Retaining Wall Construction Ideas
So, you need a retaining wall? How do you decide what kind of retaining wall to have installed? Every retaining wall is unique. There are endless varieties of walls; from natural boulder walls with cut stone steps going through them, to field stone terraces on a slope, to lovely serpentine shaped free-standing stone walls with stone pillars marking the ends and built-in lighting showing it off at night. Here are some helpful ideas for you to think about before deciding on what you want your retaining wall to look like, what materials to use, and where to place the wall.
The first of our retaining wall ideas is a natural boulder wall with stone steps going through them. Keep in mind how ‘solid’ or ‘weighty’ these walls look. If your situation calls for a larger sized wall, these walls may be just the kind you want. They usually will have a ‘flat faced’ appearance. When planning on putting cut stone steps through this wall, retaining wall construction methods will dictate that you be aware of the heights of each step as compared to the heights of the boulders. There will need to be matching heights – at least where the steps meet the wall – in order to integrate the steps into the wall. If, for example, your blocky boulders are 24” in height, then you will be able to get 3, 8” steps per course of boulder. Since these walls tend to be massive, think about creating some ‘terrace’ or ‘planting pocket’ areas so that you can plant drooping junipers or vines as softening effects. Sometimes, these big boulder walls are the perfect choice for shoreline retaining walls. If your project has approval for a shoreline retaining wall, look into this kind of boulder wall. Their big sizes will help keep them in place where winter ice may destroy other walls.
Looking for other retaining wall ideas? The next idea we have is field-stone terracing for a slope. If you have a slope with a 6’ or more vertical drop, then perhaps some field stone terracing would be nice. Let’s say, for example, that you have a slope with a 9’ vertical drop, in an approximate 20’ horizontal span. You could install three individual walls having 3’ of exposed height each. The terraced areas above and below the middle wall would end up being around 8’ deep each. In these 8’ wide flattened areas, would be planting beds, or even a small flagstone paved area for a couple of Adirondack chairs. Field-stones are widely available, are easily lifted by hand, and have pretty straight forward retaining wall construction methods. There should be a slight ‘batter’ to the wall, and a portion of the base stone should be buried and be on a crushed stone base. There will be filter fabric and drainage stone needed for behind these walls too. Be sure to look into proper retaining wall construction methods before beginning any retaining wall project.
A type of wall that wouldn’t
technically be a ‘retaining wall’, because it doesn’t actually
retain any soil, would be a ‘free-standing wall’. These types
of walls are wonderful used as boundary marking walls, entrance
walls, and enclosure walls such as around a patio. Imagine a wall
that is free-standing, at an approximate 20” height, surrounding
your patio fire-pit area. Now imagine a cap stone on that wall that
makes it a useful bench. Then, also imagine a couple of pillars
built into the wall where you walk off the patio onto the lawn.
These pillars are taller than the wall, have a capstone, and a light
on top of each one! Retaining wall construction methods for this
kind of wall will often dictate that this wall be wider than an
actual retaining wall, and sometimes are basically 2 walls wide.
So many retaining wall ideas are possible. It is a good idea to contact your landscape company to help you with designing your wall, costing it out, and installing it. They will have materials options to show you, and will stand by their work. Now that you have some possible retaining wall ideas in mind, you could get more ideas by looking at your neighbors, magazines or other sources. Then be sure to communicate your preference of styles to your landscaper. You will love your new retaining wall!