Thinking that the sole purpose of a retaining wall is to hold back dirt on a slope is a common misconception. While retaining walls are often built for to indeed retain soil, it is not the only reason a retaining wall can be beneficial. Here are some basic things you should know about retaining walls before you choose one for your Chagrin Falls, OH, landscape.
In general, any retaining wall over 4 feet tall requires an engineer or a professional landscape contractor to design or approve the structure. This is because the higher the wall, the more weight it will support. So, not only does the wall need to support the weight of the landscape stones, but it also must bear the weight of the soil that’s pressing against it. The last thing you want is a wall that crumbles because it was not suited to the mass it was intended to hold.
Lower retaining walls also must reinforce the earth behind them, but because they are lower, there is less gravity pressing the dirt that sits behind the wall. A low retaining wall has more to do with adding interest and beauty to your yard than purely functioning to hold back the earth from a slope or hill.
Straight or Curved
A retaining wall does not have to be a straight line. It can add a look of whimsy by offering a gently curve through the landscape. In addition to the shape, you may decide that a retaining wall of varying heights would suit your landscape best. Or, perhaps the wall could be put in a strategic spot to bring attention to an old, majestic tree. You may even consider a tiered retaining wall, which multiple walls at varied elevations. For sloped landscapes, the tiered approach can oftentimes open up unused space.
In general, the higher the retaining wall, the larger the stones. The stones selected should be proportional to the wall size. Some people love the look of symmetrical stones—they view the uniform look of stones that are all the same size and shape their most attractive option. Others want a wall that has multiple shapes and colors in the stones for a less structured, mottled appearance. Still others prefer thin stones stacked closely together. You can choose the stones and the laying pattern to produce a wall that is unique to your landscape.
Add Some Extras
While a retaining wall can be pretty by itself, there are features you could add to make it truly special. Incorporating steps into the wall would give you quick and easy access to the higher portion of your yard. Plus, steps provide places to put pots of colorful flowers. You could also add a water fountain or fireplace to your retaining wall, especially if the wall is placed in an area where you could relax and enjoy these features. Consider built-in bench seating to give extra seating space for guests when you entertain. And, finally, think about topping the wall with coping and low lighting for an elegant look. A beautiful retaining wall deserves attention not only in the day time but at night, too.