What is a retaining wall?

What is a retaining wall?

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The retaining wall: a wall that serves ... to support!

If we refer to the semantics, the retaining wall is a wall whose main function is to preserve a defined and reduced area from the pressure exerted by the ground. In other words, to contain the earth which exerts a certain push (what is called the "push of the ground") in a ground. Retaining walls, which can still be found outdoors, can therefore be useful for developing banks and traffic routes; but they are mainly used to counterbalance land and thus preserve the roads against landslides and / or landslides, especially when the ground is sloping.
A retaining wall can also be made in the private garden: it will then have a practical and decorative function. Indeed, in the case of sloping land, erecting a retaining wall in a garden will create a flat area that can be used to arrange a terrace, a vegetable patch or even a flowerbed or tree.

What is a retaining wall made of?

In the vast majority of cases, the retaining wall is a wall which can be made of concrete blocks but also of stones, bricks, rubble stones, wood, reinforced concrete…
The material that will be used to make the retaining wall depends mainly on the type of earth to contain, its density, the importance of the slope, etc. There are thus different types of retaining walls:

  • The dry stone retaining wall, often used along roadsides to protect them from landslides, effective because it optimizes drainage.
  • The concrete block retaining wall or reinforced concrete, self-supporting, which uses the weight of the earth it retains to ensure its stability.
  • The gabion retaining wall, braided wire racks and filled with large stones not sensitive to frost, very resistant to earth and water movements.
  • The anti-noise retaining wall, made using hollow bricks combined with mineral wool.

How to build a retaining wall in the state of the art?

In order for it to play its supporting role optimally, the retaining wall must absolutely be built respecting certain rules. Especially :

  • Not to be erected on a slope exceeding 10 °.
  • Do not exceed 4 meters in height.
  • Be drained, to prevent water from infiltrating, stagnating, and subsequently causing cracks which could cause the wall to collapse due to the pressure of the contained land. To fight against humidity, many people apply a water-repellent coating, or even tar on their retaining wall.
  • Do not be built on loose soil (clay, mud, peat, etc.), so that the retaining wall foundations are as stable as possible.

The different stages necessary for the construction of a retaining wall

The construction of a retaining wall systematically goes through different stages:

  1. Prior study of the soil (consultation of documents at the town hall to ensure the feasibility of the project).
  2. Delimitation of the location of the wall then earthworks (dig the foundations of the retaining wall in the basement).
  3. Laying of the foundations for the retaining wall, most often with laying blocks or concrete blocks 20 cm thick.
  4. Creation of the wall itself with the chosen material (bricks, concrete blocks, stone, etc.).


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