Retaining Walls Serve Many Purposes

Retaining walls can sometimes be decorative, but often, they perform a safety-related function. Retaining walls help to prevent potentially dangerous shifts in dirt, sand, and rocks. In other cases, a wall may improve the appearance of natural changes in elevation. Retaining walls may be incorporated into bridges, roads, residential or commercial construction sites or other structures or areas where elevations change significantly, and soil erosion is unacceptable.

A well-built wall requires significant surveying and site preparation work to ensure that the finished product can do its job without failing! The geotechnical engineering team must understand all the variables involved in wall construction. Local soil composition is one key determinant in a properly engineered wall. Surface preparation is also critical. Surface preparation may include excavating, replacing the soil, and leveling and sculpting the area to be retained. Also, the retained area may require additional temporary support to ensure that it does not fail during construction.

Once surface preparation is complete, construction on the wall may begin. Some building materials, like block, may require substantial leveling to ensure the wall’s finished strength. In other cases, the wall may be constructed from poured or formed concrete. To ensure strength and stability in concrete installations, engineers use support materials like geogrid to reinforce walls. Ongoing surveying during wall construction can help ensure that the structure remains plumb.

A retaining wall may be a single unit, or it may be terraced.

It can also be straight or shaped to match the contour of the area’s natural features. The finished design of the wall ultimately depends upon its setting and its purpose.

Improper wall design or construction inevitably leads to structural failure. Poor design or poor implementation can trap water behind the wall. The resulting hydrostatic pressure can cause the wall to buckle and fail. Improper attention to landscaping around a finished wall can also jeopardize a wall’s integrity. Low plantings and bushes do not create significant pressure on a retaining wall, but a tree’s root growth and expansion over time can cause a catastrophic failure. Any time a wall is compromised, it can put other structures at serious risk.

White Shield specializes in the planning and construction of retaining walls for commercial and infrastructure projects.

Our geotechnical engineering team can help plan, design and prepare sites for the construction of a retaining wall. If you’d like more information about our geotechnical engineering services, please call White Shield at (888) 882-1142.