How Retaining Walls Can Help Control Your Sloped Landscape in Monona, WI
If you have a sloped lot, you may feel at a loss as to what you can do with your landscape, from where you could put a new patio to how you can keep your backyard from turning into a swampy mess every time a big rainstorm strikes Monona, WI. Here are some ways how a retaining wall can help control your sloped landscape and open up the possibilities for improved outdoor living.
The Purpose of the Retaining Wall
Retaining walls are landscaping tools used to increase the amount of usable land, to protect property from erosion, and to prevent lower-lying areas from becoming water-saturated.
There are four types of retaining walls:
Piling walls use “piles” (poles) made of treated lumber or metal that are sunken deep into the soil and extend above the grade, to hold back soil.
Cantilever walls are like piling walls except that they employ an added structural extension that is driven into the hill to help stabilize the wall and the soil.
Gravity walls use the weight of the wall material to hold back soil. Examples include a stack of boulders, masonry walls, or dry-stacked stones. This type of wall is less effective at holding back soil on very steep lots or where there’s a history of erosion. They are best suited for gentler slopes and should generally not be taller than 3 feet.
Anchored walls have the greatest capacity for holding back soil. Earth anchors are driven into the soil to stabilize a wall made of concrete blocks (with each block “anchored” into the soil) for superior strength in extreme situations.
Installing a Retaining Wall
On slopes where the drop is greater than 2:1 (2 feet of drop for every linear foot) stabilization may be required to prevent erosion and damage.
Which type of retaining wall you have installed depends on several variables: drainage, the steepness of the slope, the soil type (clay soil does not drain well, but it’s less prone to erosion whereas sandy soil drains well but also tends to erode easily), and the freeze/thaw cycle. Anything that could affect the structural integrity of the wall should be considered as well as anything that could cause or prevent significant shifting or heaving of the soil.
In many locations, zoning regulations may require a permit for a new retaining wall. Proper construction of a base as well as proper backfilling will ensure the structural integrity of the wall.
The Real Gem: Multi-level Outdoor Living
Retaining walls can be used to create truly stunning multi-level outdoor living spaces. This approach requires a series of terraces, each of which must be structurally sound as well as aesthetically pleasing. It’s a common technique that has been used for centuries to make steep hillsides habitable—but it requires engineering and careful construction to ensure the longevity of each terrace.
In some cases, a gently sloped lot may not need a retaining wall to control erosion or aid with drainage, but is used to create more usable space. The best and most attractive choices for a decorative retaining wall tend to be natural stone, brick, or concrete blocks.
Retaining walls do much more than hold back soil. They improve the landscape design by opening up more useable space, provide visual interest, define individual areas, create opportunities for gardening, and even serve as overflow seating.