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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Cox

How to Know When You Need a Retaining Wall

If you're planning a landscaping project, are having soil erosion issues or are looking for a solution for a hillside, you may have looked into using retaining walls. So how do you know if you need one? We are an experienced Landscape and Hardscape company in Knoxville, TN and have installed many different types of retaining walls over the years. We've put together a list of 11 common reasons you may need one.


What is a Retaining Wall?

A retaining wall is a structure that holds or retains soil behind it. There are many types of materials that can be used to create retaining walls like concrete blocks, poured concrete, treated timbers, rocks, or boulders.


11 Reasons You May Need a Retaining Wall


1) Soil erosion control

One of the primary purposes of a retaining wall is to prevent soil erosion, particularly in areas with sloping terrain where rain can wash away the soil. Retaining walls can solve soil erosion problems in several ways.

  • Retention: As their name suggests, retaining walls hold the soil in place against the anchored wall, forcing it to hold its position.

  • Drainage: A proper retaining wall also is designed to drain water and channel it properly, which avoids the rivers of water that can erode soil.

  • Planting: Often retailing walls work as raised terraces for the planting of shrubbery, trees, or gardens. These plants further help hold soil in place with their roots.

We had a client whose aging retaining wall was failing, causing erosion under their driveway, which was a major support issue. We removed the old, failing retaining wall, and built a strong, new wall in its place. The newly built retaining wall will help properly support their driveway, as well as divert water through the new drainage system built into the wall to prevent soil erosion. You can see more behind the scenes of how we built this wall here and here.

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2) Terrain Leveling

Retaining walls can be used to transform a sloped property into a series of flat terraces, making it more usable for activities or construction.

We completely transformed this client's backyard from a sloped, unusable, fall-away lot by utilizing a huge retaining wall to level their yard and make it a usable space for their family to enjoy.

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Look at this new, leveled backyard space AFTER the transformation! You'll notice the back deck got a major upgrade to go along with the amazingly flat new backyard space. Now this family has a wonderful backyard space they can enjoy, rather than just a fall-away lot they dread maintaining. You can see more of this amazing backyard transformation here.

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3) Flood Control

In some areas, retaining walls can act as barriers against flooding or divert water in a particular direction. A retaining wall isn’t just for holding soil and preventing erosion. They can also deter flood water by directing the water toward the street. This means that a retaining wall can protect your property from flood damage — and not just from water, but floating debris, too. A retaining wall is a nice permanent solution if you don’t want to put out sandbags every flood season.


4) Aesthetic Landscaping

Beyond their practical purposes, retaining walls can be designed to be visually appealing, adding an architectural element to gardens, pathways, and other outdoor spaces.


5) Creating Planting Beds

Terraced retaining walls can provide unique opportunities for planting gardens or trees on properties with otherwise challenging topographies.


6) Increasing Property Value

A well-designed and constructed retaining wall can increase the value of a property by adding usable land area and aesthetic appeal. Can you imagine how much better the resale value of this home was after they transformed their backyard? They broadened their potential buyer group to include families who want a yard for their kids to play in!

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7) Protection for Foundations

By directing water away from the base of a structure, retaining walls can prevent water damage and protect the foundation of a building.


This client had an old retaining wall near the foundation of their back deck, so making sure it was properly supported and preventing soil erosion was key to the foundation of their home.

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As you can probably tell, the previous retaining wall wasn't installed properly and did not stand the test of time. It was very important that we gave them a properly built new retaining wall with drainage systems built in to divert water away from the foundation of their home. Click here to see a video of this transformation.


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8) Safety

In areas where there's a risk of land sliding down, retaining walls provide safety by holding the earth in place.


9) Support for Structures

They provide the necessary support to keep soil in place, which can be crucial if you're building near a hill or slope. We used large boulders for a beautiful, natural-looking, support for this home on a hillside.

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10) Pathways and Roads

In hilly terrains, retaining walls are used alongside roads or pathways to ensure the ground beside them remains stable.


11) Recreation

In some cases, retaining walls can be incorporated into recreational areas, like seating in outdoor amphitheaters or as boundaries in sports courts.

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Photo credit: Matthew Herndon, Flickr

If you're not sure if you need a retaining wall, we can send our experienced pros out to take a look with you and talk about your best options.


Whatever type of retaining wall you may need, just contact us online or call us at (865) 985-6986 to set up your free estimate. We proudly serve Knoxville, Tennessee and the surrounding areas.


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