How can I secure a brick terrace

Building retaining walls: the best solutions

Retaining walls are built if you cannot or do not want to compensate for a difference in height in the garden with a planted embankment for reasons of space or personal preferences. You can either support the slope with a single high wall or terracing it with several small terraces, so that you then have several small beds or, better, bed strips for planting. Depending on the difference in height, retaining walls in the hillside garden do real hard work, which places certain demands on the material and its construction.

Retaining walls: the essentials in brief

Retaining walls are used to compensate for differences in height in the garden and to support slopes. A stable foundation made of compacted gravel or a concrete strip foundation is important. Backfilling of gravel or crushed stone is also required, and drainage in the case of loamy soils. Plant rings, natural stones, gabions, concrete blocks or L-stones can be used to build a retaining wall.

How are retaining walls constructed?

You can't just build higher walls on it, from 120 centimeters you should get professional help, from a height of two meters a structural engineer is required. This also determines the dimensioning of the necessary foundation. Because the earth load pressing on the wall should not be underestimated; if the planning is poor, the retaining wall can give way or even break. It is best to inquire with the building authority before building whether you need a building permit.

The actual construction of the retaining wall can be done by skilled do-it-yourselfers - but it is a show of strength, real hard work and only makes sense up to 120 centimeters wall height. Otherwise you'd better let a gardener and landscaper do the work.

The be-all and end-all: stable foundations

Depending on the type of soil, construction and material of the wall, compacted gravel or a concrete strip foundation are required as the foundation, which should always be slightly wider than the lowest brick. The width of a retaining wall should be one third of the height. The foundation always rests on a compacted layer of gravel as drainage and often consists of concrete of the medium strength class C12 / 15. For smaller retaining walls, compacted gravel in a 40 centimeter deep trench and a 10 to 20 centimeter thick concrete layer is usually sufficient to compensate. Really solid or mortared walls or retaining walls from 120 centimeters in height need at least 80 centimeters deep, frost-proof strip foundations. A heavyweight wall is made stable by a wide foot, which should be a good third of the height of the wall. Remember to leave a good 40 centimeters between the foundation and the slope, into which you pour the backfill. In order to build the foundation, a wooden boarding is recommended to protect against earth sliding down.

Heavyweights are in demand

In order to be able to counter the pressure of the earth, retaining walls have to be heavy and inclined towards the slope, so that the center of gravity also inclines towards the slope - like a dam wall, only for earth instead of water. The steeper and higher the slope, the more weight a retaining wall has to oppose it.

Retaining walls not only have to cope with the pressure of the earth, but also with rain and seepage water, which like to wash away the earth or undermine the wall. Therefore, backfilling of gravel and gravel and, in the case of loamy soils, drainage is necessary in order to keep possible soil water away from the wall from the start. The drainage pipe required for drainage comes into a layer of gravel on the back of the foundation and ends at the edge of the wall or in a drainage shaft.

What does the necessary backfill look like?

One side of the retaining wall inevitably has ground contact and therefore has to deal with seepage water, which can endanger frost resistance. To keep the water out, depending on the nature of the soil and the type of wall, a drainage pipe is built at the foot of the wall, which is particularly necessary for structures that are almost impermeable to water. All types of retaining walls are backfilled with a sand-gravel mixture or chippings. If possible, cover this layer upwards with a garden fleece, as it is still covered with topsoil and no earth should seep into the gravel. If the retaining wall contains cavities, as is the case with gabions or dry stone walls, you should also use fleece to protect the back from seeping in soil.

Plant rings, plant stones or embankment stones are stones that are open at the top and bottom and are cast from concrete and are available in round or square shapes. Round specimens with an indentation are particularly popular for fastening on slopes. They offer a great deal of design freedom and curves are also possible. The real highlight, however, is that the stones can be filled with gravel and earth and planted. The filling makes planting rings heavy enough for a retaining wall and can also take on the oppressive earth on a slope. The individual elements are stacked together and shifted slightly to the rear from row to row, so that there is a visible slope towards the slope. Only in this way is part of the stones always open and makes planting possible in the first place. A retaining wall made of plant rings requires 30 centimeters of compacted gravel and ten centimeters of concrete as a foundation, from a height of one meter it should be 60 centimeters or 20 centimeters.

Place the first row of stones in damp concrete so that the stones are about halfway in the ground. Important: Since the stones are open at the top, rainwater inevitably runs into them. So make drainage grooves under each stone in the still damp concrete so that no water can collect in the stones in the bottom row. To ensure that the water drains off well, fill the first row of stones one-third with gravel. If you want to plant the rings, the soil is then added. Plant rings are an inexpensive variant of retaining walls, but not everyone's cup of tea. A ring costs between two and three euros, large versions with a length of 40 centimeters around eight euros.

Natural stone suits every garden style and is used on slopes with or without mortar - either as a dry stone wall or as a classically brick garden wall, with dry stone walls being the most popular. Even natural stone blocks cut to the right shape can be stacked to form a wall without mortar. In this case, it is important to have a secure installation bond, i.e. no cross joints. Retaining walls made of natural stone are quite expensive, however, for a 120 centimeter high sandstone wall with a foundation you can quickly pay 370 euros per meter and more.

Support the slope with gabions

With gabions, metal baskets filled with stones are basically stacked on top of one another. Gabions stand on a frost-proof foundation strip made of concrete or mineral concrete. This is a mixture of rock grains of different sizes and water to be compacted, but without cement. Such a foundation is stable, but permeable to water. The individual mesh baskets are mounted directly on the foundation - first the floor element and then the side parts, which are connected with wire spirals or wire according to the manufacturer's instructions. The baskets themselves are usually stiffened with spacer rods on the inside. The installation instructions tell you where to attach them. There are several gabion baskets next to each other in a long retaining wall. In this case, you can do without one of the neighboring mesh walls and simply save double mesh walls, so that the connecting material always holds three mats together - two front pieces and one side wall. In the case of multi-row gabion walls, first set up one layer completely and then fill in the loose stones. If a second row is planned, close the filled baskets in the lower row and put another one on top. First fill in a leveling layer made of fine material before inserting the filler stones. In this way, possible cavities are compensated for by settlement. The leveling layer must be matched to the size of the filler stones.

The price of such a garden wall is made up of the cost of the baskets and the type of filler stone and therefore fluctuates. A basket two meters long, one meter high and 52 centimeters deep with a filling of basalt rubble or greywacke costs around 230 euros. In addition, there are the costs for the foundation with roughly 50 euros per meter in self-construction.

Concrete palisades to secure the slope

Concrete blocks are installed row by row like natural stones and, depending on their nature, either mortared, glued or just stacked in a modular system so that the stones hold by their own weight. Concrete palisades are available in round or square shapes and in lengths of up to 250 centimeters. But mostly you will use them to support smaller slopes. They stand vertically with a third of their height in the ground and do not lean against the slope. In order to support the slope effectively, the palisades get a bedding made of earth-moist concrete - at least the medium strength class C12 / 15. The concrete is given a layer of gravel with a maximum thickness of 20 centimeters as drainage and should be conical, so a so-called concrete shoulder is built behind and in front of the palisade. When building, use a taut mason's cord as a guide so that the palisades have a neat alignment and an even height. Tip: Some palisades taper towards the top due to the manufacturing process. For an even picture, place small wooden wedges or similar as spacers between the individual elements until the concrete has hardened and the palisades stand by themselves.

The prices for concrete palisades fluctuate and depend on the length and thickness. They start at two to three euros for simple round palisades with a fuller and go up to over 40 euros for an elaborate model that is 80 centimeters high. That brings you to almost 300 euros per meter.

Secure the slope with L-stones

Retaining walls made of exposed concrete can be built from so-called L-bricks. One surface of the L-shaped concrete elements lies securely on the ground or in a thin concrete bed on a foundation, while the piece protruding upwards supports the slope. The foot does not point, as one might think, like a crane boom into the garden, but always into the slope. So the weight of the slope is on the foot of the L-stones and they certainly do not fall over forwards. The angles come in different sizes and they are all difficult. A stable foundation is therefore necessary. Such walls can often only be built on your own with machines - the stones are simply too heavy. A brick made of exposed concrete with the dimensions 120 x 65 x 50 centimeters weighs over 200 kilograms, with 60 x 40 x 32 centimeters it still weighs almost 60 kilograms. The individual angle brackets are usually set with a certain joint spacing so that the stones can compensate for temperature fluctuations. The joints are then made waterproof with joint sealing tape. The prices for the stones are of course based on their size, they start at around ten euros for 60 x 40 x 40 centimeters.