Retaining walls are landscape architectural walls that level slope and retain grade. This lends a vertical dimension to the property and is very essential to any concealed grade, drainage, or irrigation system present. Landscape retaining walls also contribute aesthetic to the Houston landscape by pointing to key structures and areas of special interest.
If you have a slope of any kind in your yard, you will probably need a landscape retaining wall to help support any custom hardscape design, outdoor architecture, or garden design you have done on your property. If you have children, you may also need a retaining wall to level out a portion of the yard as a play area or sports practice field.
Safety is always at the forefront of the design whenever we build such a structure. To prevent children, adults, and pets from falling off the top of the wall, we will build it next to an outdoor room, an outdoor building, or a planting bed of some sort. Only the decorative side of the wall will then be left facing the landscape. The other side of the wall will be blocked off by either softscape elements or outdoor structures.
Landscape retaining walls are can be constructed in front of arbors, near trees as tree preservation structures, and near any patio or Houston driveway that requires additional grade. One of the most common places where we build retaining walls is the perimeter of a courtyard or garden outdoor room. This sets the interior apart from the surrounding landscape just enough to generate a special space with mood altering properties and its own unique magic.
The best materials to use for building a landscape retaining wall are natural materials or materials that appear natural at face value. Native stone and timbers are two purely natural elements that will compliment most Houston backyard landscapes with a sense of untamed freedom. Many manmade materials can also be made to look natural and fulfill the same intent with very similar results.
Decorative concrete brick, for instance, can be obtained in almost any color or pattern. It is also considerably less expensive than other construction materials. Another material can be an amalgam of small stones ranging from three to six inches in height. When mortared together, they can create a superb mosaic pattern. Of course, traditional mortared brick is always an option as well. While it is more expensive than other materials, it is an ideal compliment for formal hardscapes such as bluestone patios and outdoor tile work.
When working in a contemporary landscape, we may use steel or concrete to build a retaining wall. Such a structure presents a stark, imposing contrast when juxtaposed against patterns of gravel and Spartan hardscapes. In fact, any materials used in modern landscapes are sometimes very avant garde compared to those used in more traditional landscape designs. Materials are ultimately selected based on color, geometric compliment, and textural similarity to other landscape forms.
There are many things we can do to make any landscape retaining wall look magnificently aesthetic. One method we often employ is to build it with a deliberately informal look. We hand lay whatever building materials we are using to create a more random, natural design—like something you would find in the forest or in the mountains next to a river.
Natural, dry laid stone is an excellent choice for this type of work because it literally can be stacked by hand to mimic natural rock outcroppings. Boulders and larger stones constitute the ends of the wall, while smaller stones comprise the middle and the top portions of its structure. Other kinds of rock can also be randomly arranged and mortared either to one another or to a concrete base wall concealed behind the stone edifice.
Still another way to make a landscape retaining wall highly decorative is to build it with a secondary function clearly apparent to all. This can be anything from the base for a fence, a seat wall, the entryway to an arbor or summer kitchen, or the base for a fence or architectural wall.