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4 Signs It's Time to Build a Retaining Wall

Oct 18

Retaining walls are some of the most common hardscaping features around Vancouver, particularly in North Vancouver and West Vancouver, yet most people pass them by without giving them a second thought. You've probably seen retaining walls in residential, commercial, and even industrial settings, but have you ever considered whether your property could benefit from one of these impressive systems?


Whether you're just learning about retaining walls for the first time or are already considering whether this solution might be right for your land, you've come to the right place. Read on to find out about four of the most common signs it's time to think about installing a retaining wall.


How Do Retaining Walls Work?


Retaining walls are strong, heavy walls engineered to hold back soil that might otherwise move downhill. Installing a retaining wall is a great way to terrace sloped land to make it more usable or address concerns in areas that are prone to erosion.


Retaining walls must be engineered to withstand substantial lateral force. However, holding back soil isn't the only thing they're good for. They can also:

    • Make it easier to manage water runoff by slowing the flow of rainwater and melting snow, protecting gardens, and keeping lawns from becoming soggy.


    • Provide a functional surface space for seating, keeping potted plants, placing outdoor lights, or otherwise making an outdoor space more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.


    • Add usable space by creating terraces for gardens, patios, and other landscaping features.

Every retaining wall is a little different. Some are made from fieldstone, while others are crafted using man-made materials like allan blocks. What they all have in common is that they're engineered to ensure they can safely hold back soil even under challenging environmental conditions.


4 Signs It's Time to Build a Retaining Wall


Now that you know what retaining walls are, how they work, and what they're good for, let's get to the heart of the matter. Is it time to build a retaining wall? The answer is a definitive "yes" if your yard has any of these problems:

    • Significant downhill erosion


    • Foundation sliding or sloping


    • Property near soil fault lines


    • You need more flat, usable land

Even if it's not strictly necessary, you may want to think about installing a retaining wall for design purposes or to make better use of your land. You can install them anywhere, even in places with only a slight slope, to add visual interest to your landscape or create more usable spaces for patios, gardens, or other landscaping features.


Design concerns aside, it's time to take a more in-depth look at each of the factors described above.


  1. Downhill Erosion


If soil erosion is creating problems on your property, installing retaining walls could be just the solution you've been looking for. A well-designed retaining wall can help to hold back soil to reduce the slope and prevent erosion.


  1. Foundation Sloping


Is soil erosion negatively impacting your home's foundation? If so, a retaining wall could be the best way to keep your home safe. If you live near a downhill slope, you might want to consider installing a retaining wall before you start to notice foundation damage.


  1. Soil Fault Lines


You don't have to wait until you notice erosion problems to install a retaining wall. If you live near a soil fault line, adding a retaining wall system can help to protect your property. It's a great preemptive step.


  1. Creating More Usable Land


If you have a sloping yard, installing retaining walls is a great way to improve the usability of your land. You can use them to construct terraces for anything from gardens to patios, playgrounds, and more.


Popular Retaining Wall Styles


Now that you've decided whether it's time to install a retaining wall, let's move on to another common concern: how to choose the right materials. Choosing the right materials and installing them properly is the only way to avoid problems like leaning, bulging, and cracking.


There are two issues associated with retaining wall design: adequate drainage and load capacity. When installed correctly, retaining walls can last a 25 years or more. Just keep in mind that property owners need to hire professional contractors who know how to account for these design challenges. Common materials used to construct a professionally installed retaining wall include:


Heavy Timbers


Timber retaining walls are usually relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Unfortunately, they're not right for all climates. With the high volume of rain that Vancouver experiences each year, the timbers will rot and you'll need to replace them frequently.


Natural Stone


If you're looking for a durable yet beautiful material for your retaining wall, natural stone is a good option. Natural stone retaining walls take far more time to construct, though, so expect them to require a greater initial investment than their timber counterparts.


Man-Made Materials


Man-made materials like interlocking blocks and poured concrete are strong, durable, and relatively cost-efficient. If you don't mind the look of manufactured materials in your landscape, you may want to look into this solution for your new retaining wall.


Additional Options


The three options discussed above aren't the only ones available. If you've got a very specific design idea, discuss it with a contractor to see if it's feasible. You may be pleasantly surprised.


The Best Time to Build a Retaining Wall Is Now


If your property is heavily sloped or experiencing erosion, there's no better time than now to install a retaining wall. It will improve the usability and aesthetic value of your land while simultaneously protecting your yard and home from further damage.


There's no reason to put off terracing a property or installing a single retaining wall until erosion causes even larger problems. Whether you just want a new retaining wall for the aesthetics, or you've gotten to the point where it's the only option for keeping your yard in usable shape, take action now. Call VanCity Retaining Walls of North Vancouver to discuss materials and project timelines, then request a quote so the team can get started improving your property right away!

For more information:

VanCity Retaining Walls of North Vancouver
277 Mountain Highway #300
North Vancouver, BC, V7J3T6