A retaining wall is a specifically designed wall 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 ground.
These walls often allow terracing of a yard to yield more usable space on a hillside lot. Hard working retaining walls can be key to creating a level sports lawn or driveway too.
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. 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. Consider the weight of soil, water pressure, and weight of the landscaping behind the wall – trees, shrubs, pools, etc.
Water behind the wall causes buildup of 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.