Retaining walls are a common landscaping feature in commercial, residential, and industrial projects. There is a wide variety of retaining walls to meet various needs, and they can be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. With such varied applications, it is easy to pass by retaining walls without even noticing them.
While retaining walls are everywhere, they are not always necessary for a person's property. It is important to know what the function of a retaining wall is and the primary reasons a person may need one before deciding to install one. Below is an overview of how to tell if a retaining wall is needed and some excellent retaining wall options for residential or commercial properties in Vancouver.
What is the Purpose of a Retaining Wall?
Retaining walls provide extra support to prevent soil and earth from shifting downhill due to erosion. Essentially, retaining walls offset the lateral slope of a natural landscape. Retaining walls also do the following:
Three Signs You May Need a Retaining Wall
Retaining walls have a valuable function, but they can be installed solely for design purposes. However, they can also be an absolute necessity for some properties. Below are three tell-tale signs that a person's property needs a retaining wall.
The most frequently cited reason for installing a retaining wall is to manage downhill erosion. Downhill erosion is the process of eroded materials, including soil and rock, washing downhill into a property. The eroded material can be washed down from a person's own property, or it can come from a neighboring property into their yard.
A retaining wall prevents soil erosion on a hillside by creating a barrier that eroded material cannot pass over or through. It is critical that retaining walls have adequate water drainage, or the flow of water can push against the wall and cause it to crack, bulge, and break.
Soil Fault Lines
Properties that are downhill from soil fault lines are at risk of being overwhelmed by shifting soil during seismic events. Homeowners in North Vancouver who get earthquakes from time to time can protect their homes by building a retaining wall to mitigate the threat of shifting soil.
Homeowners should take notice if they see soil and water washing up to their home's foundation. This influx of erosion material can cover the home's foundation and get pushed up against the siding. Eventually, this water could leach into the foundation and cause significantly greater damage.
A retaining wall can help prevent this from happening by blocking water and soil as it is washed towards the property. It can also provide the home with more structure and increase the home's stability.
Retaining Wall Designs: 3 Common Styles
Installing a retaining wall involves more than picking a style that matches the property's aesthetic. The retaining wall should be constructed using the best material for the landscape to ensure its durability and strength. If installed correctly, a retaining wall can be a lifelong fixture. Some of the most common retaining wall styles include:
Timber retaining walls are a relatively inexpensive option that is fairly easy to install. The effectiveness of this type of wall is determined by the area's climate and the amount of water that comes in contact with the property. Wood is much more likely to rot than other materials, so this style of wall is not ideal for wet cities like North Vancouver.
Natural stone is a durable and aesthetically-pleasing option, which makes it a popular choice for many property owners. Natural stone add-ons can increase a property's curb appeal and boost its value. However, this is the most expensive option for a retaining wall.
Interlocking Blocks or Poured Concrete
Interlocking blocks and poured concrete are both inexpensive options for building a retaining wall. In addition to affordability, these materials offer superb strength and durability.
Final Thoughts: When to Build a Retaining Wall
Retaining walls can be both functional and beautiful, but homes that are at risk of heavy sloping or soil erosion will need to have one installed. Property owners should seek out the help of retaining wall contractors like VanCity Retaining Walls and discuss their options for the best retaining wall for their property.
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