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The Dos and Don'ts of Building Retaining Walls

Do you have a hilly yard or a yard with a sloping landscape? Sloping landscapes are vulnerable to soil erosion. They can also cause problems to your home’s foundation depending on how the land slopes. Building a retaining wall can help to resolve problems caused by slopes on your landscape. A retaining wall can also help to improve the function and aesthetics of your landscape. However, don’t be deceived by the somewhat simple appearance of these walls. A lot of planning and engineering is actually needed to construct a functional and beautiful wall. Below, we go through some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when planning and constructing a retaining wall.

Don’t Forget to Check With Your Local Authorities

Yes, you will need to consult with local authorities when building landscape retaining walls. This is because these walls don’t only affect your landscape but can potentially impact your neighbors’ properties as well as they have an impact on the natural flow of water. You will therefore need to obtain a permit to construct the wall on your property. Consult with your local authorities and follow their guidelines to ensure that you don’t encounter any problems.

Do Choose Materials That Are Easy to Work With

You can construct retaining walls from a wide range of materials including natural stones, brick and even poured concrete. Whether you’re going to construct the wall yourself or are hiring a professional contractor, choose materials that are easy to work with. This will help ensure that the wall is built efficiently and effectively.

Do spend more time on the Foundation

In order for the retaining wall to be strong, it must have a good support system. This means that you should take the time to build a strong foundation for your retaining wall. The size of the foundation will depend on the height of the wall. For example, if your retaining wall will be 3 feet tall, you will need to build a foundation to the depth of at least 8 inches in depth below grade.

Don’t Lay Blocks On a Uneven Surface

The first row of blocks that make up the wall set the stage for the rest of your wall. It is therefore vital that you ensure they are perfectly level. Otherwise, the subsequent layers won’t be. Ensure that the lawyer of gravel onto which you are laying your first row of blocks is level using a carpenter’s level or an aluminum level. You can then begin to lay your blocks.

Do Stack Blocks Sloping Slightly Backward

When the wall leans into the soil it is held back, it is less likely to be pushed outward by pressure from the soil. Your wall shouldn’t therefore be just vertical. It should low at a rate of about 1 inch for every foot of rise vertically. You can achieve this by placing the next row of blocks slightly behind the lower row of blocks.

Don’t Forget to Make an Allowance for Drainage

It is important to consider drainage of groundwater as this can exert excessive pressure on the wall. Make drainage provisions such as by installing drain tile to guide water away from the wall. This involves the installation of a perforated pipe at the base of the wall to allow groundwater to drain through.

Do Backfill Properly

Use pea gravel or sand to backfill the retaining wall over the drainpipe. This will allow water from the soil to filter into the drainpipe. Backfill and tamper at every 6 inches to ensure that the material is packed tightly.

Don’t Build One Tall Wall

Don’t build a wall that is taller than 4 feet. Instead build multiple shorter walls. A tall wall is more likely to fail. You can place multiple short walls at least 6 feet from each other in order to distribute the pressure.

Consultation with a Landscape Designer

For best results, hire an experienced contractor to do the work for you. GMC Landscapes offers expert retaining wall installation services in Seattle. Contact us now to discuss your needs.

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