What Is A Retaining Wall?

Published On July 30, 2018 | By Clare Louise | Home

A retaining wall is an outdoor structure that helps hold the soil in place and lends support to the landscape. Materials such as poured concrete, concrete blocks, treated lumber, boulders or rocks may be used to build retaining walls.

Aspects to Keep In View

Certain things have to be taken into account while building a retaining wall such as- whether there is a pool or driveway adjacent to the wall, the height of the wall, whether the wall is on level or sloped land etc. These factors will come into play when deciding whether to choose a Gravity or Geogrid wall. Let’s take a look at what these two types of walls are.

Gravity Wall

Gravity retaining walls are structures that depend on their own weight and the setbacks to help retain the soil. In most instances, blocks are used in the construction of these walls. These lock into place once they are stacked together to form a resilient and solid setback. The setback holds back the pressure from the backfill in the landscaping.

Geogrid Reinforced Wall


Geogrid is a material that adds to the strength of the retaining structure, this improves the ability to retain the soil behind. These installations are also referred to as geogrid walls. The geogrid is placed in between the courses of blocks in the wall and then rolled back into the slope during installation. This helps create a much stronger and stable soil mass.

The geogrid, blocks, and reinforced soil mass work together to make one resilient retaining wall structure. However, geogrid is not always a suitable solution for certain site conditions. In such cases, alternatives such as no-fines concrete, soil nails, and earth anchors are used. These types of reinforcements have to be designed by engineers and a certified contractor would have to handle the installation.

Types Of Retaining Walls


Many retaining wall materials have been used over the years to add support to landscaping such as:

  • The most common retaining wall products include railroad ties, treated timber as well as wall stones, bricks, natural stones and concrete blocks.
  • Wood is also another material used in retaining walls, however, its short lifespan makes it a poor choice.  Wood decomposes over time and so does your retaining wall affecting the safety and integrity of usable space.
  • Boulders, rocks, and stones can also help create beautiful retaining walls. However, the installation can be expensive as well as labor-intensive. The maintenance of stone walls can be challenging as stones erode or can become home to rodents.
  • Cast-in retaining walls are another option for landscaping. These types of walls can be installed with the use of bricks and flagstones. This adds texture and style, however they are rigid and are not flexible. They can become impacted by climatic change, earthquakes; other natural calamities can also have an effect on them and these features can also be expensive to build.

Segmental Retaining Walls

These are the latest trend. Modular concrete blocks are used in the structure. Their interlocking design makes walls very resilient and long-lasting. Simply stacking these blocks together will help you create a maintenance-free retaining wall that will also add usable land, fix any slope issues and solve other site problems. This type of retaining wall uses a technique of construction that is similar to the one found in the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Egypt.

These walls will not deteriorate and will be able to stand the test of time. Segmental retaining walls come in a number of shapes and sizes as well as different colors and textures. Some of the commonest textures provide include hard-split or soft-split look. Blocks made out of recycled materials are also available. Segmental walls are built to last and to the aesthetics of your landscaping and value to your property.

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