Retaining Walls Services in Houston
Retaining Walls Help Shape a Property, Help With Drainage and Reduce Erosion
Retaining walls are a primary dirt work tool. With retaining walls, developers can shape the site as they see fit, make slopes usable, improve the property design and more. They can be built to any size and height, assuming proper installation techniques.
Proper installation techniques are critical because retaining walls are true feats of engineering. There are many factors that affect how a retaining wall is built, including:
- The wall’s height
- The wall’s material
- The amount of earth that the wall must support
- How drainage is installed
- The composition of contacting soils
They may look simple and straightforward, but installing retaining walls is anything but, especially if the project calls for concrete. For the best results, property owners should bring in a professional to do the job. An engineer will need to verify the project’s details before work can begin, and construction must be done within tight tolerances to ensure the wall performs as needed.
Four Reasons to Consider Concrete for Retaining Walls
Retaining walls do a lot of things. They boost property values, reduce erosion, protect foundations, allow for safe passage, and more. There are plenty of reasons to consider a retaining wall for a commercial property. And there are a few reasons why that wall should be made from concrete, including:
- Durability – Concrete is the most durable material option for retaining walls, including those installed on commercial properties. Concrete withstands compression and impact extremely well and, if reinforced with steel, will provide excellent durability. Concrete also requires minimal maintenance. If that maintenance is provided when needed, a concrete retaining wall can last indefinitely.
- Water resistance – Concrete isn’t waterproof, but it can be sealed for much improved water resistance. If sealed, concrete drains can handle large volumes of runoff without significant wear. Concrete also provides excellent hydraulic efficiency because it retains its shape even when exposed to high pressures.
- Cost effectiveness – Concrete’s durability and low maintenance requirements make for an extremely cost-effective material. Once installed, concrete will provide decades of reliable performance, and longer if maintained properly. Other materials require eventual replacement, but concrete only needs to be installed once and maintained minimally after that.
- Design options – Concrete can be colored, stamped, and finished with a variety of appearance-enhancing methods. With its visual versatility, concrete doesn’t just perform better than other materials – it looks better, too.
In short, concrete is the ultimate retaining wall material. The only downside is that it takes significant manpower and expertise to handle, which stresses the importance of working with a reputable company.
The Installation Process for Concrete Retaining Walls
Building a concrete retaining wall is a complex process that requires significant planning and labor. And the process may look a little different depending on the project’s specifications and setting. Here’s what the process typically looks like, though:
- Establishing the client’s needs for their retaining wall – A lot of planning goes into every retaining wall project. During these opening steps, the construction team and client work together to develop the project’s details. Sitemaps are drawn up, the wall’s specifications are finalized and equipment is mobilized for the project.
- Clear the work site – Once the project’s plans are settled on, the development site must be cleared of all rocks, trees, ruined structures, and any other debris. Called grubbing, all vegetation in work areas is removed down to the root. Once grubbing is complete, the build team will have a blank development site to work with.
- Dig out the footings – Retaining walls are anchored in place with the use of footings. Each footing extends into the ground and to the base slab, which forms the wall’s bottom. Footings may extend several feet into the ground, and the space for each footing must be dug out before concrete can be poured.
- Lay out the formwork – There are a couple more things to do before pouring can begin. First is to lay out the wooden forms that act like a mold for the concrete walls. Wooden formwork is used with nearly every concrete project, as it can be used for precise concrete shaping and grading.
- Reinforce with rebar – Steel rebar is used to reinforce the concrete wall and is laid out before pouring. This reinforcement is necessary because while concrete resists compression extremely well, it can fail under tension (like the ground shifting under or around the wall). Rebar adds tensile strength to the wall, effectively “gluing” it together when the ground around it shifts.
- Pour the concrete – Now the concrete can be poured. Trucks are used to deliver the concrete to the site, though it can be pumped if truck access isn’t available. No matter how the concrete is delivered, it’s poured evenly and from a low height to prevent air from being trapped. The freshly poured concrete is then vibrated to release as much air as possible and ensure better curing.
- Curing and joint cutting – Once poured, the concrete will need several days to cure. This process can be expedited and optimized with curing agents, which the build team may add. While it takes several days for concrete to cure, it’s strong enough to take joints within 24 hours. These joints include construction, contraction, and expansion joints, all of which help the concrete flex, contract, and shift without sustaining damage. The joints are made using diamond-tipped saw cutter blades.
- Waterproof and install drainage – Retaining walls must allow water to pass, as water will exert additional pressure on the wall and cause backfill to shift as it takes on moisture. Waterproofing the concrete with a sealer is a must, as is installing drainage features such as weep holes and drainage lines.
- Perform finishing – At this point, your property has a functioning retaining wall. The wall may be textured using a broom, as this improves wet traction for anyone walking on the concrete. For design purposes, the concrete can also be colored or stamped with various designs at this point.
As you can see, it’s an involved process that requires expert judgment at every step. Executing each step on time and with best practices is what ensures a long-lasting retaining wall.
Building a Reliable Retaining Wall Requires Engineering Expertise
Given their role in property safety, stability, and appearance, retaining walls require expert oversight to build. With this being the case, it is wise for property owners to partner with an experienced concrete construction team to manage the job. Experienced retaining wall builders typically have an engineer (or engineers) on the team. An engineer will verify wall dimensions, construction methods, and the worksite’s stability before installation, ensuring the wall provides long-term value for the property.