Build The Wall
As someone who has over 10 years experience in both residential and commercial landscaping, I have very few tricks in my toolkit that help enhance curb appeal as much as a well built retaining wall. They seem so easy, too! Dig back some soil, put some blocks in place, and voila – there it is, right? Well, I have a few pro tips for building a retaining wall that will come in handy for your next project. Sit back, grab a sketch pad and some paper, and take some notes.
The scale is critical! If you go too large on a small lawn, it throws the whole perspective of the lawn askew. It no longer improves the appearance but detracts from what you’re supposed to be seeing in the first place. Building too small can make it look less like a retaining wall and more like an embedded garden or flower bed. Try laying down a portion of your planned project and using a tarp to get an early feel for the final product.
Prepare for drainage, early. An often overlooked piece of medium to large sized retaining walls is the drainage aspect. Water will need a place to go, and the last thing anyone wants to see is mulch and eroded soil landing on a fresh sidewalk. Know where, and how, you want the water to be flushed.
Solid foundation, solid future. Your retaining wall should recess into the land that it’s holding back at about 1 inch for every foot in height. This can then be leveled out at the face with additional materials. Skipping this critical step can cause a lifetime of headaches in repairs and rework. If you’re not familiar with anchors and ties, it may be time to consult a professional!
Know your theme. Would using red brick fit the existing color palette of your landscape, or might wooden railroad ties hit the mark a little better? Don’t abandon a nice cohesive look in the name of the budget unless you’re building out of necessity. That being said, excessive wood use might start to look tacky and experimenting with neutral concrete colors might be worth a second consideration!
Capstones aren’t just for the rich! Look around and see what style fits your home best, but often times only the most elegant builds come with capstones. As it turns out, they’re actually very cost effective and may help with controlling any potential washout. By adding a small “lip” to the top of your wall, you’re able to safely away additional drainage routes for water. They don’t only work on large builds either, at shorter heights it creates a more quaint feeling than notions of grandeur.
While it’s easy to get excited about trying to achieve perfection, there are still the basics of construction that need to be taken into account. Be sure to consult your local county offices for required building permits and any possible homeowner’s association policy with new projects. Making sure you’ve prepared for expansion when freezing in colder climates is another essential consideration. If this is your first time working on a build of this magnitude, do your due diligence and take your time, have fun, and learn the ropes!