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What do Retaining Walls Do?

Retaining walls provide lateral support to vertical slopes of soil. They retain soil which would otherwise collapse into a more natural shape. The retained soil is sometimes referred to as backfill.

Retaining walls can be constructed of many different materials and with a variety of building techniques. This discussion will focus on rigid, monolithic, poured concrete walls as the structural material, but steel, timber, and reinforced soil are often used too.

This retaining wall discussion will focus on walls that are constructed from the bottom up and where a stable backslope exists (at least temporarily) prior to wall construction. With poured concrete retaining walls, backfill is placed between the wall and the slope after the wall is constructed.

This discussion will talk about the walls themselves, their design and some important construction considerations. It will not talk about groundwork or compaction, since these are entire topics on their own right. Designers and builders of any kind of retaining wall should be familiar with and follow the procedures and methods for soil preparation and backfill compaction methods dictated by the appropriate local building codes.

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