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Retaining Walls

Retaining walls can be cute and managed aesthetically to improve some features at home or used to section off an area for gardening etc. These types of garden walls are easily erected to agreed specifications and must not be confused with the real makoi, the installation of proper retaining walls, which involves a lot of planning around the selection and installation of the retaining wall required to suite a particular application.

A retaining wall is a stabilizing structure used to hold sloping ground in place and to prevent the erosion and the movement of soil. The idea of erecting retaining walls has a host of advantages which can be classified according to the following categories.

They prevent soil from being washed away

If your property is set in a hilly area, you just might have a stream running through it or close to it. Constructing a retaining wall strategically close to a stream can prevent soil erosion and mud slides from taking place as it will act primarily as a barricade in preventing soil from being carried away during heavy rains and cleverly keeps debris and dirt from entering the river system.

They have an aesthetic appeal

The aesthetic appeal of a retaining wall goes hand in hand with its usefulness. The contours of the land upon which your house rests might be sloping. If you prefer a more vertical effect then putting up a retaining wall can be your solution. It adds to the exterior beauty of your house and makes it more picturesque.

The perfect retaining wall has to be well structured so it can keep out unwanted material and stand the test of time. Proper drainage outlets need to be made so that the force of the water behind it does not bring it crashing down.

You may build a retaining wall on your property for several different reasons. Built of wood, rocks, bricks or concrete, a retaining wall will hold back some level of dirt and soil away from your immediate home, driveway, pathway, patio, garden, pool or landscaping area.

You might also add one for the sheer aesthetics of it. If you have a lot of rolling, sloping yard, a retaining wall will provide you with more usable land. Consider the following pointers;

Retaining Walls Hold Back the Earth

As in the pointer above where it is mentioned that retaining walls prevent soil from been washed away, homes built on a hill or in a valley between several hills would greatly benefit from retaining walls as these walls will hold back the threat of ground collapsing and falling in on your home, posing an extreme risk and danger to your family’s safety.

Retaining Walls Give You More Usable Land

Sometimes we would like to install a value added feature to our property investment; however, the ground levels are not even and would need a lot of filling in order to get perfect levelling for the installation of maybe a tennis court, swimming pool or garden. But to create these levels would involve the support of a retaining wall which will ad-hoc create more use out of your existing grounds by creating more readily ground available to invest in.

How To Design A Retaining Wall

A retaining wall can be built to any height and can be made from many different materials but its function is always the same: to resist lateral forces from the soil at the higher grade level. Retaining walls are installed in places that require a straight vertical change in ground elevation where long sloping grades are precluded due to space restrictions.

Large retaining walls are typically made from site-cast concrete or galvanized steel and usually require the skills of licensed engineers. Retaining walls less than 3 feet in height are commonly constructed with stone masonry or heavy timbers. In residential applications, a masonry cap is frequently installed along the top of the retaining wall and the material used for the wall itself is selected based on aesthetic as well as structural considerations.

Design Considerations and Modes of Failure

Several variables factor into the structural design of a retaining wall. The grade differential and the mechanical properties of the soil behind and below the retaining wall create the primary forces. Determining the elevation of the water table and the location of the frost line are necessary elements in the design of most retaining walls. The presence of ground water will introduce complicated loadings on the retaining wall and can affect the fluid and soil mechanics of the earth bearing the wall’s footing.

A retaining wall is likely to fail in one of several ways if not properly constructed by professionals. The structural integrity of the wall can be compromised by cracks or ruptures. The entire wall can be toppled over, or it can slide forward in an upright position. If the base of the wall is pushed outward by flowing ground water, it is referred to as undermining.

Construction Methods for Retaining Walls

The construction of a retaining wall depends on its size and design load. Pressure-treated timbers similar to railroad ties can be stacked horizontally or installed vertically to create a wall plane. Steel rods inserted into drilled holes are used to bind and reinforce the timbers.

“Deadmen” are horizontal timbers set perpendicular to the wall projecting back into the soil to provide a stabilizing effect. The use of weep holes and drainage pipes buried in a layer of crushed stone are sometimes necessary to divert ground water from behind the base of the wall. Smaller walls less than 3 feet in height usually do not require any type of footing. Larger retaining walls often employ the cantilevered reinforced concrete method which consists of a vertical wall set off-center on a horizontal footing.

The wall can be constructed of site-cast concrete or assembled with CMU (concrete masonry unit) blocks. Both types are reinforced with steel rods running horizontally through the wall and footing, and vertically down through the wall into the footing. Properly designed cantilevered retaining walls can resist the compressive and tensile loads acting on the wall and any of the forces caused by shifting soil or ground water migration.

Retaining walls are very necessary in a lot of applications and must be thought through thoroughly and well planned before installing. Paving for Africa can assist you in the design and installation of your retaining walls.

Contact us now on 00000 000 00 or email info@pavingforafrica.co.za.

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