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Types of Retaining Walls - Choose Wisely!

Updated: Apr 14

If you need a retaining wall you are at the right place.

The old-fashioned way of learning about retaining walls was reading books written by the experts.


As a lesson for you the serious reader: This is how we learned back then…

But you still can do the real digging. Get the knowledge from the source.


That is why we put together a list of books about retaining walls that will blow your socks off.


What Is A Retaining Wall?


To start, a Retaining wall is a ground retaining system that uses its own mass, the mass of its backfill, or anchoring systems to sustain the terrain behind it.


Furthermore, these walls are usually constructed with heavy blocks, angled stones, offset cinderblocks, wood, or reinforced concrete frames.


In addition, they are backfilled or filled with well-graded stone designed to create the geological resistance or mass required to counteract the earth pressures and surcharge loadings.


Furthermore, retaining walls can also be anchored into the ground with steel I beam, vertically inserted into the ground and reinforced with concrete, and linked in between with planks or reinforced, pre-fab concrete blocks.


Often these retaining walls are designed to receive the weight of the previously excavated soil as backfill and estimated movements of all soil behind and to stop the further downward movement of the entire terrain.




Gravity Retaining Wall


First, gravity retaining walls depend on the weight of their mass (stone, concrete or other heavy material) to resist pressures from behind and will often have a slight setback, to improve stability by leaning back into the retained soil.


For short landscaping walls, they are often made from mortar-less stone or segmental concrete units (masonry units), but they are still gravity walls.


In this case, dry-stacked gravity walls are somewhat flexible and do not require a rigid footing in frost areas.


Gravity walls usually need an underground foundation, and homeowners, who build larger gravity walls that do require a rigid concrete footing can make use of the services of a professional excavator, which will make digging a trench for the base of the gravity wall much easier. We can help you with that as well.


Counterfort /Buttress Cantilevered Retaining Wall


Cantilevered retaining walls are made from an internal stem of steel-reinforced, cast-in-place concrete or mortared masonry (often in the shape of an inverted T).


These walls cantilever loads (like a beam) to a large, structural footing, converting horizontal pressures from behind the wall to vertical pressures on the ground below.

Sometimes cantilevered walls are buttressed on the front, or include a counterfort on the back, to improve their strength resisting high loads.


Buttresses are short wing walls at right angles to the main trend of the wall.

These walls require rigid concrete footings below seasonal frost depth. This type of wall uses much less material than a traditional gravity wall.



Other Types Of Retaining Walls

More info here: Sheet piling


Soldier Pile Retaining Walls


Sheet pile wall

Sheet pile retaining walls are usually used in soft soils and tight spaces.


Sheet pile walls are made out of steel, vinyl, or wood planks that are driven into the ground.


For a quick estimate, the material is usually driven 1/3 above ground, 2/3 below ground, but this may be altered depending on the environment.


Taller sheet pile walls will need a tie-back anchor, or “dead-man” placed in the soil a distance behind the face of the wall, that is tied to the wall, usually by a cable or a rod.

Anchors are placed behind the potential failure plane in the soil.

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