5 Uses for Retaining Walls in Landscape Design

Retaining walls are well known as protective structures, primarily built to hold back slopes and prevent soil erosion. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t have an aesthetic purpose as well. When designed and constructed correctly, retaining walls are not only functional but also beautiful. They can bring new dimensions to a landscape and add up to the aesthetics of your Scituate, MA property.

Retaining Wall Basics

It is a common misconception that a retaining wall has to hold the weight of the mass of soil behind it. In fact, these walls are built to hold back the wedge of soil in contact with its lowest part. If the wall is well constructed, the soil used to fill the space between the structure and the sloppy soil being held back won’t push against the wall at all. Always talk to specialized professionals when having retaining walls installed to ensure your wall is engineered to do its job the right way.

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Preventing Erosion

It is common for landscapes surrounding homes to be uneven, especially in high rainfall or marshy areas. A retaining wall can be used to prevent erosion caused by rainwater, stopping precious topsoil from being washed away and leaving your yard bare.

Protecting Your Pool

Retaining walls can also act as a barrier between steep terrain and your pool, preventing rainfall from washing soil or other debris into the clear water. Consider having the retaining wall built with materials that complement the pool deck to ensure your poolside hardscaping looks well coordinated and complete.

Improving Site Drainage

Often called seawalls even when they are not built close to the sea, retaining walls can also separate land from water. If you have a small lake or stream running in your property, a retaining wall can prevent the soil from getting too moist, eventually causing trouble for nearby structures. However, be aware that when it comes to installing retaining walls to hold back water, you or your contractor generally need to apply for permission from your local authorities.

Expanding Usable Space Through Terracing

Terracing is a technique often used for steep, unusable farmland – whole mountainsides are cut into steps supported by retaining walls to allow for the growth of crops on the flat portions of land. On a smaller scale, terracing can also be used to facilitate wider access to a landscape with significant portions of inaccessible or unsafe sloped terrain, through the creation of multiple levels of usable space. These can be utilized as functional outdoor rooms, connected with walkways and stairs that take guests on a journey through your backyard and its individual gathering spaces.

Acting As Dramatic Focal Points

Retaining walls don’t have to be purely functional elements that you tolerate due to their usefulness. Make your retaining walls aesthetic features of your landscape, either through the use of stone veneer and coping, or by painting plastered walls to complement your landscape color scheme. Retaining walls can also hold raised plant beds for flowers and shrubs, or have integrated water features.

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