Revive Your Yard With These Smart Retaining Wall Ideas!

posted by Zachary J. Jones - 

A stone or concrete block retaining wall isn't only for holding back the soil. It can also serve as an attractive focal point in your outdoor living area. When you choose the right material and add greenery, landscape lighting, and a potted plant or two, you'll boost your home's appeal ten-fold! Read on for retaining wall ideas and tips to highlight your living space.

What is a retaining wall?

A retaining wall is a hardscape structure that holds soil behind it. Retaining walls have been used for centuries to improve the usefulness of outdoor spaces. One of the primary functions of a retaining wall is to transform a sloped yard into a level, usable space. This makes room for building patios, driveways, raised beds, and other structures. You can also use retaining walls for terracing. Terracing slows down soil erosion and makes a steep yard easier and less expensive to maintain. A flat patch of grass is always easier to mow than a hill.

Do I Need a Retaining Wall? The Benefits –

Are you experiencing soil erosion or water runoff? If so, you may need a retaining wall. A well-built retaining wall can –

  •  Reduce soil erosion by keeping the soil in place
  • Prevent sinkholes and downslope movement
  • Help prevent runoff from misdirected water and flooding
  • Prevent lawn and structure damage
  • Reduce yard maintenance
  • Serve as an attractive backdrop for an outdoor living area 

For more info on the benefits of retaining walls, visit here.

Will a retaining wall help divert water away from my home?

If your house is on a slope, you may have stood on your porch after a thunderstorm to see water running toward or around your home. Or, you may spy a small river flowing from the neighbor's yard. Keep in mind that if rainwater continuously washes under your foundation, it may put your home at risk.

Properly installed retaining walls divert water away from your home's foundation. They also prevent landscape dirt from washing away and control silt buildup.

If you have a substantial amount of rainwater flowing around your home, it's a good idea to hire a professional. Why? Perforated piles and weep holes can be necessary to add to the wall to reduce water pressure and increase drainage. Calculated measurements that involve wall height, base width and tilt will need to be taken to determine how much load a wall can bear. The best retaining walls have high walls, wide bases and are angled back toward the slope, so they withstand water pressure. A sturdy retaining wall plus adequate roof guttering can divert rainwater away from your home. 

Learn more about keeping rainwater away from your foundation by going here.

Choosing the Best Retaining Wall Material

Retaining walls are usually built from natural stone or stacked concrete blocks.

Natural Stone –

The beauty of natural stone makes an attractive retaining wall, but natural stone can be expensive. It's best to limit the height of a stone wall to 3 feet. If you prefer a higher wall, call in a retaining wall professional. Natural stone materials are available in three styles:

Rubble Wall –

A rubble wall consists of stone in random sizes and shapes. When the material is stacked, it fits together snugly. Choosing various stone types, colors, and textures make for a visually pleasing wall. A rubble wall can be time-consuming to build as it requires some trial and error – looking through the pile to find a stone that fits into a small space.

To build a rubble wall, begin with a wide base and stack the stone back toward the soil at a slight angle. When finished, the wall should be slightly narrower at the top. Compact small stones into any small remaining spaces to minimize settling.

Cut Stone –

Cut stone is split into 8-inch or 12-inch wide sections, and is available in varying length and thickness. Each stone weighs approximately 40 to 100 lbs. A cut stone wall is constructed by stacking the stone in rows. For a natural, random look, use various stone heights. Angle each stacked row back toward the slope at a rate of 1 1/2-inch per vertical foot.

Boulder Wall –

Boulder walls are made of large stones that are fitted and stacked. The boulder stones are heavy (at least 80 lbs.) and oversized – typically wider than 8 inches. This type of retaining wall is heavy-duty, so it may be necessary to call in a professional. Large boulders mean there will be gaps between the stones where dirt or water can wash through. Remedy wash through by positioning landscape fabric behind the wall.

Other Retaining Wall Ideas

Concrete Block –

Concrete block walls are sturdy and easy to assemble. To build a concrete block retaining wall:

  • Prepare a compact gravel base
  • Stack the blocks in the desired pattern
  • Secure the blocks with edges that interlock or with clips

Concrete blocks are available in two sizes –

Garden Wall (approximately 12-inch by 4-inch). Garden wall blocks work best for terraces, raised planters, and accent walls up to thirty inches in height. They are lightweight and readily available at plant nurseries and home centers.

Full-size Blocks – For taller, tougher walls up to 30 ft. in height, choose full-size concrete blocks. Full-size blocks are heavy –weighing approximately 50 to 75 lbs. If you plan to build an expansive wall, it may require excavating large amounts of soil and rock. It's best to call in a professional for the heavy lifting. These sturdy concrete blocks measure approximately 16-inch to 18-inch in length and are 6-inch to 8-inch thick. Full-size concrete blocks are available at landscape supply retailers.

Concrete blocks are available in a wide range of shapes, colors, and textures. Choose a style that coordinates well with your home's exterior and landscape design.

Learn more about choosing the correct retaining wall material by visiting here.

Cleaning Retaining Walls

Since retaining walls are exposed to both rain and wind, they can develop green and black growth very quickly. Remove unsightly stains with one application of Wet & Forget Outdoor! No scrubbing or power washing is necessary. Wet & Forget's gentle formula works with the outdoor elements to remove moss, mold, mildew or algae off your outdoor surfaces. It's that easy! Learn how to apply Wet & Forget to your retaining wall here.

Final Tips

Before planning your retaining wall, be sure to:

  • Call the city to learn about required permits, ordinances, and zoning laws
  • Remember neighborhood covenant requirements – consult with your Homeowner's Association
  • Plan your landscaping – Draw up a landscaping plan before you build to address trees and shrubs
  • To ensure adequate safety and strength in walls over 4 feet, meet with a licensed structural engineer.

A well-built retaining wall can reshape a sloping yard and resolve water runoff issues. Add visual appeal to your outdoor living space with these retaining wall ideas and tips.

Interested in more outdoor home improvement projects? Visit here.

Learn more about keeping the exterior of your home clean and mold-free, here.

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