The Significance of Retaining Walls

No doubt you’ll have seen many retaining walls in your life, but most likely without realising! What exactly are they? Simply put, retaining walls are a solution to problems presented by sloping land. You’ve probably walked along plenty of paths with retaining walls next to you. You notice that the soil on the other side of the wall begins right at the top of the wall. As you can see, this wall allows for the path and road to continue unimpeded without having to excavate a huge portion of the bank. Retaining walls are both functional and offer visual interest. They are a clever solution to the problem of heavily banked land and have a huge role to play in creating roadways around the country. If you need retaining wall construction in Leeds then KDS Construction are the company for you.

How Does a Retaining Wall Work?

It’s difficult to describe the various types of retaining walls without a picture, so here is an image from wikipedia detailing typical retaining walls:
Typical Retaining Wall function
Image was taken from

1) A gravity wall mainly holds the earth through its own weight. These are the quickest and easiest to install, but come with a warning. Because they are only held by their own weight, the stresses from the bank can be too much. Gravity walls fail easily and should only be used on low slopes.

2) A piling wall’s success depends on the pile’s resistance to deflection. Given that the pile goes deep into the ground, the only way it can fail is by bending.

3) Cantilever walls have an additional arm that extends out of the bottom into the earth. This arm receives downward pressure, counteracting the horizontal force. This arm presents a solution to the problems with gravity walls.

4) This is the strongest type of retaining wall. An anchored wall has cables that extend will into the soil/rock that are fixed by small anchors. Anchored walls can withstand huge force.
There are variations also, but these four ideas encompass the bigger picture of what makes a retaining wall.

What Considerations are there?

Even where banks are shallow and retaining walls aren’t particularly high, they are still subject to constant force. There are a number of considerations to make in order to determine a successful solution. For example, the higher the slope, the more difficult it is to successfully install a wall successfully. Excavation is particularly dangerous where the slope’s integrity isn’t known. Higher slopes shouldn’t be tackled without professional input. Will the soil and your wall be subject to frost in your country’s climate? Does your soil have a high clay content? How well does it drain? What other engineered structures are located, or will be located, near or adjacent to the wall? How does this factor into the wall’s construction?

Immediately we’re presented with a long list of variables that all have a bearing on the final outcome. A successful retaining wall needs to be the right type for the specific situation. For example, poorly draining soil that is easily saturated can mean drainage tiles are needed behind the wall. These tiles stop built up water having such a detrimental effect on the longevity of the wall.

There are a number of possible materials that can be used. Of course, smaller retaining walls that are subject to less force have more scope for choice. Natural stone and brick look stunning, but are also costly. Wood is a very attractive option but doesn’t have the strength to cope with large walls. Contrary to what most would assume, concrete is a poor choice if a large wall is needed because of its poor drainage qualities. Naturally, the material needs to suit the job. Small walls are relatively inexpensive but it’s tricky to quantify without looking at the specific situation.


There are some restrictions in place when it comes to installing retaining walls. It is a very dangerous process to undertake without sufficient experience which is why big jobs are designated for professionals. It is best talk with your local building authorities to seek advice on your project; whether it’s something you can go ahead and undertake yourself, if you need to acquire a permit, or if an external engineer needs to be hired.

Add Aesthetic Value

As civil engineers, our jobs involving retaining walls have typically been large in scale. While most retaining wall jobs come with practicality in mind, they double as wonderful aesthetic characteristics of landscape design. A skilful landscape architect can use shallow retaining walls to great effect to achieve beautiful results.

KDS Construction are fully licensed and skilled in the implementation of retaining walls. It’s a job that absolutely needs to be done with the correct knowledge and care. Retaining walls are an important aspect of allowing new roadways to be built, so our ever-expanding network of connectivity can continue to grow.

See some of our projects here on YouTube:



B5 Taylors Cl, Parkgate,
South Yorkshire,

S62 6NU,
United Kingdom.

Tel: 01709 845765



Follow us on:

Comments for this post are closed.