October 14, 2021

Dos and Don’ts of Building Retaining Walls

Building Retaining Walls in Long Island

Table of Contents

You and your retaining wall: It is a story as old as time. There is no place like home. In the case of building a retaining wall, you can make it your sweet castle with these dos and don’ts of building retaining walls.

A retaining wall is much like any other structure, according to professional masonry contractors in Long Island Above All Masonry. The design is for specific loads and conditions. Measure the site where you are planning to build. Use that information when designing the structure. Take note of soil types, grades, water table level, slope direction or elevation, frost depth, and utility.

4 Types of Retaining Walls

Gain new knowledge about these forms of retaining walls that you can have for your home.

Gravity Retaining Wall

This type of retaining wall is the most common and least expensive. It uses gravity to hold back soil and is space-efficient. Comparing it with other types of retaining walls means no need for reinforcement. Placement is at least 3 feet below an excavation for a house footing. It is at least 1 foot under the frost line and a foot from any surface water source. Compact the soil, as well as the backfill, to at least 90%.

Cantilever Retaining Wall

Another one is not for small buildings – the cantilever. It uses the soil to hold back the soil. Large walls and embankments love it! The use of concrete or other masonry materials to cast this wall makes it last longer. However, you need to pay more than the cost of the gravity retaining wall.

Sheet Piling Retaining Wall

Giving a different one is the sheet piling retaining wall. Use it to hold back loose and compressible soil. It is not that hard to build, as it only requires driving steel sheet piles into the ground and filling these open spaces with backfill. However, you need to have a license for this type of construction.

A retaining wall is not something that you can do completely. Call a professional contractor in your area. Visit dos and don’ts of building retaining walls to get the help you need. Install door locks, remodel, create whole new rooms and living spaces in your home.

Anchored Retaining Wall

Seeing the anchored retaining wall uses both gravity and ‘dead man’ anchor to hold back the soil. It is the best kind of retaining wall material for earthquakes as it distributes the stress on multiple points rather than one. 

A retaining wall can help you create a garden, a play area for kids, a seating spot near your backyard, pond, or an area to meditate with nature. It is worth investing in because it will benefit you and the values of your home.

Can I Construct a Retaining Wall Myself?

Building a retaining wall is a project that you can do yourself. A professional masonry contractor in Long Island will not only have the right tools but also the expertise on how to build yours.

Locate utilities underground before constructing any walls to avoid costly repairs afterward. Know what type of soil is present in your area. A contractor will need this information when designing specifications for your project. You do not want an unsightly mess in front of your home just because of bad planning.

What Material Should I Choose?

The best material for you is divided into three kinds:

·Concrete Block

·Rock and Timber Retaining Wall

·Steel Reinforced Soil Retaining Wall

Reinforced concrete blocks are not only beautiful! But also brilliant in keeping back soil and rocks from the natural environment. They do not need you to treat them like wooden blocks. It can hold back a lot of weight without fracturing or breaking. However, they require more labor time than other materials when building them. Plus, they are costly.

Rock and timber retaining walls offer an eco-friendly look with timbers that may stain. Stone looks rustic and charming like olden times. Moreover, these materials do not require any upkeep.

What To Do Before Building Your Retaining Wall

Before building your retaining wall, make sure that you know what soil type is present in your area. This will guide you on how to build the foundation of your retaining wall. If there are any existing utilities or underground pipes where you intend to build your wall, contact them to put flags around the area. It is easier for a contractor to do the project.

Proper planning and a little bit of research can help save time and money later when building a retaining wall.

Maintaining Your Retaining Walls

Make sure that you properly maintain your retaining wall. Oil-based paint is the best coating for exterior walls to protect them from ultraviolet light, water, and other environmental elements. Choose the right kind of plantings that will thrive in your soil type. It is an investment so maintaining it well can give you long-lasting benefits for years to come.

Do’s and Don’ts

The dos and don’ts of building a retaining wall can help guide you on what to do when building one yourself without the help of a contractor.

Permit – Check with the Local Authorities

Do not build a retaining wall without the proper permit from your local authorities. It will avoid costly repairs and fines in the future. Call at least two contractors and talk to the top candidates! Consult your neighbors and friends who had experience in hiring a contractor. It is helpful for you to find out which one is a reliable, honest, and dependable service provider in your area.

Interview the top candidates with paper and pen to jot down notes about them. You will have references or lead if shortlisting them based on their experience and customer service expertise. Ask questions that are directly related to your project. You can easily narrow down choices later.

Get quotes from at least three contractors. Know how much it costs before proceeding with any of them. Do not hire anyone without knowing how much they charge for their services.

Use a Material That is Easy to Use

Do not choose a material that is difficult for you to work with. It does not always mean the more expensive one is better and easier to use. It is better if you can find professionals who can guide you on which one to choose according to your preference and budget.

Brick is the best material for retaining walls. It is warm, sleek, and traditional. Your home can utilize it without a problem. Not only does brick have many advantages over other options. But its durability makes an ideal choice. Water will never degrade or destroy them as some materials might do so easily.

Begin with a Good Foundation

A good foundation is more important than anything else. When building a retaining wall, it is the first thing you should start with. Make sure that your foundation can hold its weight before moving on to build up your retaining wall. Using the wrong material for the base of your wall will cost you money and time fixing structural problems. Plus, you may repair cracks in walls later.

Avoid Laying Blocks on an Unlevel Surface

Do not lay the block on an unlevel surface. It can cause your wall to crack. You may use mortar between the bricks for leveling out spaces. However, do not use it too much since it is prone to cracking later. Try to make sure that the brick pushes as hard as you can onto the bottom of every course.

Stack Blocks at a Slight Backward Slope

Stack blocks at a slight backward slope. It will prevent water from pooling on the block itself. Though it may cause an inward force which is why you should use mortared joints.

Use a laser level to ensure that your blocks are stacked level. It is almost impossible for you to stack them by hand. When cutting bricks, use a large grinder with a diamond blade attachment. You can also rent the equipment from Home Depot if necessary.

Always Have A Drainage

The process of making sure a retaining wall drains properly is relatively simple. But it is not very flexible. There are exceptions to this rule since most walls require at least two features such as the gravel backfill and soil compaction.

Most designs will only have all four:

·Pipe or toe drain

·Weep holes with an open channel designed in from top-down when installed new or rebuilt after storm damage repair

·Drainage via graded base course around the entire perimeter at 60 inches deep

·Tamp down firmly twice daily

Proper Backfill

Mound up soil wider than your wall and compact it before backfilling. Fill the gaps at the top of the wall with mulch. Keep out weeds from growing in between bricks.

Multiple Tiered Walls

Tiered walls are the best choice for steeply sloping properties. They work well against gravity to prevent top levels from spilling out too much. This is especially when you have lots of soil to hold back.

The design is simple to build but it requires more material compared to other expensive options. This feature also takes a longer time. Tiered walls require multiple courses of stacked blocks or bricks around their entire perimeter.

Consider a retaining wall since it stabilizes the soil and protects buildings from toppling. Save your construction costs as well.


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