The function of a retaining wall is to "dam the earth," so to speak – they are used to prevent erosion and slippage in areas marked by steep, sudden declines to more level ground. The overall effect is, essentially, a flattening of the sloped ground, bringing stability and greater ease of maintenance to the landform.
Retaining wall designs have many applications, from improving road safety to adding a touch of decorative accentuation to your yard or garden. The latter is the most common application for homeowners, though they frequently also serve the practical purpose of stabilizing the elements above the wall.
Broadly speaking, there are four main types of retaining walls:
If you're wondering how to build a retaining wall of your own, the first thing to do is anticipate the size of the load it will bear. In most yards, it will be modest, leaving you free to consider the aesthetic as well as practical features of the wall.
Segmental retaining walls combine principles of mechanical interlock and mass resistance to create a tiered wall which looks sharp, especially in wraparound or circular forms. You can also add touches of creative flair by choosing retaining wall blocks with special textures or designs, or by creating a patterned appearance by varying the colors, shapes or sizes of the blocks you use.