In a perfect world, everything put in one place would stay there indefinitely; however, the reality is that things are continually shifting and changing, including your landscape. A retaining wall can solve these problems. What is a retaining wall, and what does it have to do with this principle of constant change? They offer more longevity for what you decide to plant and build in your yard!

A retaining wall is a rigid wall that supports soil contained on different levels on opposite sides. Do you want to prevent your hillside landscaping from sliding down due to rainfall and erosion? A retaining wall can help. You can also increase your curb appeal with a cleanly built wall to allow your native plant pollinator garden and pruned shrubs to show off their blooms at eye level. Do you want to create an additional hardscape in a small area? A specially built piling retaining wall is a great solution to expand outward!

Basic stone and simple shapes can be a simple, affordable approach to giving your landscape some additional structure. Manufactured pavers or bricks are in abundance and offer a tested retaining wall build. However, offset stone, and various size cobblestones can give a unique look to a traditional gravity retaining wall. Speaking of which, let’s cover the four main types of retaining walls and the purposes they serve.

A gravity retaining wall

retaining wall

A gravity retaining wall

This uses Newton’s best observations about pulling forces. The weight and mass of the stones hold all the soil at set levels. As previously mentioned, unmortared stones are a popular choice, and the configurations are endless.

A cantilevered retaining wall

retaining wall

A cantilever retaining wall

It is similar to a gravity-based wall but with the additional advantage of a lengthy base. This L-shaped system fights again multiple forces that aren’t a simple push or pull, like torque and horizontal friction (sliding). The soil on top forces the L-shaped bottom to sit flat.

A sheet piling retaining wall

This is a great space-saver. A sheet of material (typically wood or steel) is driven into the soil to create a flat surface to retain the ground behind and have a flat vertical surface to build outward. This is an excellent option for softer soils and to frame in a small earth berm or graded hill, but larger walls should utilize anchors for strength and stability.

Anchored retaining walls

retaining wall

An anchored retaining wall. Image copyright Foundation Systems Inc.

These are the sturdiest type of barriers that combine steel rods, cables, and concrete. By installing hooks or “deadman” rods into the earth, you can take many pounds of load pressure off the front of the wall. The most common application of anchored retaining walls is in industrial applications, but that isn’t to say they don’t have a place in residential builds with significant grades and slopes.

Whether you need a retaining wall at knee, waist, or eye-level, let the pros at Greenscape Geeks help you build yours. We start with an on-site or digital consultation to determine the best approach and what type of stones you envision. After that, a leveling trench is dug and backfilled with leveling gravel to ensure a straight line and tight fit. Stone caps are an aesthetic finishing touch, or you can leave the stone uncapped in a natural pattern!



Greenscape Geeks is a central Indiana landscape architecture and landscape design, construction, and lawn maintenance company, serving Indianapolis (including Meridian Kessler, Herron Morton, Williams Creek, and Irvington), Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers, and Zionsville.