Retaining Wall Basics: A Breakdown of Different Types of Retaining Walls

Retaining walls are structures designed to hold back soil and provide support to prevent erosion and slope instability. There are several types of retaining walls, each with its own unique design and construction method. Here are some common types:

1. Gravity Retaining Walls

Gravity retaining walls rely on their own weight and mass to resist the pressure exerted by the soil. They are typically made from heavy materials such as concrete or stone and can be constructed with a slight backward lean to enhance stability. Gravity walls are suitable for shorter heights and can have a variety of finishes for aesthetic appeal.

2. Cantilever Retaining Walls

Cantilever retaining walls are built with a horizontal base (called a footing) and a vertical wall that extends backward into the retained soil. The wall relies on the strength of the base and the leverage provided by the soil behind it to counteract the pressure. Cantilever walls are commonly made of reinforced concrete and are suitable for moderate to high retaining heights.

3. Sheet Pile Retaining Walls

Sheet pile retaining walls are constructed using interlocking steel, vinyl, or wood sheets driven vertically into the ground to form a continuous barrier. They are commonly used in areas with limited space or where groundwater conditions are a concern. Sheet pile walls can be temporary or permanent, depending on the project requirements.

4. Anchored Retaining Walls

Anchored retaining walls are designed with the inclusion of anchors, which are tensioned cables or rods connected to the wall and embedded deep into the ground behind the wall. The anchors provide additional support and prevent soil movement. Anchored walls are suitable for taller heights or where soil conditions require extra reinforcement.

5. Gabion Retaining Walls

Gabion retaining walls are constructed using wire mesh baskets filled with rocks, gravel, or other suitable materials. The baskets are stacked on top of each other to create a retaining structure. Gabion walls are flexible, allowing for water drainage and accommodating soil movement. They are commonly used for erosion control and aesthetic purposes.

6. Segmental Retaining Walls

Segmental retaining walls (SRWs) are made of individual concrete or stone blocks that interlock with one another. They are designed to create a gravity-based system where the weight of the blocks and the reinforced soil mass behind them provide stability. SRWs are versatile, easy to install, and can be used for various wall heights and aesthetic options.

These are just a few examples of common types of retaining walls. The choice of retaining wall type depends on factors such as soil conditions, project requirements, available space, aesthetics, and budget. It is important to consult with a qualified engineer or professional to assess the specific needs of your project and determine the most suitable type of retaining wall.