As a landscape contractor in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire for many years, it seems like every job we did was on a slope. By necessity, we became very good at retaining wall construction and figuring out creative ways to maximize usable space and navigate slopes to access the water’s edge. Installing retaining walls requires both a technical knowledge of engineering and just plain old common sense.
Landscape Block Retaining Walls
Over the past 30 years, the use of segmented concrete retaining wall (SRW) block has become very popular. Many landscaping companies install landscape block – and some do it very well. The advantage of an engineered block is consistency – each unit provides the same stability and holding power. Based on its mass, each style of landscape block has its maximum wall height and loadbearing limitations clearly defined.
One thing to know about landscape block, however, is that the block itself does very little to hold back the earth – it is more of a veneer. There are multiple steps to building landscape block retaining walls successfully: proper compaction of base material, drainage behind wall, and the installation of soil reinforcement grid to reduce slip planes – especially on block retaining walls over 4 feet.
We have used landscape block in many retaining wall construction projects from terracing to shoreline headwalls. We still use landscape block in some applications; however, we have been building more retaining walls with natural stone than ever before.
Natural Stone Retaining Walls
Natural stone retaining walls have stood the test of time. Centuries, in fact. Dry stacked stone has been used in foundations for large buildings, freestanding structures, and even ocean headwalls. The structural strength of a stone retaining wall (and its ability to hold back the earth) lies in its mass and the skill of the installer who locks the stones together during construction. The backfill soil behind natural stone retaining walls does not require nearly the extent of engineering and drainage as concrete block walls do.
Do you have a property that needs to be leveled? Maybe a wood retaining wall that’s falling down? Do you need better access to your shoreline property or lakefront dock? And – most of all – if you’re considering a natural stone retaining wall solution, give Green Monster Landscapes a call!
No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.– Frank Lloyd Wright