“Retaining Walls. What is the purpose of a retaining wall and should I build one?”
by Odyssey Landscapes – “Luxury Landscaping and Landscape Design”
Retaining Walls. What good are they? What different types are there? And why should I hire a professional to build one?
In this article, we will be discussing one of our most popular services, retaining walls, which we offer to clients on the Sunshine Coast. This service is a crucial element to your property but also serves as a pleasing visual interest in your landscape.
What are retaining walls?
A retaining wall is a popular structural feature within a landscape that not only has a specific and important purpose, but is also aesthetically pleasing, can be customised to your overall theme and adds structure to your garden. A retaining wall is specifically designed to hold up ground which would otherwise drift down and to support soil. These structures prevent soil erosion, maximise usable space by allowing for shelves of flat land on an otherwise sloping property, and can help define areas within your landscape. Retaining walls are also one of many aspects of landscaping which add can value to your property due to creating usable land and protecting your property.
What are the different types of retaining walls?
MASONRY LINK BLOCK WALLS
Masonry link block walls are made of blocks which fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, and can be straight or curved. The blocks also come in a variety of colours including black, charcoal, sandstone and more. These walls have a very long longevity. but are also quite aesthetically pleasing.
Timber walls are usually a popular choice, as they are cost effective and blend in nicely with the natural surroundings. You can have either Pine or Hardwood Timber Walls. Pine is cheaper to build and thus more cost effective, however hardwood has longer longevity. Timber retaining walls are also very space effective as they are a thin profile wall, but are also more prone to being affected by weather conditions than other walls!
Sandstone block walls are large, sturdy walls which rely on their own weight to retain the land. They are quite aesthetically pleasing, easy to clean and maintain and have a long longevity. They can also be cost effective depending on the situation.
HAND-PITCHED ROCK WALLS
Hand-pitched rock walls are the most labor intensive and can therefore be quite costly, however they are very aesthetically pleasing and can be customised to a clients taste. They are versatile and can be straight or curved and offer a variety of options.
CONCRETE SLEEPER WALLS
Lastly concrete sleeper walls are both cost effective and have more longevity than timer walls, and are also quite easy to maintain.
When choosing the type of wall you’d like for your property, there are are various factors which must be taken into consideration. Yes, it is important to choose a style based on how you want the overall landscape to look and what colours and styles you like. However, it is also important when considering what kind of longevity you’d like, how often the various styles need to be maintained and if you will be committed to regular maintenance or not, and what the weather conditions are like where you live. For example, a timber retaining wall may not be the best idea if you live in an area with frequent wet weather as excessive rain over time can cause the wood to rot.
How do I maintain my properties retaining walls?
It is important to maintain the health and quality of your retaining walls to increase their longevity. Check for moisture around your walls frequently, particularly around the tops and footings, as this can a build up of water behind the wall if drainage was not installed properly. If there is moisture build up around your walls, call a landscaping professional immediately!
Timber walls in particular need a fair amount of maintenance, including oiling or staining hardwood walls yearly to increase longevity. Otherwise, the wood can rot or dry out due to the weather.
Should I hire a professional to build my retaining walls, or can I DIY?
Retaining walls are a structural building component to your landscape, and if not built correctly they can fail and cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your house and property and even people due to collapsing. This is usually a result of improperly installed drainage, which is a crucial aspect of building a retaining wall.
“Inadequate drainage behind the retaining wall is probably the largest contributor to walls’ failing. If retaining walls have been inadequately constructed or built with inadequate drainage behind them, any failure of the retaining wall can have devastating effects on the pool or home.” – QBCC
A professional will install drainage properly using proper techniques to avoid excessive water build up. They also are aware of the rules and regulations relating to wall height, and positions.
For example, did you know that retaining walls have to be built a minimum of 1.5 metres away from each other? Otherwise, if they are built too close together they can collapse due to excessive load.
Likewise, retaining walls taller than a metre will need an engineer and to be approved by council before being built – both aspects that a professional landscaper will handle for you. Our advice is, leave it to the professionals. Clearly, you are much better off hiring a professional landscaper to construct your retaining walls for you rather than lose time, money and even damage your property by installing them incorrectly!