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Retaining Walls

If there is a steep slope on your property, you may want to build a retaining wall that will allow you to level out the ground so that it becomes more attractive and useable. Choosing the most appropriate material for the wall is the first decision you will need to make. The area of the country you live in, the style and construction of the buildings on the property, and your budget will all be important considerations. Since the integrity of any wall is only as good as the base it is built on, you will also need to determine what kind of base, backfill, and drainage you may need.

If you are thinking of building or replacing `a retaining wall, consider the following:

  • Stone wall are an attractive choice in most parts of the country. They offer unlimited design possibilities, as they can follow the natural contours of the land. They are time consuming and labor intensive to build, however, so they are generally an expensive choice. Stone walls can be dry stacked or mortared for extra strength. Since stone walls are very heavy, it is important that they have the proper gravel base and drainage systems.
  • Modular block systems are an easy way to achieve the look of a natural stone wall without the great expense. These wall systems are made from very strong concrete that has been formed into tumbled blocks of uniform size, so they look like natural stone. They are available in a variety of styles, colors and patterns. These blocks are stacked and pinned together to create extremely strong walls that are very long lived. Most systems are comprised of basic wall blocks, corner pieces, and cap stones that are versatile enough for almost any design. These walls go up very quickly.
  • Stacked timbers often make good, inexpensive retaining walls. In dry areas of the country timbers can be placed directly on the ground, but they will need gravel drainage beds where the ground is likely to be damp for extended periods. Timbers can be treated with chemicals that will make them more rot resistant, but generally these wooden walls have the shortest life expectancy. They may also be unsuitable for many landscapes, as they have a decidedly rustic look.
  • Poured concrete and concrete blocks are the most complicated and expensive choices for retaining walls. They are, however, the strongest; and if they are veneered, their unattractive, utilitarian look can be disguised. These heavy walls need extensive excavations for the footings that usually should be poured by a professional contractor. Brick, stucco, and natural or cast stone are all good choices for veneers. These veneers can be matched or harmonized with the house to affect a pleasingly customized appearance.

If your retaining wall will be more than five feet high, consider building more than one wal, so that your property is terraced into several levels of lawns or gardens. One massive wall may be so overwhelming

that it is less visually appealing than two or more smaller walls. Smaller walls can be easier and less expensive to build, as they may not need the complicated construction details which may require permits and special engineering. Always check local ordinances and zoning laws before building a wall.

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