Soil erosion is an inevitable occurrence even on many residential properties. If left unchecked, erosion can lead to a number of issues—uprooting of plants, destruction of landscaping, foundation damage, and plumbing issues, among other things. Luckily, you can protect your property or landscaping against this natural phenomenon.
While you can never completely eliminate erosion, retaining walls can slow the process down to a crawl. Built properly, they provide structural support that holds the land in place, diverts the flow of water, and stops the movement of soil for up to 100 years!
Retaining walls serve both functional and aesthetic purposes, but they might not be ideal for every outside space. In this article, we’ll look at why retaining walls work and some of the other ways you can protect against erosion.
Functional Purposes of Retaining Walls
Preventing harmful erosion isn’t the only purpose of having a retaining wall. In addition to stopping erosion, retaining walls protect against flowing water, potentially reduce your maintenance costs, and give you more usable space on your property.
Let’s discuss these benefits in more detail.
Turning a Non-Usable Space Into a Usable Space
Slanted pieces of land are difficult to work with and often go unused. Retaining walls installed at the bottom of a slope may stop erosion, but they also give you the opportunity to use or reconstruct the land above.
Depending on the layout, you could potentially do all of the following:
- Flatten out the sloped area and use it for more landscaping features.
- Install a series of ascending retaining walls separated by flat areas, sometimes called a terrace.
- Use the slope to your advantage.
Having that support at the bottom of a hill or sloped piece of land means you can use the space above without worrying about extensive erosion or a total collapse of the mound of dirt.
Controlling Floods and Water Flow
Running water is one of the leading causes of erosion, and rainwater will always take the route downhill. In addition to blocking the eroding dirt, a retaining wall can change and direct the flow of water.
The degree of slant on a given hill will determine how quickly water makes its way down. Faster flows lead to more significant erosion.
Many retaining walls are also installed with a drainage system similar to the gutters on your home. These drainage systems redirect the water flow, which not only prevents potential flooding but also ensures that whatever lies on the other side of the wall isn’t damaged by the runoff.
Reducing Maintenance Costs
Given the advantages of a retaining wall, installing one could effectively reduce your maintenance costs associated with landscaping.
Erosion damage will ultimately need to be repaired. Whether it’s plants getting crushed by dirt or a garden being ruined by rainwater and flooding, you’ll be forced to deal with these issues unless the right preventative measures are taken.
Retaining walls could dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, the risks associated with having an unsupported slope in the yard.
Depending on the layout of the property, this could mean significant time and cost savings. To find out how cheaply you can build a retaining wall, check out this article we wrote.
Signs That You Might Need a Retaining Wall
Whether or not a retaining wall is necessary will vary from property to property. If you’re simply looking for a way to elevate the appearance or functionality of your landscaping, a retaining wall is one of many features that can do the trick.
Other reasons you might want a retaining wall include:
- Your property or garden regularly gets flooded after rainfall.
- The constant flooding has you concerned about your property’s foundation.
- The layout of your property prevents you from achieving your landscaping/gardening goals.
- You have a general concern about erosion.
If you want to transform a hilly area into a functional space, retaining walls are often very useful. They allow you to enhance your property with more flowers and plants while at the same time adding more functional features like sidewalks or handicap ramps.
Other Ways To Stop or Slow Erosion
A retaining wall isn’t the only option for controlling the erosion on your property. Depending on what you’re working with, they may not even be the best option.
Commercial or industrial properties, for example, might have different requirements, and there are professionals out there who can help you choose the best option.
Covering and Weighing Down the Soil
Covering and weighing down the soil is one way people prevent soil erosion on a slanted surface.
This usually involves using mulch or rocks to cover a vulnerable area. These materials will weigh down the soil and reduce, if not eliminate, the movement of the dirt underneath.
You can also find special materials like mulch matting to lay over an area. These mats, made out of mulch or other materials, come in rolls and can easily cover large areas.
Any of these materials could also be used to surround your plants and protect the soil underneath. This will help the soil stay fertile and suitable for healthy plant growth, as well as protect your plants from weeds.
Using Fiber Logs
Some companies also make tools called fiber logs or “wattles.” These are usually cylindrical like a log and made out of straw or a similar material.
They’re installed horizontally along a slanted area. They essentially act like speed bumps and prevent water from gaining speed, accumulating mud, and ruining the land at the bottom of the hill. Ideally, the water slows down enough to simply absorb into the ground on the hill itself.
Plant Grass, Trees, or Bushes
Planting grass or shrubs on a slanted piece of land can greatly reduce the impact of erosion.
Soil that’s completely bare and uninterrupted is easily moved. Once it begins to move, it might have the freedom to flow all the way down to the bottom and potentially into your landscaping.
Trees and bushes can act as barriers that stop the flow of dirt, and the roots themselves will effectively hold some of the soil in place.
If your patio or other area is already suffering damage from erosion, check out the article we wrote about how to repair it.
Things To Consider
Retaining walls protect against the dangers of erosion while giving you more creative freedom with the layout of your property. However, if you plan on installing a retaining wall somewhere on your property, there are a handful of things you’ll need to consider. These are:
- Make sure the wall foundation is structurally sound.
- Retaining walls are often installed at an angle to counter the pressure imposed by the dirt.
- Installation should take place when the soil is dry.
- Proper drainage is necessary so that the extra weight doesn’t put too much strain on the retaining wall.
- Some locations may require a permit prior to installation.
Installing a retaining wall can be a complicated process. So, it’s important to consider all of the factors to prevent mistakes and trouble down the road.
Retaining walls are often an effective way to prevent soil erosion from a sloped area on your property.
Given their ability to stop falling dirt and redirect running water, they may prevent costly repairs to your property’s landscaping or foundation. By supporting the slope, they also give you more usable land and provide an opportunity to elevate the look of your property or add functionality to a given space.
We wrote substantially more about retaining walls here — there’s plenty of invaluable information for you to check out.