Building Retaining Walls

Retaining walls are defined as rigid walls which are utilized for supporting soil, allowing the soil to be retained at different levels on each of the two sides. The structures restrain soil from eroding into your property from a slope or steep grade, and bind soil between two different elevations.

Did You Know? A retaining wall that retains soil on the backside and water on the frontside is called a seawall or a bulkhead. These are very common in the Sarasota and Tampa areas, whether along creeks and rivers, or larger bodies of water such as the Bay.

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When building a retaining wall, you must be cognizant of three things:

  • This will be a prominent part of your property, so should be attractive
  • It needs to be firm and stand the test of time, especially as soil will be pushing against it.
  • What goes under and behind is as important as the wall itself.

Key Points to Consider When Building Retaining Walls

This post is not meant to be a tutorial for building a wall – there are plenty of YouTube tutorials for that! We aim to give you a basic overview of the types of materials and steps which are involved. Should you decide to build your own retaining wall, be sure to look into your areas permitting requirements before beginning construction. Many areas require a permit for any walls which exceed a certain height (often 4 feet). These types of walls are considered more dangerous if they crumble or topple over, so engineering may be required.

You can obtain materials for your wall at area landscape supply companies or home improvement stores.

  • Gravity, in conjunction with any slope, will direct the weight and pressure of the soil (and any fill you add) toward the lower portion of retaining walls.
  • Soil weighs 100 lbs. or more per cu. ft., so heavy materials will need to used to construct your wall – such as boulders, wall blocks, timber or poured concrete. Just as important as the heaviness and durability of the material, however, is proper installation.
  • In general, the bottom of the retaining wall should be buried at least one-tenth of it’s height. This will help to prevent the soil from forcing the bottom of the wall out or forward.
  • Allow gravity to work with you, not against you. Step back materials to permit the wall to lean and push back against the soil and fill. Completely vertical walls may start to lean over, and then gravity will take over, and they can topple.
  • The wall should be installed on coldly compacted material, so that it stays level, allowing maximum surface contact and adhesion of tiers of materials, fitting together more tightly.
  • Laying crushed stone or gravel for a base will allow for drainage and prevent water from building up behind your wall. Water can not only erode your base and some materials, but also can exert intense pressure as the backup grows.

For all of your do-it-yourself yard and garden projects, Big Earth Landscape Supply is a great place to start. Whether to browse caprock boulders for natural seawalls, gravel for drainage purposes, or prebuilt tiles and bricks for level barrier walls – we have the inspiration and expertise you need. Come visit us at one of our 4 area locations if you are considering a retaining wall, or any other home beautification project. From fountains to ponds, dry creek riverbeds to new mulch, you’ll find it all onsite. Big Earth Landscape Supply is the area’s premier provider of landscaping tools and materials for homeowner’s and contractors. We look forward to serving you.