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Gravity Retaining WallThe first category - a gravity wall - is a retaining wall that does not use soil reinforcement.
Basic InstallationThe following installation instructions apply to Anchor retaining wall products that feature a rear lip. The Next CourseOn the second course, place all blocks on bond along one side of the corner.
ElevationDrainage tip: Drain pipe can be placed behind the lowest step units at grade or behind each wall adjacent to the steps. Capping a WallStraight WallCaps are trapezoidal and must be laid alternatively short and long cap faces for a straight line. Straight WallProper installation of any Anchor Retaining wall requires that running bond be maintained.
Daylighting DrainageFirst CourseTo daylight drain pipes through a wall face, place the drain pipes on compacted leveling pad aggregate placed behind the first course. Drainage SwalesThe design and performance of most retaining walls are based on keeping the reinforced zone relatively dry. Independent Terraced WallsFor each wall to be independent of others, it must be built using a 2:1 ratio--the upper wall must be built a distance away from the lower wall of at least twice the height of the lower wall. Water ApplicationsBase CoursePlace a filter fabric with extra length in front of the wall.Install leveling pad and the base course of block, including drain tile and drainage aggregate.
Outside 90° Corners with ReinforcementBegin by checking the wall plan to determine reinforcement lengths and elevations. Inside Curves with ReinforcementFirst Course with ReinforcementMost retaining walls are designed assuming 100% coverage of the reinforcement. Outside Curves with ReinforcementFirst Course with ReinforcementMost retaining walls are designed assuming 100% coverage of the reinforcement. We'll show you how to build an attractive retaining wall that's firm, solid and will stand the test of time.
When you contemplate the retaining wall you're about to build, you may imagine how firm and solid it'll appear from the front, or how great the new garden will look above it. Lots of people think a retaining wall needs to hold back all 6 gazillion tons of soil in the yard behind it. Gravity, along with the slope, directs most of the weight and pressure of the fill toward the lower part of the retaining wall.
Bury the bottom course, or courses, of the retaining wall one tenth the height of the wall to prevent the soil behind from pushing the bottom out (Fig. Water can weaken retaining walls by washing out the base material that supports the wall (Fig.
A strong wall features well-compacted base material, compacted material in front of the wall to prevent kick-out, and stepped-back materials. A wall that has an uneven base, no compacted material in front of it and no step-back to the materials will eventually fail.
Never backfill with, or compact, topsoil; it will break down and settle, creating a water-welcoming trench behind your wall.
From top to bottom, a well-built wall either prevents water from getting behind the wall or ushers it away quickly when it does. Water trapped behind a wall pushes against it and increases the weight of the soil, which also pushes against it. Compactor, If you build a timber wall, you'll need a circular saw to cut the timbers to length.
Depending on the weight the wall must support, a wide variety of materials can be used to construct a wall, from brick and mortar to landscape timbers.

Walls built with a combination of concrete block, mortar and rebar are also popular for small yard projects. This article will focus on building retaining walls from newer segmental block systems, as well as building from traditional concrete.
No matter if you choose to build your retaining wall out of block, brick, stone, wood or concrete, the goal should be to integrate the retaining wall into your landscape.
The latest technology in retaining walls can be seen in the variety of segmental systems featuring blocks that interlock, with no need for mortar.
To ensure the utmost strength, any wall taller than four feet should be carefully designed prior to installation. Designing very tall walls gets rather complex when accounting for lateral pressure, as do the reinforcement options. Perhaps not as builder-friendly for the first-time DIY’er, a concrete retaining wall can nevertheless provide maximum protection for any property against drainage and erosion problems.
The most important step in constructing a strong, attractive concrete wall is building a sturdy, accurate form. After mixing your concrete, pour the wall in horizontal layers of not more than 20 inches, beginning at the ends and moving toward the center. But unless you give serious thought to what goes on behind and below the wall, it may not look good for long.
In the South, many yards even feature garden-style retaining walls built from discarded railroad ties for a rustic, country appearance. Many municipalities require a building permit and an engineer’s approval before a wall higher than 3 feet can be built. You have to consider structural reinforcement, drainage and the wall’s overall stability.
For example, a retaining wall 8 feet tall is not just twice as strong as a wall 4-foot tall. According to the experts at Quikrete, unlike brick and stone, walls built with concrete do not require additional reinforcement because the width of the base and the weight of the wall provide adequate structural support.
Wall forms must be strong enough to withstand the great pressure exerted by the wet concrete; any failure in the forms will be disastrous.
Drainage is provided by filling coarse gravel behind the wall and by building weep holes into the wall. Fill the top foot or so with topsoil, providing a gutter depression along the wall for better drainage. A level wall provides modular blocks, stone and timbers with more surface contact with the courses above and below them. But far more frequently, it causes problems by building up behind the wall, saturating the soil and applying incredible pressure.
The sod and topsoil are almost even with the top block, so surface water flows over the top rather than puddling behind. If your failure plane is farther back so your wall needs to retain more fill, weight and pressure, then compaction and a reinforcing grid become critical.
Your landscape supplier or block manufacturer (if you're using modular blocks) can tell you whether you need to install reinforcing grid, and at what intervals. Some communities now require building permits and construction details for walls exceeding 4 ft. Landscape blocks are simply stacked one course on top of the other, with the joints staggered and each course slightly stepped back from the course beneath it.
For taller projects, some careful engineering is required to construct a sturdy, long-lasting wall.

The simplest DIY systems are ideal for short walls (approximately 3 feet high) and feature blocks with a lip on the lower, rear edge that locks them together for a stepped effect.
Some systems utilize fiberglass pins that insert between the blocks to ensure proper alignment and a strong mechanical connection between the courses. Tall walls should all be designed for a “battering” effect, where the courses are set back from one another. There's no impervious soil, so the water heads south, slowly waterlogging and increasing the weight of the soil packed behind the wall. The same pressure that's pushing against the wall pushes down on the deadmen to keep them (and therefore the wall) in place.
These small walls are used to retain small areas of earth, as seen with flower beds surrounding tree trunks.
When the cavity behind the wall is filled with earth, the pressure pushes the blocks forward, strengthening the joints between the lips and the blocks beneath. Some blocks feature a hollow core, which, when filled with gravel, creates a semi-solid, interlocking web of rock throughout the wall. For walls taller than 4 feet, hiring a licensed engineer to develop a design would be a smart move. Two horizontal walls are sufficient for most forms, but they should not be spaced greater than 30 inches on center. Well built walls are constructed and graded to prevent water from getting behind the wall and to provide a speedy exit route for water that inevitably weasels its way in. The principles of stepping back, installing good drainage and compacting also apply to timber walls.
When necessary to create a level surface on a slope, building a retaining wall has been the answer for thousands of years. These simple designs usually work fine in a low-traffic area for a wall that doesn’t exceed about 2 feet high. This battering effect adds life to a wall that may eventually tilt forward over time from the pressure of the earth behind it.
For lower, lighter walls, it is possible to cast the wall at the same time you cast the footer. If the wall is higher than 4 feet, place a second row of weep holes 3 inches above the first. Good compaction doesn't mean dumping a couple of feet of fill behind the wall, then jumping up and down on it in your work boots.
These walls literally retain the earth to create flat, appealing lawns and stepped areas of land.
Although battering is one method of strengthening a wall, most segmental systems incorporate this approach in conjunction with the other reinforcement measures mentioned above—reinforcement grids, anchors or steel reinforcement.
Plus, keep in mind that building big walls means moving truckloads of soil, gravel and heavy block. But even a well built wall won't survive unless you take care of two troublemakers: water and uncompacted soil.
And the perforated drain tile collects the water and directs it away from the base of the wall, escorting it out through its open ends. There's nothing to prevent water from seeping out between the faces of the blocks, either; that helps with the drainage too.

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