While your first thought may be that it is a shame to need such an ugly and intrusive feature in your garden, you will be pleased to know that there is a range of options that look great and can actually add to the character of your property. Read on for our top retaining wall tips and ideas.
What is a retaining wall?
First things first, let’s start by defining what a retaining wall actually is and why you might need one. A retaining wall is a structure that “retains” or holds back the earth and other material on one side of it. They are typically used to hold back soil, rock, clay, sand and gravel so they don’t flow over an area where you want them to be contained.
Retaining walls come in many different styles from dry stone (a type of masonry) to more modern concrete blocks – there are plenty of designs available; each with their own pros and cons as we’ll explore later in this post.
The best time for installing your retaining wall is before you start planting up the bedding plants which will have a long period growing through all seasons until they need replacing.
Next up, let’s explore some of the common options for materials used in retaining walls:
Timber retaining walls
Timber retaining walls are good because they are relatively low cost and don’t need any additional drainage.
The downside is that they can be unsightly, not very durable if exposed to the weather for long periods of time and require regular maintenance.
If you’re considering timber as your retaining wall material then we recommend using a pressure treated wood which will last much longer than untreated timbers.
Pressure treated timbers also have more variety in appearance so make sure it suits your garden design before installing one!
Natural Stone retaining walls
These are a popular option because they’re aesthetically pleasing and have a natural appearance.
However, they require regular maintenance to keep them looking good – such as being cleaned regularly with soapy water or high pressure washers. Stone retaining walls can also be expensive when it comes to buying the stone in large quantities which could make this an option only for those who can afford it!
If you do choose this type of material then we recommend choosing limestone because it’s more durable than other stones like sandstone.
Lime is always recommended over cement mortar because not only does lime dry out slower but less likely to deteriorate due to its calcium content. Lime will create a better seal against groundwater too!
Concrete retaining walls
These are a good option if you want a straight, rectangular wall and don’t have any need for decorative detail. If you’re looking to make your own concrete retaining walls then it’s advisable that if adding stones or bricks for decoration purposes only use thin blocks of less than an inch wide or they could crack when the mortar is drying.
Concrete also needs time to cure before being able to handle anything near it so be sure not to move plants anywhere near once its laid!
A fixed form is best such as wire mesh reinforced with steel rods which will help keep the shape in place during construction – without them concrete can sag over time due to gravity.
The material may seem expensive but remember each slab of this lasts up around 40 years.
Brick retaining walls
Brick is a less popular option but still a good one.
Bricks come in varying heights but typically range from two inches up to three inches wide. Again, make sure not to place any weight near until mortar has had time to set or risk cracking them when they dry out again.
The downside is bricks may need replacing every few years due for wear and tear so bear this mind before purchasing too many blocks at once if its going onto a main feature such as boundary fence line where constantly being touched by people.
Gabion retaining walls
This type of retaining wall consists of a metal wire or cable mesh that is filled with rocks, gravel and sand.
Gabions will need regular maintenance through adding new material to keep the structure intact over time – this needs to be done every few years too.
It also means you’ll have some extra materials left over in case of any emergencies like a broken fence on a boundary line for example.
The benefit of using gabion walls is they’re really quick and easy to construct as well as being great at stopping soil from eroding away down hillsides by slowing the water running off it so grass can grow better instead.