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Understanding the Functions of Concrete Retaining Walls


Technically, retaining walls are designed and constructed to resist the lateral pressure of soil. The lateral pressure could be from sand, liquid pressure, earth filling, or other coarse-grained materials behind the structure. In construction, they use various retaining wall structures for different purposes.

In the construction industry today, contractors do not need to create retaining walls in situ by making a mould and pouring mixed concrete into it. They have more options with the availability of precast retaining walls produced and cured in factories. These concrete retaining walls are already in the required sizes, shapes, heights, and weights, conforming to the requirements of the industry. Civil engineers use them to safeguard roadways and highways. They can reduce soil erosion and protect various places from saturation.

Types of retaining walls

The market has several types of retaining walls, each with a specific purpose. For the earth retaining wall, contractors use three basic types—cantilever or L-shaped, King post, which consists of posts and concrete panels, and gravity, which are large interlocking concrete blocks.

  • As mentioned, a cantilever retaining wall gets additional strength from the base, which goes deep into the soil to increase its capacity for pressure stabilisation. The base uses the weight of the soil to prevent the cantilever wall from sliding or overturning.
  • On the other hand, a King post wall has vertical steel columns installed into the ground. The posts are inserted at regular intervals, while the gaps are filled with horizontal concrete panels.
  • Gravity retaining walls are the simplest in design. This retaining wall holds back the earth using the weight of huge concrete blocks. These blocks interlock when stacked on top of each other. However, they require bigger foundations.

The best type of concrete retaining walls to use depends on the ground conditions on the construction site.

Functions of retaining walls

Retaining walls are strong structures that constantly fight against gravity. Thus, using the right type for your commercial site is critical. It would help if you have a professional assess the soil in the property and surrounding area before you start its development.

  • The most durable type of retaining wall is the anchored wall, which contractors may combine with other types. Anchored or cantilever walls drive the base deep into the soil or slope to increase stability.
  • For steep slopes, contractors use different techniques to hold back the soil, such as rock retaining walls, interlocking concrete blocks, terracing, and riprap. The construction engineer should follow local regulations when the retaining wall exceeds the required height.
  • Contractors maintain the correct angle to lean the retaining wall into the slope, which ensures the wall maintains a safe load. Moreover, the angle helps with drainage when the water oversaturates the soil.
  • Using the best precast concrete retaining wall for the job relies on the cost, height, and function of the retaining wall. For supporting large loads for structural purposes, durable and long-lasting concrete walls are suitable for the construction site conditions.

Although the contractor and construction engineers are responsible for using the right type of precast concrete retaining walls, it is also important for the commercial or agricultural property owner to know about them and understand why some areas in the property require a different type of retaining wall.