Tips for Building a Stronger Retaining Wall

Retaining walls can add a refined look to any backyard design. But, the one thing that keeps many homeowners from installing them is the fact that if they aren’t constructed properly, you could have a mess on your hands. Poorly built retaining walls will ultimately fall down over time, resulting in a lot of hard work for nothing and the possibility that someone could get injured if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here are a few tips for building a stronger retaining wall so you don’t have to worry.

First, it’s important to understand the job of the retaining wall. The wall is meant to contain all of the material behind it (between the wall and the “failure plane”, which can include dirt, mulch, flowers and/or plants.

The failure plane is the term used to describe the existing wall of dirt that resides behind the wall and the fill dirt you will be using to fill in that space. It’s important to know that the soil contained in the failure plane will not move. It is the soil you are going to be using to fill in the gap (between the wall and the failure plane) that you have to be most concerned with.

There are a few primary things you should consider when building your wall to ensure your construction is sturdy and sound. These include:

1.) The retention wall should be build upon well-compacted material with well-compacted material in front of it to prevent kick-out.
2.) The retention wall should be kept as level as possible during construction. This ensures that maximum contact is taking place between the wall’s building materials. More contact equals a stronger wall.
3.) Water build-up behind the wall will eventually cause it to buckle under pressure and fall. You should build your wall with the proper grading to ensure that the water has an easy way to exit.
4.) If your failure plane is father back from your wall or the wall you’re building is tall, you may have to include a reinforcing grid to help balance the load.

You will notice that the term “well-compacted material” is used quite often when discussing retention walls. This is because it is the most important aspect of the job. Here is the proper technique for making sure your fill material is well-compacted.

• Add a layer of between three to four inches of your chosen fill material.
• Use a vibrating plate tamper (available for rent from your local home improvement store) to compact the fill down.
• Repeat until the area is filled.

Dave Donovan is a freelance copywriter living in Atco, NJ. An electrician for 15 years, an injury forced him to pursue his true passion - writing.