4 Different Types of Retaining Walls
Retaining walls are a landscaping element that can be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The role of retaining walls on residential properties in Ontario is to hold back soil, eliminating unwanted slopes in the terrain or forming borders for areas like raised gardens. Retaining walls are generally freestanding structure, and can be constructed from any of a number of materials. For residential landscaping for Ontario homes, stone is often popular since it’s attractive to look at. However, concrete and other options are also available. A retaining wall provides support for a “wedge” of soil, and is designed to protect against the movement of the soil downward due to gravity. There are actually several main types of retaining walls, which are useful for different purposes and in different situations. The type of soil, terrain, aesthetic preferences, and other considerations can affect which type of retaining wall is best in a given situation.
- Gravity retaining walls are usually used when only a small wall is needed, generally shorter than around four feet. This wall relies primarily on its own weight and mass to hold the materials behind it in place. The base is usually thicker than the top, and the wall is designed to lean backward somewhat. They’re usually constructed from either stones or from sections of concrete. Because they require a certain ratio of base to height, they can only be made to a limited height before they become too thin to function.
- Cantilevered walls are shaped like an L or inverted T, with a section along the base extending back beneath the soil that’s being held back. They can be further reinforced with buttressing. They’re often reinforced with steel, and constructed from concrete or cemented masonry. These types of retaining walls often require the input of a structural engineer, especially in very hilly areas.
- Sheet pile retaining walls work best for softer soils. They’re made from planks driven into the ground, usually manufactured from wood, steel, or vinyl plastic. A tie-back “anchor” sometimes extends back into the sand or soil for added support, especially for taller walls.
- Counterfort walls are similar to cantilevered retaining walls. Usually made from concrete, they’re equipped with thin reinforced “webs” along the back at regular intervals. They’re often used instead of cantilevered walls for heights of over 25 feet.
An Ontario landscaping specialist will be able to work with you to examine your property and your vision for designing your outdoor areas, in order to determine what style of retaining wall would work best for your needs. In most cases, gravity or cantilevered walls are used in residential settings. The building materials for retaining walls can be tailored to your design preferences. Many homeowners favor masonry with stones or brick, which are pleasing to the eye. Stone, in particular, has a decidedly “natural” or old-fashioned look that many people find appealing. Because of the structural concerns that play into constructing retaining walls, it’s important to hire an expert landscaper to help you along the way.