Retaining Wall and Slope Design Considerations

Association of Construction and Development
March 4, 2013 — 4,010 views  

When you are designing and constructing a retaining wall, there are numerous factors to keep in mind. These include drainage, materials, design, foundations, type of wall, and anchors.


While you are selecting the materials, make sure you choose the ones that are ideal for what you need. Several long-lasting and high quality materials are available, including paving treated timbers, flagstone rock, brick veneer, and concrete modular units that have already been cast.


Make sure the appearance and overall aesthetics of the wall, complements your construction. The aesthetic treatment of the wall also should not hinder the wall’s functionality in any way or affect the type of wall you choose. Aesthetic treatments that usually take place with these walls include landscaping and other such treatments. When it comes to landscaping, you should always ensure sufficient drainage has been provided so that in case of extensive watering there is not build up of hydrostatic pressures behind the wall.


Consider the applicability of the type of retaining wall, cut or fill, which are based on the site constraints, location, wall alignment and geometry. Identify the right method that is required and also find the proposed utilities that are available for the project. Any type of drainage structures that exist should also be identified.


It is known that a wall can only be considered as good at its foundation, and it is vital for retaining walls to be constructed on foundation bases that are extremely sound structurally. Gravel fill and earth that are leveled and compacted are acceptable. It is vital for the foundation material to stretch up to a minimum of one foot extra at the back and front of the base wall’s width.

If you are building walls that are of dry-stone, the largest and most stable stones should be obviously placed at the bottom. Remember that, sometimes, the base might have to be as wide as the height of the wall.

Practicality of Construction

While designing the walls, it is important to take into consideration how practical the proposition is. Check if it is convenient to access equipment and whether the walls are likely to be inundated or they are close to water. Make sure you have sufficient vertical and horizontal clearance to install the wall.


Calculate the total cost that will go into constructing the wall. This cost should include excavation and every other cost that will go into its completion. Other costs to consider include utility adjustments, project schedule and phasing requirements. The effects of these costs of the design and the construction will be profound and it needs to be within the budget of your client.

Type of the wall

The wall type will be entirely determined by your needs. It will be up to you to decide if you need a structural wall made of concrete or one that is dry-laid. The latter is less expensive and gives a great finish, but is also less stable when compared to a structural wall.

Association of Construction and Development