A retaining wall serves an invaluable purpose. It offers protection and eliminates the risk of soil erosion for properties on an embankment or near a body of water. But if you are planning to build a retaining wall – whether it’s for a major road project or your industrial or commercial property – it pays to know as much as you can about it so you can consider the most essential requirements and make the proper choice. Here, then, is your best guide to building the right retaining walls for your property.

The essential aspects

A retaining wall is a vertical structure created to ‘retain’ certain materials behind it or to one side of it. Thus, it can effectively prevent slipping or collapsing, and it prevents erosion. With a proper retaining wall, you can add support to a particular terrain in which the soil’s angle puts it at risk of collapse in its natural state. The most crucial characteristic you would have to think about when it comes to your retaining wall is its ability to withstand pressure from the material that has been retained, which is often soil.

Some retaining walls have a parapet, which stands high over the material retained, and parapets are often installed for enhanced safety. You may need to contact a few retaining wall suppliers to see which designs and materials complement each other and serve the objective of keeping the wall together.

The uses

The primary purpose of a retaining wall is to prevent soil erosion, but it is also utilised to develop usable, flat ground out of steep or sharp terrain. Another purpose of a retaining wall is to provide a property with a functional yet decorative landscaping element. Retaining walls can be part of an entire building construction project or an independently-placed structure separate from the building.

Planning permission requirements

If your retaining wall is more than one metre in height, you would need planning permission for it. The same is true if you will have it built beside a pathway or road. If you plan to build a freestanding or independent retaining wall, you may not need approval for building regulations. Still, you must make sure you have a structurally-sound wall that is also effectively maintained.

If you plan to build your retaining wall near a property boundary, you would have to check if it falls under the Party Wall Act; if it does, you may need to get a right of support.

Types of wall

In the broadest terms, retaining walls are separated into two major types: cut retaining walls where you cut the wall into the current slope, or fill retaining walls, where you build the wall in front of the sloping area and then fill the space or gap behind it.

But there are sub-categories as well, including gravity walls, sheet piling walls, reinforced walls, and MSE or mechanically stabilised earth walls. Gravity walls are commonly used, and you can opt for materials like brick, stone, or precast concrete, such as a king post wall. A gravity wall is often ideal for heights of as much as two to three metres.

Top considerations

It is important to remember that water may accumulate behind the wall, and this buildup of water can increase pressure on the wall. When water accumulates, it can also reduce the soil’s stability and affect the soil’s friction with the base of the wall. To prevent any pressure from the water, you should include a drainage facility (such as weep holes).

Image attributed to JPConcrete.co.uk


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