Installing A Retaining Wall Doesn’t Mean Losing Your Home’s Aesthetics
Below are just some of the design steps you can follow to make your retaining wall both functional and attractive.
1. Select the Right Materials
Any sturdy material can be used to construct a retaining wall, with steel and concrete being two of the most popular. Many older retaining walls relied on natural materials such as stones, boulders and wood — all of which still are commonly used. Depending on the style of your home, you also might consider materials such as:
- Gravel and mesh
2. Accentuate Natural Contours
At its core, a retaining wall is basically a soil dam. But that doesn’t mean you have to treat it as such. You can use creative layouts that follow the natural contours of your property. Instead of rigid, straight walls with corners, try a snaking stone retaining wall that makes your home look like a castle — not a fortress.
3. Build a Terrace
In addition to holding soil in place, a retaining wall can help you expand the usable space around your home. For example, you can couple retaining walls with flagstones to transform an unusable lakeside bank into a terraced patio for outdoor parties.
4. Grow a Garden
You also can use retaining walls to create beautiful gardens around your property. With a series of tiered retaining walls, you can even create stepped gardens — the kind you normally see on mountaintop farms.
Warning: Building a Retaining Wall is Not a DIY Job
The above possibilities are only scratching the surface. There are countless ways to design and build a retaining wall that brings out the natural beauty of your home.
Now you might be inspired to rush out to your home improvement store immediately and pick up the materials you need. Unless you know what you’re doing, however, building a retaining wall on your own can be a retaining wall repair.
The construction process can be quite dangerous. Soil can easily shift, resulting in a fall and an injury. Many homeowners also overlook the permitting and zoning requirements involved. Obtaining these approvals is especially important when building retaining walls close to neighboring boundaries. The last thing you want to do is uninstall a wall and have to redo it because it crossed over onto someone else’s property.
Even more important is that a do-it-yourselfer doesn’t overlook the retaining wall’s primary property: stability. A poorly constructed wall can leave you and your property less safe. This is why professional teams do a thorough analysis of each property to assess things such as:
- The soil composition
- The slope gradation
- Root systems
This surveying is essential to the process. To ensure the structural integrity of your wall, you need trained engineers who understand the unique challenges specific to your property.
Effective retaining wall design also must factor in elements such as:
- Whether any trees need to be removed or relocated —actions that make the soil considerably less stable until the retaining wall is properly installed.
- Whether there may be water drainage issues that need to be corrected before building begins.
- Whether the materials used are suitable for the climate. For example, untreated lumber may not be the best option if you live in a region with heavy rainfall.
- Whether you have the proper tools for the job. This is not a home improvement project that you can temporarily stop mid-task. An unsecured or unfinished retaining wall is often more dangerous than not having a wall at all.
It’s worth noting that all of these safety and training concerns also apply when repairing an existing retaining wall.
Although you may be tempted to make these fixes on your own, retaining wall repair is not a DIY job.
Professional Retaining Wall Design is Actually Cheaper
Some homeowners like the idea of saving money by handling major repairs on their own. It’s true that you can save on labor costs when you go the DIY route, but in truth, hiring a professional is often cheaper in the long run. Trained technicians make fewer mistakes during the construction process and don’t have to uninstall walls and start the project over. The finished product ends up being far more secure, protecting you from future property damage — and costly repairs. Moreover, a well-designed retaining wall can increase the beauty of your home, helping boost the resale value of your property.