Residential Retaining Walls: Interlocking Concrete Block -VS- Wood
Retaining walls are used in landscapes to limit vertical slopes and control soil erosion and they play a large role in the landscape aesthetic. As you begin to research and plan for your residential retaining wall project, you will find that the materials you choose to build with are extremely important. Materials play a key role in determining your budget, ease of construction, function, structural capabilities, durability, & overall aesthetics.
As there are many materials to choose from, all with their own pros and cons, it may seem overwhelming to narrow down your choices. When you consider the factors listed above and compare each material to one another, your decisions become much more informed and lead you to the best outcome. Keep in mind that every project is unique and differs based on personal taste, existing site conditions, functionality, and budget.
Two of the most commonly employed residential retaining wall materials today are interlocking concrete block & timber/wood.
In the past, timber retaining walls have been the preferred material in New England due to its wide availability, low cost, ease of construction, and the traditional local vernacular for aesthetic appeal. Unless you absolutely love the appearance of a timber retaining wall, stronger and more durable materials have become more readily available and stylistically accepted throughout the region.
Timber walls have a fairly limited life span as they rot and decompose over time. These effects can be exacerbated over time when unique environmental forces such as insects or poor drainage contribute to the deterioration.
Timber walls also lack the tensile and compressive strength that concrete block or natural stone possess. The massive amount of force and weight on the timbers, combined with the woods decomposition, cause inevitable failure.
As a design note, timber walls must be installed in straight & orthogonal runs, thus it limits your possibilities to create curved surfaces and that “natural” and flowing effect you may be looking for.
Interlocking Concrete Block
The benefits of using an interlocking concrete block for your project are numerous. They are widely available, low cost, easy and quick to install, unique and customizable with a wide variety of different styles and colors, provide infinite design possibilities, and can last for over a lifetime.
Interlocking Concrete block will not wear or lose its color over time, it is guaranteed for a lifetime. It can be a great substitute for more expensive natural stone and complements natural stone beautifully when used in conjunction. The strength of the block walls, installed with geo-textile fabric and enforcement to handle lateral force, allows for large loads to be held easily without any tilting or bowing of the wall and prevent against structural failure. The fast and easy construction allows for less labor, whether you are constructing it yourself or employing a professional, which will cut down labor costs and allow you to either stay under budget or take the savings and put it towards another aspect of your project.
As a design note, using concrete block allows for ultimate freedom. Manufacturing companies have many different product lines designed to cater to people’s differing styles and tastes. Color, size, finish (smooth or textured/natural), and shape are all variables that can be selected to suit each project. As mentioned before, using concrete block allows for curved surfaces and unique design ideas that wouldn’t be possible with wood.
The team at LCM PLUS is certified by ICPI and NCMA, meaning that we’re trained and licensed in the manufacturer-specified install process for concrete and interlocking bricks. This ensures we’ll perform any masonry services to the highest standards.
Another option entirely is natural stone walls. Quintessential New England, stone walls create a barrier while still creating a natural look. Create a whole new dimension to your entertaining area with our custom-designed, hand-crafted stone walls. Our natural field stone walls can be designed as a simple garden wall or a sitting wall to enjoy while relaxing with a book or dining with friends outdoors. The LCM PLUS team of skilled masons can work with existing plans or design & install a custom freestanding or retaining stone wall. Our process includes all aspects of construction from stone selection, retaining capability, drainage & structural engineering to deliver the highest quality craftsmanship.
LCM PLUS is a full-service, complete design and build landscape and irrigation company servicing both residential and commercial projects. Working with a proven professional like us means we will be there to work directly with you throughout the entire design and construction process and make your exterior landscaping visions a reality.
19 W Foster Street
Melrose, MA 02176