Retaining Wall Choices

Many Calgary properties have sloping or uneven yards that can create a practical need for building retaining walls. Your choice of retaining wall material will be based on the unique contours of your property and, of course, your personal taste. Once you have decided on the style and construction, there are many types of retaining walls to chose from.

Concrete
Modern concrete block walls make very sophisticated and dramatic effect while providing strength. These retaining walls are assembled quite quickly and easily. The blocks simply stack on top of one another and are secured with pins, clips or interlocking edges. They are set on a compacted gravel base which allows them to remain strong by flexing very slightly with ground movement.

Concrete blocks are available in a wide variety of styles and in two basic sizes. The garden wall size is most common and relatively small making them perfect for accent walls, for terracing or for building a raised planter. You will need full-sized blocks for heavy-duty retaining walls. They are strong enough to build up to 30 ft. tall but if your are building a wall over over 4 ft., it must be designed by a licensed engineer to ensure adequate strength. Walls over 4 ft., are probably better left to the professionals anyway.

Rock
Rock walls will last hundreds of years if designed and constructed properly and whether you are considering a rock wall from necessity, or you just want an attractive feature in your landscaping plan than rock retaining wall choices can be best for you.

There are two types of rock walls. A free standing wall, made by stacking a single row of stones that interlock with one another, can create an attractive fence or boundary. Rock retaining walls may require some engineering if you want it to last hundreds of years but in general the process of building rock retain walls isn’t difficult.

Stone
The earth behind a retaining wall exerts a lot of pressure so stone retaining walls are the sturdiest possible solution. The drainage system is built in as water will seep through cracks in the stones and unlike other retain wall choices, stone walls don’t need a footing under the frost line.

Stone makes a very attractive option and with a wide variety of choices you will definitely find one that fits your style. It is usually the most expensive option and building stone walls require more skill and time.

Segmental
Segmental retaining walls are a two part system of modular concrete blocks that interlock with each other as the face of the wall and a lateral tieback system of geogrids buried in the dirt behind the wall for added support. This makes them the strongest choice for holding back a very tall sloping face of soil with a solid, vertical front. Built specifically to let you build higher and wider and steeper these walls provide adequate support to keep slopes from caving, slumping or sliding.

Segmental retaining walls come in a wide variety of colours, sizes, and textures and can be built into straight or curved walls. They can also be built into a frame for a raised deck to widen an area that would otherwise be unusable because of the natural slope of the land.

Wood-based
Wood-based retaining walls are perfect for smaller spaces. If you are planning a wall that is less than three feet in height, then wood is your best choice because it is the lease expensive of the materials and it is the easiest to build.

Once your wood-based wall is built, make sure you dig out a series of small tunnels under the wall to serve as drainage ports. Fill these tunnels with small rocks or gravel then the area behind the wall should be filled.