Walls can be
used to create more usable level areas or to create a scenic terraced effect
Hilly terrain in
Pennsylvania creates the need for retaining walls. Walls can be used to
terrace slopes, and enlarge usable areas for outdoor recreation, patios,
walks and driveways. Retaining walls are also used to define landscaped
beds and retain mulch products.
Walls are commonly constructed with natural stone, timbers, or precast
blocks. While railroad ties were commonly used in the past, their
creosote content discourages present day use. Natural stone creates a
beautiful wall, but building with irregular stone can rapidly discourage an
amateur stone mason.
Natural wall stone palletized for shipment
Precast wall stone has become more available in recent years, and
provides homeowners and professionals with a uniform-sized product that
is easier to build walls with than irregularly shaped stone. Precast
products provide several color choices to match existing home
construction and suit your individual taste.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION CONSIDERATIONS
need it? Don't build a wall unless you really need
it. There's considerable expense with initial wall construction and
most walls will eventually need to be rebuilt due to soil and wall movement.
muscle? Wall stones and timbers are typically very heavy, so be
sure you have the physical strength to handle a wall project. Wall
construction is hard, heavy work for strong individuals in good
steep is your slope? Proper wall design becomes more
critical as slopes get steeper, and as drainage and soil conditions
worsen. Basically, the taller the wall, the more critical it is for
proper construction. Extremely high walls need to be
designed by an engineer.
Wall construction usually requires the removal of large amounts of
soil and fill, so be sure to allow for removal and disposal of this
"fill dirt." It's not unusual to hit rock while excavating for a wall,
so heavy equipment and a jackhammer may be required. Do you have good access for a
backhoe to reach the work area? How much damage will excavation work
cause and what will be involved with repairing damaged lawn
storage space? Walls need good drainage behind them.
This requires the delivery, movement and placement of tons of 2b
crushed limestone, or similar product, behind the wall. Do you
have a place to store the gravel and a way to move
stone into the work area? This storage space is needed in
addition to your storage area for wall product.
quality products? More people than you know have made
the big mistake of buying inferior wall products, primarily wood
timbers that weren't properly pressure treated for soil contact. Some wooden
"landscape timbers" will start to rot in 3 to 5 years,
requiring their removal and replacement. Check guarantees.
haze? Unfortunately, some precast stone products begin
to show efflorescence after a few years. Efflorescence is the
growth of salt crystals, appearing as a
white powder on the surface of some precast walls as well as other masonry products. While it can be easily removed with
power washing, it will usually reappear within a year.
Efflorescence on a precast wall.
Sometimes you'll also see this problem on brick walls
foundation. The foundation and first course of your wall is
most critical. Most wall manufacturer's specifications call for
excavating at least 12-inches below the ground surface, and tamping-in a
layer of crushed stone for good drainage on firm ground.
and foremost! How well you lay your first course of
wall stone or timbers determines how well the rest of the wall will turn
out, so take your time and do it right!
batter? ...no, wall "batter." For every 4 feet
of vertical wall height, it's usually recommended that your wall "lean back"
1 foot horizontally. This keeps some of the wall's weight against the slope,
helping to hold back the slope. Many of the new precast wall products have
wall batter built into the product, helping you step the wall back
as it is being built.
tell no tales... In timber wall construction
terminology, a "deadman" is a timber tie-back into the slope to
help maintain the wall's structural integrity. The more deadmen you use, the
stronger the wall becomes, so don't scrimp.
your back! Whether you're lifting wall stones,
timbers, or shoveling crushed stone, practice proper lifting
techniques. If you aren't physically able, consider hiring a
fence at the top? High walls should have a fence or other
barrier along the top to prevent someone from falling over the edge
and getting hurt.
An aluminum fence along the
top of this wall
acts as a safety barrier to prevent falls