How Retaining Walls Work

Since they’re usually designed to avoid notice, not everyone can spot a retaining wall when it’s in use. These important pieces of engineering are included in many landscaping and home projects. What are they for and how do they work? Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about retaining walls.

The Science Involved

When designing a retaining wall, the kind of material it holds in place need to be considered. This is commonly soil or water, which each have slightly different requirements. In the case of water, the wall needs some way to drain the pressure off to avoid damage or buckling. Engineers use a formula using lateral earth pressure to determine how much force soil will have on the wall from each side. In this way, the specific size and strength of the wall is determined.

Most Common Materials

The most common material for retaining walls is concrete. This can be a standalone wall or part of the basement and is usually reinforced with metal rebar. The angle of the wall often depends on how much load it carries. Stone and rock may also be used to create a retaining wall. These materials are usually used when less pressure will be put on the wall and some strength sacrifices can be made for aesthetic purposes.

Different Types

Common retaining walls include gravity walls, piling walls and anchored walls. A gravity fall is often designed to lean into the soil it is retaining and can be flexible. A trench is dug for insertion which should be done by a professional. Pilings require steel, wood or vinyl sheets to be buried into soft soil. This works best in tight areas. Anchored walls use cables or concrete for extra stability.

If your home requires one or more retaining walls, now you know a little more about how they work. Trust a professional to install your retaining wall in a strong and pleasing manner.