When planning a retaining wall project there are a lot of factors to consider. While aesthetics are important, equally important is the location of the wall, the base material it is constructed on and how to preserve the installation. A stable wall that will last must be an appropriate height, incorporate drainage and use stabilization fabric. Also, be sure to check your local regulations to identify any restrictions on wall locations, materials and heights.
The first step in a retaining wall project is to identify where on the property the retaining wall is going to be installed. Once your location is determined, consider using garden hose laid out on the grass to give you the general layout. Once you have the layout, begin evaluating the area. Does a lot of water pass through? How are the soils? This evaluation will determine how much drainage is needed behind the wall. If you have sandy, well drained soils then backfilling with three-quarter-inch clean stone will probably suffice. If you have heavy clay soils that retain water and don’t allow for percolation, then three-quarter-inch drainage stone with a perforated drainage pipe may be required.
Once your layout is complete, the next step is figuring out the height of the wall. This is easily determined by running a string line with a line level off the top of the slope. Then take your tape measure and measure from the bottom of the slope vertical to the string line. This measurement will give you the exposed wall height. You will also need to add 6 to 12 inches of buried wall (depending on material used). Again, check with local codes to identify any height restrictions.
There are many options when it comes to materials to build a retaining wall. Options include, but aren’t limited to: decorative concrete block, natural wall stone and timbers. Decorative concrete blocks come in a wide variety of shapes, textures, colors and finishes. Be sure that the decorative concrete block you choose is rated for retaining. Some decorative concrete blocks are manufactured for free-standing walls only. Natural wall stone, just like decorative concrete blocks, comes in a wide variety of choices which will fit just about anyone’s style. While the material expense is greater, natural stone will out-live and out-perform any other products on the market. Lastly, you have timber material which is becoming less popular in the market however it is still the least expensive option when it comes to retaining wall materials.