Retaining walls can be useful additions to your outdoor landscape. If you have a sloped backyard, building a retaining wall may even be a necessity. Without it, certain portions of your yard may be inaccessible or unusable.
We value retaining walls for their utility, but that does not prohibit them from adding some oomph to your backyard design. Get creative with your retaining walls, and you could be putting together a gorgeous outdoor landscape.
In this article, we will highlight different design options for your retaining walls. We will also provide some reminders for building retaining walls so you can avoid getting into trouble while reshaping your backyard. Stick around if you want to learn more about your option.
Important Reminders for Building Retaining Walls
The task of building retaining walls is not one you should tackle on a whim. Building retaining walls properly takes a lot of work and preparation, and there are plenty of chances for you to mess up along the way.
Avoid making those potentially costly mistakes by always keeping the following tips in mind.
Account for the Local Laws in Your Area
Whenever you are building a new structure on your property, you always need to ask if you will need a building permit. In San Diego County, you will need a building permit for your retaining wall if certain conditions are met.
Those conditions are:
- The retaining wall is over three feet tall
- The tiered retaining wall is over six feet tall
- The retaining wall is holding back a sloped backfill steeper than 1.5 horizontal: 1 vertical
- The retaining wall supports surcharge loads such as driveways, fences, and structure footings
- The retaining wall impounds flammable liquids
- Any tier footing of the retaining wall crosses the slope stability plane of a lower-tier
Note that you will need a building permit even if your retaining wall only meets one of those conditions. Consult with a contractor if you want to be certain about the requirements for your building project.
Consider Working with a Landscape Architect
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building retaining walls. The structure in question must be designed specifically for the dimensions of your property, or it will not turn out well. Factors such as the condition of your soil, property lines, and your preferences must also be accounted for when building the retaining wall.
To put it simply, building a retaining wall is no easy task. Even designing it can be a real challenge. You need to work with a landscape architect if you want a properly designed retaining wall.
Landscape architects are easy to find because you can use references provided by governing bodies. Alternatively, you can also work with a design and build company to quickly find the professional you are looking for.
Create a Solid Base for Your Retaining Wall
If you want your retaining wall to stand the test of time, give it a solid foundation.
Dig out a trench that is deep enough to hold your retaining wall in place. Once that is done, you need to create the foundation by setting some blocks in place. Those blocks also need to be perfectly level, or they will struggle to keep your retaining wall upright.
No matter what kind of retaining wall you are planning to build, it must stand on top of a solid foundation. Work closely with landscaping specialists so they can lay down that foundation for your new retaining wall.
Always Account for Drainage
Moisture can wreak havoc on your retaining wall. If you fail to remove moisture quickly, that structure may sustain damage. It may not remain a fixture in your yard because of that.
You cannot forget to account for drainage when constructing your retaining wall. Ensure that the structure has sufficient drainage at every level, so the water does not get stuck in certain areas.
Add whichever features are necessary to your retaining wall to minimize the threat posed by pooling water.
Choose the Right Backfill Material for Your Retaining Wall
One more reminder for building retaining walls that we want to share is related to backfill. Backfill helps reinforce your retaining wall. Aside from that, the backfill you use can also facilitate efficient draining.
Gravel is the material commonly used as a retaining wall backfill, but it is not your only option. You can also consider using backfill material known as crushed clear stone.
Per How to Hardscape, crushed clear stone works great as backfill because of the way it promotes fast draining. If you live in an area that gets a good amount of rain regularly, choosing crushed clear stone as your backfill may not be a bad choice.
For those who are not completely sure about which backfill material to use, consulting with an expert is always an option.
Retaining Wall Designs for Sloped Backyards
Now that we have brushed up on the fundamentals of building retaining walls, let’s discuss some possibilities for what your specific project should be. Retaining walls can stabilize your backyard while also making it more beautiful. You should take full advantage of that.
Detailed below are some retaining wall designs that will work on a sloped backyard. Check them out and see which particular designs could work on your property.
Classic Stone Retaining Wall
You cannot go wrong with the classics. If you are content with keeping things simple, you can always go with a basic stone retaining wall.
A stone retaining wall should have no trouble dealing with the slope of your backyard. Though it is basic in form and function, a simply designed stone retaining wall still possesses the strength necessary to hold back a lot of soil.
You can try enhancing the appearance of the retaining wall by using different colored stones and capping it. Carving some intricate patterns into the stones is another way to change up the look of your wall.
Retaining Wall with Steps
The defining element of your backyard could be a small hill. In some ways, having that small hill is great because you can integrate it into your outdoor landscape, and your kids can have fun there. On the other hand, the hill could also become an obstacle you will constantly deal with.
To get around that particular problem, you can try building some steps into your retaining wall. Use those steps to make getting around your backyard easier.
Extend the steps from your retaining wall up to your patio doors to create that connection between your backyard and interior décor.
Tiered Retaining Wall
The hill spanning your backyard could be tall; it may even dominate your outdoor landscape.
With so much real estate to cover, you will need a retaining wall that can keep pace. You should strongly consider constructing a tiered retaining wall if you have a tall hill on your property.
Constructing the retaining wall in tiers allows you to give it a good amount of height. Build as many tiers as you need to completely span the slope.
You do not need to worry too much about building a wall of that size because the tiered design is known for being stable. It will not suddenly collapse and cause lasting damage to your property.
The tiered design also allows you to get creative in terms of design. You can play around with colors and try out different patterns too.
Using the tiers for gardening purposes is also an idea worth considering. Determine which plants you want to grow on which tiers to create a beautiful landscape.
Make sure you leave the task of building the tiered retaining wall up to the professionals to prevent potential issues.
Curved Retaining Wall
Building according to the dimensions of your property is almost always a good idea. By doing so, you can create something unique and spectacular at the same time.
The curvature of the retaining wall could be the focal point of your outdoor landscape. Line the retaining wall up exactly with the slope to create a more striking view. The curve could be even or asymmetrical based on your preferences.
Although we are building a curved retaining wall to line up with the slope of your backyard, that is not the only way to do it. You can also build a shorter retaining wall that curves around your property. Constructing that kind of curved retaining wall makes sense if your property has some odd dimensions.
Swimming Pool Retaining Wall
The retaining wall you are adding to your property does not need to be a standalone structure. It can also be part of a different structure that you want to feature on your property. For instance, your new retaining wall could be one side of a swimming pool.
Using a swimming pool as a retaining wall is tricky, but you can do it. However, your property must feature certain dimensions to accommodate that swimming pool.
First off, the slope where you are installing the swimming pool cannot be too tall. You do not want that pool positioned too high up because it could be dangerous for you to use.
At the same time, you need enough horizontal space to comfortably accommodate the actual swimming pool. That means the slope has to flatten out to a degree.
Diligent maintenance will also be crucial if you are building this kind of retaining wall. If water seeps out of the pool and into the soil constantly, that slope could collapse.
Waterfall Retaining Wall
Aside from building a pool on the sloped portion of your backyard, there are other ways to use water to define your landscaping. One more method you should consider involves building a waterfall retaining wall.
A waterfall fixture can look stunning in any outdoor setting. It looks great if the water is falling from a great height, but even a modest waterfall can be a terrific addition to your property.
In addition to the waterfall, you should also carve out room for a pond. Use that pond to catch the falling water and integrate it into the rest of your outdoor landscape.
The concern with building your own waterfall is that you may be exposing the retaining wall to excessive moisture. However, you do not need to worry about that as long as the drainage for your retaining wall is on point.
Retaining Walls Made from Different Materials
They use stone blocks to create retaining walls, but you do not need to stick to them. Using other materials to build your retaining wall is also an option.
Timber is another material you can use for your retaining wall. You should consider using timber for your retaining wall if you like its distinctive appearance. Timber is also worth using because it is a more affordable material compared to stone.
You can also use logs to create your retaining wall. Logs are surprisingly durable, and they also give your retaining wall a rustic look.
As a homeowner, you can also opt to use a combination of materials in your retaining wall. The mixture of materials can give your new construction a more memorable appearance.
Minimalist Retaining Wall
If you are following a modern design scheme, then the retaining wall options we have described here may not suit your property. Do not worry if that is the case because you can still go for a minimalist design.
Keep the retaining wall plain but make it symmetrical to blend in with the rest of your design scheme. They often build these retaining walls using concrete. They are great for defining your outdoor landscape while still maintaining the focus on your home.
Retaining walls can come in different shapes, sizes, and designs. It is up to you to figure out which particular retaining wall design will work best with your property.
Once you identify your desired retaining wall design, we at Eco Minded Solutions can help you build it. Contact us today if you are looking to add those new walls to your property.
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