Retaining walls are great landscaping features that should be built to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, due to poor design and improper installation, most walls end up collapsing before the end of their estimated lifespan. You're left to fix a crumbling fixture, and this can cost a lot of money. Thus, to avoid these problems, you need to plan the project carefully. Below are some four tips to help you build a long-lasting retaining wall in your home.
Understand Soil and Ground Conditions
The soil and ground conditions in your area will determine the construction of your retaining wall. Soils that retain a lot of water such as clay are not ideal for retaining walls. Their inability to drain water properly can present problems down the road. On the other hand, soils that comprise of sand and gravel drain water easily, and these can reduce hydrostatic pressure and increase the lifespan of the structure. Work with an engineer from the onset of the project so they can assess ground conditions and design a retaining wall that will withstand the inherent risks.
Watch the Flow
Water is the biggest enemy of your retaining wall. If it doesn't drain properly, it will increase hydrostatic pressure in the soil and eventually cause the wall to crumble and fall. Thus, to maximise the stability and lifespan of the retaining wall, you need to watch the flow of the water. Assess the natural flow of the water and design your retaining wall around it. If this isn't possible, plan for a reliable and efficient drainage system that will direct water away from the soil around your retaining wall.
Create a Stable Base
The base is the part that holds the retaining wall firmly in the ground. Therefore, you can't skimp on it. Take time to design a stable base for the structure. It should be wide and deep enough to stabilise the structure. Don't be afraid to excavate deeper to set the base on stable soil with proper drainage properties. Also, remember, the length of the wall will determine the size of the base. Don't build a tall retaining wall on a shallow base as it will crumble on the slightest application of pressure from saturated soil.
Choose a Durable Wall Material
You can create a stable base and build a reliable drainage system, but the material you use for the retaining wall will affect its durability. Concrete is the best material for this job. While natural stone is a popular choice, it allows water to infiltrate the spaces between the stones, and this can destabilise the wall over time. Concrete blocks don't come with the risk of water damage. What's more, unlike stone and brick, it does not require any reinforcement.
Have these things in mind if you want to build a retaining wall that will last a lifetime. Consult a residential retaining wall contractor to learn more about proper planning and installation.