Retaining Walls

Retaining Wall Ideas

Retaining Walls Ideas

A retaining wall is a specially designed structure that holds soil on one side and is free standing on the other. They help to accommodate changes in grade in a landscape with uneven topography. These walls often allow steeper cuts to a slope to yield more usable space on a cut-and-fill hillside lot. Hard working retaining walls can be key to creating a level sports lawn or driveway too.

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Pro Tip: Walls are a long-term investment. You can change planting every ten years, but walls are forever.”— says Clark Nigg, Owner, Landscape Pros in Manassas, VA.

Retaining walls are also used on level ground to raise living spaces above the surrounding ground plain. A well-designed retaining wall can elevate planting areas for improved drainage while at the same time creating a seat-wall. There is no end to the benefits of these heavy barriers, but they can be costly and must be strictly constructed to prevent failure.

What makes retaining walls so challenging is their strength, which is best illustrated by the incredible loads they carry, known as lateral earth pressure. This is created by more than just the weight of soil. Water behind the wall causes buildup of hydrostatic pressure which is the reason for most wall failures. Only through adequately designed drainage structures and waterproofing can the best designed wall survive over time.

Retaining Wall Cross-Section

Retaining walls are divided into two types divided by their height. Walls under four feet are designed and built by your contractor or per a landscape architect’s drawing. Retaining walls over four feet require much larger footings due to the increased lateral earth pressure. It must be designed by an engineer who will specify the size and extent of footings and the amount of steel reinforcement required according to strict loading calculations. In both cases, it is recommended that you leave the the construction and installation of your retaining walls to the “Pros” like Landscape Pros in Manassas.


Building permits often require these structural calculations due to the damage caused by retaining wall failures. This not only destroys your investment, it can cause significant damage to people and property, which puts the homeowner at serious liability. This is particularly important where slopes are unstable, and the climate suffers periods of heavy rains that can lead to super saturated soils and catastrophic mudslides. In some states like California, communities may require additional earthquake related design criteria.  Homeowners, Professional Landscaping companies will know all these requirements and we recommend relying on their advice on these type landscaping projects.

However, Retaining walls can be a do-it-yourself project when constructed of wood. These short timber walls are an affordable solution to erosion and runoff control problems many homeowners have on their properties. Concrete block retaining wall systems are growing in popularity due to their improved aesthetics and single wall construction that requires less surface area to achieve optimum strength. In addition, Dry stone walls are a regional art form and those from colonial times can still be functional today.

The time-tested veneer wall is the landscape architect’s choice for high end landscaping. With its functional concrete masonry unit (CMU) core, there is no end to the options for swanky stone or brick veneer. This choice offers the designer unlimited options for making each retaining wall unique to a homesite and allowing it to lend style to outdoor living spaces.

retaining walls

Always remember that however beautiful these walls may ultimately be, they are a powerful structure that must function as designed. This can only happen when they are composed of the proper materials and constructed by quality contractors like Landscape Pros. Make sure you get these things right and you’ll be able to count on your financial investment maintaining both beauty and integrity for many decades to come. 

Here are a few ideas to consider.

Retaining Walls
Retaining Wall Designs

Did you know there’s an age-old debate over what’s more important form or function for a retaining wall?  A Retaining walls function is the utmost priority, but this does not mean that its form must be neglected. There are many ways to make small or large, simple, or complex retaining walls visually pleasing. If designed well and constructed with quality materials, your retaining wall will be a focal point in your yard rather than something you try to hide.

This L-shaped wall offers seating opportunities that are best for human interaction.  Designs like this are visually, socially and functionally superior to a single straight retaining wall. This is a more stable design too because lateral earth load is diffused in different directions, which reduces pressure on the wall.

Retaining Walls

This type retaining wall is a rare example of how sleek contemporary lines can be combined with naturalistic stone to create a most innovative visual dynamic. This step back system uses a single footing to support a series of powerful horizontal retaining walls composed of a structural core veneered in thin flagstone with a honed stone cap. The alternating connectors feature the look of a dry-stone wall which plays nicely against the rigidity of the longer runs. Walls with perpendicular connectors result in a stronger design overall. They are more conducive to attractive planting and offer more spaces for human interaction than a single long wall.

If your landscape is in a rainy state or area, and you have the need for your hardscape retaining wall to hold ground against gradual erosion from heavy prolonged rain here is an easy beautiful wall. The use of irregular lichen encrusted boulders set into the slope, so they don’t look like a barrier provides great opportunities to nestle plants into the nooks and crannies. This design idea by Landscape Pros suggests utilizing large stone settings like shown here and is a traditional way for homeowners who require improved drainage for their specialty plants.

Retaining Walls
Simple Erosion Retaining Wall

Here is an exampe of a beautifully curved, natural flagstone veneered wall is essential to take up the slope for a larger patio space. Grades are carefully manipulated to ensure the top of the retaining wall is perfect seat-wall height to allow the homeowners a place to sit in the offseason and augment their patio furniture use in the warmer months. Seat-walls double the usability of a space and cost a little more than an otherwise functional retaining wall.

Retaining Walls
Curved Natural Flagstone Wall

Landscape Pros hopes these hardscape retaining walls ideas are what you may be looking for in your backyard.  Our retaining wall experts have over 30 years’ experience and are available to design, build, and install your wall.  Give us a call @ 571-535-8622 today to discuss your wall project with our dedicated staff.  We are rated #1 in Landscaping design and services in Manassas, VA area and we pride ourselves with our 100% customer satisfaction guarantee.

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