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Retaining Walls

Retaining Walls serve a dual purpose in today’s housing and commercial market: to provide structural support to a hillside or slope, increasing the useable area, and to communicate a sense of style and value to all who utilize the area or pass by. Properly planned and executed retaining walls can greatly increase the property value of your home or business, both in visual appeal and in safety/ ease of use.

The knowledge and science behind retaining walls is very old, dating back centuries. However, several recent technological advances have made retaining walls very affordable and relevant to the common homeowner. Mortar-less walls made with segmented manufactured stone are a new innovation of the past 20 years that are changing the way people do walls.

One of the most common retaining-wall systems is brick and mortar. This is the classic cinderblock and redbrick look that many homes have had for years. This system is comfortable for many homeowners because of the availability of experts on the topic. In fact, some may choose to install the brick themselves and save on installation. Despite its wide use, there are still many creative design decisions that can be made to create a unique look. Some of these include using aged brick, interspaced decorative bricks , inlaid brick or cinderblock, and many others. Some even choose to install decorative tile. All of these decisions could lend a unique look to an already structurally and financially sound system.

The new mortar-less retaining wall systems, though, change the game for the better. These walls can be designed to have decorative stone facing to imitate the look of natural stacked stone walls. Patterns and colors can be mixed and matched to create a one-of-a kind design that has not have been achieved with brick, cinderblock, or even natural stone walls. In addition, the cost of labor on these interlocking systems is much less because there is no mortaring required; the stones are self-locking.

A crucial step in planning a retaining wall for any system though, is engineering. Experts say that if a wall is to exceed 3 feet in height, it is best to consult an engineer. As retaining walls increase in height, the weight of the hillside they support also increases exponentially. For smaller projects this variable is less relevant, but for larger projects safety should be the first concern and therefore engineering is crucial.

Several variables to consider in the engineering stage are: height of the wall, drainage factor of the soil, frost in the soil, excessive rain or heavy weather, quality of the base soil, and the cant (or tilt) of the final wall. There are many other factors to consider, but these may be the most relevant. It is critical to install the proper drainage in and around the retaining wall, as the wall could fail if water causes soil erosion. Frost may also be an issue in cooler climate areas. Annual expansion and retraction of soil could cause a wall failure. Each of these issues is best addressed at the beginning of the process and could save the wall in the future, as well as save thousands of dollars in repairs.

We have many examples of retaining walls on our site, so feel free to have a look. We’d love to help you begin this process of safely upgrading your property. To schedule a free estimate call us at 888.389.5533, email us at info@genesisstoneworks.com, or visit our contact page.

Genesis Stoneworks