Retaining walls are a great way to turn land that is not functional into a great piece of real estate. There are several materials that retaining walls can be constructed from. Some do better in certain conditions and some are more economical for certain applications. Due to the fact that we get all four seasons in this region you must be careful on what materials you use. The temperature changes make for some beautiful colors throughout the year but can make a retaining wall fail. In most situations the retaining wall was built to hold soil back so that a structure of some sort can be placed. So if the wall fails then whatever is behind or above it will also fail. There are two reason retaining walls fail: using the wrong materials or installed improperly.
On of the popular choices for wall material in this region is large natural lime or sandstone. They do look great when they are installed but have a limited life due to the freeze/thaw that happens multiple times a year. These large rocks will actual grind against each other when they expand and contract with the temperatures. Limestone is one of the hardest rocks that is native to this region as long as it stays in a temperature controls environment. The limestone caves that we have all around the area stay structural sound because the temperature stays almost the same the whole year.
The second reason retaining walls fail is due to improper installation. The clay soils we have in this region can be a walls worst enemy. Clay soils are made up of particles that are must smaller then say the particles that make up top soil. These smaller particles will expand when they get moisture, which acts like a hydraulic press on the back side of the wall. Any wall over 4’ depending on materials needs to be backfilled with an aggregate for a certain length instead of the on site soil. This helps with drainage behind the wall and prevents any hydraulic pressing behind the wall. The base of any wall should also be constructed of some sort of aggregate. The size of the base is determined on the size of the wall.
If you want your wall to last for years to come RDDS recommends choosing a man made material of some sort. Some of the common manufactures are Mesa, Versa-lok, Keystone, Stone-wall Select, Bel-gard, and Pavestone. All these manufactures pressure test their materials to make sure they meet certain specifications. There are multiple blended colors for each manufactures and some of them have come out with a weathered or tumbled look. Color and style is normally reflected in the price of the material.
Give RDDS a call and will come out, measure the wall and provide you an estimate free of charge. If you would like we will meet you at the manufactures and share the pro’s and con’s of each material.