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A retaining wall is a
A retaining wall is a structure that
holds back earth. Retaining walls stabilize soil and rock from
down slope movement or erosion and provide support for vertical
or near-vertical grade changes. Cofferdams and bulkheads,
structures to hold back water, are sometimes also considered
retaining walls. Retaining walls are generally made of masonry,
stone, brick, concrete, steel or timber. Once popular as an
inexpensive retaining material, railroad ties have fallen out of
favor due to environmental concerns.
Behind the Wall
The most important consideration in
proper design and installation of retaining walls is that the
retained material is attempting to move forward and down slope
due to gravity. This creates a soil pressure behind the wall
(depending on the angle of internal friction (phi) and the
cohesive strength (c) of the material). This pressure is
smallest at the top and increases toward the bottom and will
push the wall forward or overturn it if nor properly addressed.
Also any groundwater behind the wall that is not dissipated by a
drainage system causes an additional horizontal hydraulic
pressure on the wall.
Traditional Mortared Stone
Walls: Mortared stone walls evolved out of dry-stack stone work
with the emergence of cement mortars. The first cements were
made of burnt gypsum or lime mixed with water to make a paste
with slight bonding capability. Stone walls still had to be
built as carefully as they were without mortar. The cement paste
just filled the gaps between the stones and cured to form a
soft, rock-like substance.