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The best examples of poured concrete walls can be seen on a daily basis along freeways where they are usually constructed on a massive scale. If you’re able to watch any of these during construction, you will get a true estimate of the expertise required to form and pour the perfect wall. Unlike other methods of retaining wall construction, there are so many things that can go wrong while erecting a concrete retaining wall and that’s arguably the chief reason why they feature less in residential landscaping.
As a result of this and other factors such as the fact that concrete retaining walls are formed in the negative which can be visually challenging as inherent problems that may exist in the construction of the wall may not be spotted right away, most landscape contractors in areas of heavy rainfall or extreme weather conditions avoid concrete retaining walls due to its challenges.
For example, when a concrete retaining wall fails, you can’t fix just the part that failed, you have to build a new wall. Cracks in the wall are also a huge problem. You may be able to fix them but that comes with a lot of difficulty and expense and in a lot of cases, a crack in a wall will render the whole wall useless as there may be no long-term fix.
The importance of skilled constructors in this regard cannot also be overstated. The forms of a concrete wall have to be flawless or else a bulge may appear on the wall and where precise geometric forms are required, such a bulge or wave in the wall may be catastrophic. For example, if waterproofing fails in a block wall and moisture causes the face of the wall to discolor, however slightly, the plaster may be stripped, the seepage repaired and the wall recovered to look like new but in stark contrast, such a problem with poured concrete is disastrous.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for poured concrete walls as some Landscaping companies such as Damico’s Landscaping still manage to work with them whilst still achieving flawless results. An 8” concrete wall is stronger than an 8” block wall so in situations where a very solid retaining wall is required concrete walls work best.
Admixtures can be used to help adjust climatic problems for a better control of moisture intrusion and for walls under below four feet, a Simpson tie system can be used to enable the swift pouring of walls with a high degree of success. The qualification, however, is that it takes quite as long time to build the forms.
It is noteworthy that most landscapers today can realize a concrete-like look with a block CMU core plastered to resemble poured concrete but if poured concrete must be used, then it should be designed by a landscape architect to ensure that there are sufficient steel and footings.
The footing will extend outwards from the face of the wall or out the back depending on the type specified by the architect or engineer. This does have some influence on the adjacent planting at the base of the face of the wall. Overly large footings that extend a considerable distance out from the wall can create drainage problems for lawns. It also prevents excavation of planting holes of shrubs and trees. For this reason, your designer will coordinate the footing size and dimensions with paving or planting that runs along the face of the retaining wall to accommodate any limitations.
Consequently, if you live in the Pittsburgh area and you’re looking to build a concrete retaining wall or any other kind of retaining wall for that matter, Damico’s landscaping is more than capable to meet your landscaping needs. From Versa-Lock blocks to patio pavers and ultimately, to Omni stone, we use top of the line products from RI Lampus to bring your landscaping ideas to life.
We use versa lok block to hold back your hill sides, and they look great doing it!
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