Choosing The Right Material For Your Retaining Wall

The wall material you choose to use for your retaining wall may vary from case to case due to the differences in shapes and sizes of the retaining wall.

Retaining walls have to be given attention because they serve many vital purposes. They can be used to enhance the functionality and the aesthetics of the landscape, or even to hold back the soil, hence preventing soil erosion. They can also be used to provide proper drainage around the building.

These structures can either stand on its own or it can be constructed in such a way that it forms part of a building. Whichever the case, hang around to find out which retaining wall material will best fit your space.

What to Consider When Choosing the Right Material

1. Moisture

Retaining walls are prone to moisture-related problems such as rot. Therefore, proper drainage is a major factor to look out for.

If you are considering making your retaining wall using timber, you may want to use treated timber to increase its lifespan. Concrete or stone may not be prone to damage by water, but in the long run, they may be affected. Proper drainage is still a requirement if structural integrity is still to be maintained.

Get to know the moisture condition of your location before choosing a material. Consult a retaining wall company or a licensed engineer if you have any doubts.

2. Wall Size and Height

Retaining walls are used for different purposes in the commercial construction industry, and that determines their size or height. For example, retaining walls can be used to decorate the outside of buildings such as universities. The types of materials used for these kinds of retaining walls are very different from those needed for excavation purposes.

For large retaining walls, you will need to use large boulders, formed concrete, or natural stone blocks. Their construction is generally complex and may require the expertise of a licensed engineer.

Smaller walls can be made of wood or bricks. Railroad ties are also a good option. These retaining walls are simpler to install, and may not require expert knowledge. You can construct them yourself. However, it would still be prudent to consult someone who has either constructed them before or has the knowledge needed to avoid unforeseen problems with the project.

3. Aesthetics

Visual appeal is of importance when constructing retaining walls. You must consider what you would like your wall to look like on the outside.

Different materials can be used to provide various aesthetic appeals. A wall may be made of concrete blocks but covered with a stone veneer as a facing material that bears no load.

Other popular facing materials include stucco, simulated stone veneer, boulders, as well as a few others.

As you think about functionality, consider the visual appeal as well, but as the second most important factor after structural integrity.

Popular Retaining Wall Materials

1. Wood

It is commonly used for making retaining walls in cases where a flexible and lightweight material is needed. It is easy to cut into various shapes as may be desired.

Wood has a rustic feeling and easily blends outdoors. When aesthetics are a top priority for retaining walls, wood is the go-to material.

The disadvantage of wood is that it’s a bit weak compared to other materials. It is prone to damage by moisture and it is not sturdy like concrete. Insects such as moths and termites can damage it. It may prove to be a little costly since you have to treat it and carry out occasional maintenance.

2. Concrete

Concrete is a desirable material for retaining walls in cases where stability and strength are desired. It is tough, with the ability to endure extreme weather conditions and the weight of the soil.

Concrete can be used in two forms, mainly concrete blocks and poured concrete. Concrete blocks are normally used for short block walls such as those used for landscaping. Using them for higher walls may lead to a weaker structure.

The blocks are a good choice if you are looking for a material that is easy to install but still gives your retaining wall strength. Poured concrete retaining walls are usually reinforced with cantilever walls to prevent them from moving. There is a wide range of dimensions for you to select.

Poured concrete on the other hand is transferred in a molten state and allowed to settle and harden. Retaining walls made of this material support greater masses of soil compared to the blocks.

3. Brick

There are different types of bricks made of many kinds of materials, but the main one is clay.

Bricks are relatively durable. Therefore, you can use it when you expect an average load on the retaining wall. It is also a good material if your location is largely humid; bricks are not adversely affected by moisture.

When using bricks, you need mortar to hold them together. You have to budget for it. Maintenance and repair of brick walls are complex because replacing a damaged brick may make the whole wall weak.

4. Natural Stone

Stone has the ability to withstand rigorous and adverse conditions. It is a popular material because of its strength and rigidness. Like wood, it has a natural appearance and blends in with plants and the environment in general.

Stone can be used to make walls by fitting them in a wire mesh or by cutting them into regular shapes and fitting them together to form the wall.

Stones fit into a gabion cage are usually irregular and do not look appealing. Besides, the wires may rust and compromise both the strength of the wall and its aesthetics.

When cut into blocks, mostly cuboid shapes, the end product looks beautiful and appealing to the eye. The beauty is that they do not need a binder to fit them together; binders distort the general look of the wall.

Final Thoughts

When using the proper materials, you can inject some vibrancy into any commercial project. As you work on choosing the right material for your retaining wall, pick something that will complement the general architecture of the property.

The right material may not necessarily be the rarest or the most expensive. Get to understand the structural and aesthetic requirements of the types of walls you want, and pick the best material that fits your situation.

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