A Comprehensive Overview of the Different Types of Retaining Walls and Their Uses

Posted on: 19 September 2023

Retaining walls are structures that effectively withstand the lateral pressure exerted by soil. They play a crucial role, particularly when there is a significant change in ground elevation that surpasses the soil's angle of repose. Various types of retaining walls exist, each suited to different situations and purposes.

Gravity walls are one of the simplest types of retaining walls. Their stability is derived from their weight, which allows them to resist the pressure exerted by the soil. They are often constructed from concrete or stone and are best suited for shorter landscapes where the load is relatively low.

Cantilevered walls, on the other hand, are more complex. These walls are reinforced with steel bars embedded in the concrete, and the design includes a stem and base slab. The base slab is divided into two parts: the heel (located towards the retained soil) and the toe (located on the opposite side). This design enables cantilevered walls to hold back a significant amount of soil without toppling over.

Sheet piling walls are another type of retaining wall, typically used when space is limited. These walls are thin and are driven directly into the soil. Sheet piling walls are often made of steel, vinyl, or wood planks and are most effective in soft soils and tight spaces.

Anchored walls are a versatile type of retaining wall that can be combined with other types. Anchors are meticulously driven into the material and subsequently expanded at the cable's end. This expansion can be achieved through mechanical methods or, more commonly, by injecting pressurized concrete into the ground. This expansion creates a bulb in the soil, providing additional support to the wall.

Segmental Retaining Walls (SRWs) are a popular choice due to their flexibility and the aesthetic options available. These walls are made of individual interlocking blocks, which create a stable wall without the need for mortar. SRWs can be designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape, making them an attractive choice for many homeowners and landscapers.

Retaining walls can be functional and aesthetic, enhancing the value of any landscape. They not only provide practical support but also add a visually pleasing element to the surroundings. They can create level spaces on sloped ground, control erosion, and even provide additional seating in outdoor living spaces.

The choice of the type of retaining wall is influenced by soil characteristics, space availability, load-bearing requirements, and aesthetic preferences. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the different types of retaining walls and their uses is essential to make an informed decision.

Contact a retaining wall contractor to learn more.