind a retaining wall also has an effect on the buildup of water. The soil behind a retaining wall typically slopes toward the wall.
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