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Retaining Wall Basics

Retaining Wall Basics


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.