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Ivyland PA 18974

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Milton DE 19968

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Retaining Walls – Garden Walls – Sitting Walls

Landscape Blocks – Stone Veneer

Whether your property needs support or you just want to change the look of your lawn, a retaining wall can be just what you need. Retaining walls are not only used for holding back soil, but can be useful as additional seating around a patio or pool deck area. In this part of the country we are used to seeing retaining walls because the topography can range from slightly rolling to mountainous. There are four basic types of retaining walls (see below) that allow homeowners and contractors to create steps or level areas on a sloped surface. Be very careful though!! If a retaining wall is not constructed properly, the forces of nature will topple it.

Gravity Walls

A gravity retaining wall is usually less than 3 to 4 feet tall and depends on its own weight or mass to retain (hold back) the earth behind it. This type of retaining wall is constructed with a volume of material so that when stacked together, the weight and friction of the retaining wall exceeds the forces of the earth behind it. The wall is thicker at the base than at the top and slants backwards. This is referred to as ‘battering’. The thickness of a gravity wall at its base should be one half to three fourths its height.

Cantilever Walls

A cantilever retaining wall is one that is a uniform thickness, which is tied to a footing. A cantilever wall typically holds back a significant amount of earth, so these types of retaining walls should be engineered. An example of a cantilever retaining wall would be a typical basement wall in a house. The width of the footing for a cantilever wall is very important because it resists tipping or sliding forces of the earth behind the retaining wall. These types of retaining walls require significant steel reinforcing in both the footer and the wall structures so that the two pieces actually become one integral unit. This is why this type of retaining wall needs to be designed by structural engineers. Don’t try this at home!!

Counterfort Retaining Walls

A counterfort retaining wall is very similar to a cantilever wall, except that this type of retaining wall has a triangular shaped wall that connects the top of the wall to the back of the footer. This is necessary added support. The wall is hidden within the earthen or gravel backfill of the wall. The footer, retaining wall and support wall must be tied together with reinforcing steel. The support walls add a great deal of strength to the retaining wall and make it virtually impossible for the wall to become detached from the footer. Just like cantilever walls, a counterfort wall should be designed by a competent structural engineer and not attempted by a weekend engineer.

Buttressed Retaining Walls

A buttressed retaining wall is just like a counterfort wall except that the support wall is on the outside of the retaining wall. They are visible but add incredible strength to the wall system. They are so strong that in order for the retaining wall to fail or tip over, the buttresses would have to be crushed. This buttress concept was used in the construction of many cathedral walls in Europe. The buttresses helped to stabilize them. If you intend to build one of these walls, you should hire an engineer. A mistake in this type of retaining wall could not only be costly, but dangerous.