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What is the Purpose of a Retaining Wall?

Retaining walls are used to hold back or retain soil and other materials on uneven terrain or sloping. Essentially, retaining walls makes these areas functional. The primary function is to prevent erosion, maintain water drainage, create level areas and provide structural support to buildings or other structures on the property. Without retaining walls, terrain can become dangerous and unstable.


Front Yard Retaining Wall what is a retaining wall

What are 3 Main Types of Retention Walls?

Retaining walls are essential for a property with sloping terrain. Retaining walls prevent erosion and provide a stable foundation. There are many different types of retaining walls, but the main three are concrete, stone and masonry.  We will explore which one is best for your property, but first…why did the retaining wall breakup with his girlfriend?  Because she kept taking him for granite!

Concrete retaining walls

Concrete retaining walls are extremely strong and versatile while needing low maintenance. Because of their amount of strength, concrete can withstand a lot of weight and is ideal for restraining a large amount of soil.

Versatility is another great perk about concrete retaining walls. They can be shaped and sized in a variety of different ways, making them great for other landscaping projects! They can be poured walls of solid concrete, or individual blocks. The way they are constructed leaves little to no gaps creating an almost airtight wall where nothing can seep through. This is why it is extremely important to install drainage behind the retention wall so that water does not damage the structural integrity of your wall over time. Concrete retaining walls can run anywhere from $30 to $100+ $ per square foot depending on the shape and size. However most of the time for decorative block retaining walls you are looking closer to $55 to $75+ per square foot.

Concrete Retaining Wall what is a retaining wall

Stone Retaining Walls

Stone retaining walls (also referred as dry-stacked retaining walls) are a popular choice for homeowners due to their durability, natural beauty and low maintenance. One of the biggest perks to using stone is the durability it provides, they are resistant to water, erosion and pest. However, due to their irregular sizes and shapes, the gaps can be quite large allowing for sediment and water to seep through. A professionally constructed wall will prevent this from happening by assessing the conditions, using the right stone for the application and installing it properly.

Stone retaining walls can last many years and as time goes on, with a little cleaning, their natural beauty improves whereas other materials fade. Stone retaining walls can be more expensive and the installation can be time-consuming and labor intensive.

Depending on the style of stone, such as limestone, slate, fieldstone or keystone you can expect to pay anywhere from $13 to $45+ per square foot for materials alone making them more expensive than concrete walls when you factor in the additional intricate labor in comparison to a concrete wall.

Stone Retaining Wall Lg what is a retaining wall

Masonry retaining walls

Masonry retaining walls are another popular choice for homeowners and landscapers because of their durability and aesthetic appeal. This style of wall can be made from various materials such as brick, natural stone and concrete blocks.

Masonry retaining walls have amazing strength, as they can withstand a significant amount of weight. The primary difference of a Masonry wall is that mortar is used to bond together the stone making it look like one continuous wall with no gaps. Masonry is a timeless look. They have been used in landscaping for centuries and continue to be a popular choice when looking for elegance and classicism.

These walls blend well with their surroundings and look stunning with a great landscape job! In most applications, the price per square foot is typically more expensive than concrete and dry-stacked stone retaining walls.

Masonry Retaining Wall Lg what is a retaining wall

The Difference Between a Wall and Retaining Wall

A wall is typically used to enclose or divide a space, whereas a retaining wall is specifically used to hold back soil and prevent erosion.

Retaining walls are typically constructed on slopes or uneven terrain to create level areas for driveways, gardens or patios. They have a thicker base and taper towards the top to reinforce extra stability. The materials vary, including stone, masonry or concrete.

How Many Years Does a Retaining Wall Last?

The lifespan of a retaining wall depends on several factors, such as materials used, quality of construction and the amount of stress it undergoes. Generally, you’ll find a well built and properly maintained retaining wall made of concrete, natural stone or masonry can last up to 50 years or more.

However, poor construction, lack of maintenance or harsh weather conditions can significantly reduce the lifespan of a wall. We have repaired and rebuilt many poorly constructed walls over the last decade and unfortunately, we see that an improperly constructed retaining wall can last as little as just a few years. It’s important to consult with a professional and choose high quality materials and the right construction application to ensure your retaining wall lasts for years to come.

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