5 Things to Know About Retaining Walls

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​You see them everywhere - those beautiful structures that retain mostly earth and stops them from eroding away when exposed to the elements. Their main purpose is to hold back the pressure of whatever material they’re retaining. Pittsburgh is known for its clay, clay is a water retaining killer for walls!

If you’re impressed whenever you see them and you would like to know more about retaining walls or perhaps have one installed on your property, here are 5 things you should know beforehand:

Retaining walls come in different types

Some of the often used types of retaining walls include:


  • Sheet pile retaining walls - these are made of steel or wood planks and are constructed by driving a part of them into the soil up to the required depth. 
  • Anchored retaining walls are particularly useful when high loads are expected since they have additional strength using cables to stay anchored in the soil behind.
  • Gravity walls – these are usually erected on hillside properties and usually consist of concrete and stone. These walls depend on their mass to resist material pressure from behind. However, their main disadvantage is that they are easily damaged in earthquakes.
  • Brick retaining walls are also very often used on hillside properties, however, they are not as strong as concrete gravity walls, and water pressure behind them can cause their failure.


They offer a wide variety of uses

Retaining walls offer a wide variety of uses. They can be used to create space for storm drains and protect shorelines. They can also be used as support for roads and bridges as well as on residential properties to add beauty to the landscape. they can also be used as support for keeping soil from eroding and are very effective at acting against flooding.

Water weakens the wall

The accumulated water is a huge danger to retaining walls, since it increases the pressure on the wall and the risk of failure becomes significantly higher. Thus you have to take the importance of proper retaining wall drainage seriously. This may include drainage sheets that protect the foundation. Another possibility is to drill the weep holes which will allow the water to escape, instead of staying accumulated behind the wall. Also a suitable method is installing a drainage pipe behind the wall, either near the footing or higher. It’s important that granular and not cohesive clay soil is used as backfill because that way, water can reach the holes or pipes, instead of just accumulating.

Materials used

Some of the most common materials used for retaining walls are stone, brick, timber and concrete. If your budget is not tight, we would recommend you use stone, whose strength and rustic look are worth some extra money. Brick and timber, on the other hand, are cost-effective choices. However, you should be careful in case of brick walls, since they require a strong structural footing in order to ensure they can support the weight. Also you should have in mind that, although timber is cheaper, it has a reduced lifespan.


Guidlines


In most states, retaining walls higher than four feet must be designed by or approved by a qualified, licensed professional engineer. Thus, it is important to check with and adhere to local building codes before design and construction.

If you’re thinking of erecting a retaining wall, it is important that you put the above listed points into consideration as this will enable you get the best out of your retaining wall construction experience

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