What Do I Need To Know About Retaining Walls?
Some retaining walls are built by themselves without a fence integrated on top. Other retainer walls are built with an integrated fence like the one below. One is not necessarily better than the other, it really just depends on where the fence is to be located in relation to where the ground takes a change in heights.
What is a retainer wall?
Retainer walls are built to support dirt level changes. Sometimes these changes in dirt level are a matter of 6 inches or 12 inches and sometimes they are as much as 3 feet tall. By installing a pressure treated retaining wall you can properly support this dirt to keep it where it from moving. Sometimes these changes in dirt levels are right on the property line and sometimes they are on one person’s property.
What is the difference between a retainer wall and a kickboard?
I see a horizontal board at the bottom of my fence. Is that a retainer wall? It might be a retainer wall, but it also might just be a kickboard. The difference between a retainer wall and a kickboard is how it is supported. Kickboards are supported every 8 feet just like your fence, but a retaining wall is supported with a post every 4 feet or less. If you look at the pictures you will notice the short pressure treated posts supporting the retainer wall every 4 feet or less between the posts supporting the fencing as well.
Sometimes people install kickboards because the like the style of seeing this runner board at the bottom of the fence. Additionally, sometimes people install a kickboard to help protect the bottom of the fence pickets from ground contact. Please note—a kickboard, even if it is made with pressure treated material is not strong enough to hold dirt back as a kickboard is supported every 8 feet, not like a retainer wall that is supported every 4 feet or less.
What are retainer walls made out of?
Superior Fence Construction and Repair Inc installs retaining walls constructed with pressure treated wood. This pressure treating process is designed to protect it from ground contact. Depending on the height of the retainer wall and if a fence is integrated on top, we traditionally use either a pressure treated 4x4 or 4x6 post. Many of our customers do select to upgrade to hidden steel posts for additional durability and lifespan.
Can I just replace a retaining wall if a fence is built on top of it?
Unfortunately, if you have a retaining wall with an integrated fence, we are only able to replace them together. We are not able to replace the retainer wall without also replacing the fence on top. We do get this question because people are seeing that their pressure treated retainer wall and posts are rotting and failing, but the fence boards look ok. We understand that some people are hoping we can reuse the fence panels, but unfortunately to do this it would take so much more labor time it would outweigh the saving of reusing the panels. In this instance it makes more structural and economic sense to replace them together at the same time.
Concrete Retaining Walls
Concrete retaining walls are more costly, but also significantly stronger than a wood retaining wall. There are two main types of concrete retaining walls, poured concrete and cinder block walls.
Poured concrete is more expensive, but also slightly stronger than a cinder block retaining wall. In some cases, older concrete retaining walls can be re-used with a new fence, but it ultimately depends on the structural integrity. The wall would need to be inspected first before the decision could be made.