What is the difference between a garden wall and a retaining wall?
This is a question that many homeowners ask themselves when planning their landscaping projects.
While both types of walls can serve a functional and aesthetic purpose, there are some key differences between them.
In this article, we will explore the differences between garden walls and retaining walls and help you determine which one is right for your property.
- Retaining walls are designed to hold back soil and prevent erosion, while garden walls are decorative structures that add visual interest to your yard.
- Safety considerations are important when building both types of walls, including proper drainage and adequate reinforcement.
- Whether you choose to build a garden wall or a retaining wall, consider hiring a professional landscaper to ensure that your wall is built safely and to code.
Key Differences Between Garden and Retaining Walls
1. Functional Differences
The primary difference between garden and retaining walls is their function.
Garden walls are designed to create a decorative boundary for a garden or yard and are typically no more than 3 feet tall.
They can be made from a variety of materials such as concrete, brick, natural stone, or wood.
Retaining walls, on the other hand, are built to hold back soil and prevent erosion.
They are typically taller than garden walls and are made from more durable materials such as concrete or natural stone.
2. Differences in Materials
Garden walls are usually made from lighter materials like wood or brick, while retaining walls are made from heavier materials like concrete or natural stone.
Garden walls can be made from a variety of materials, but they are typically less expensive and less durable than retaining walls.
Retaining walls, on the other hand, are built to withstand the weight of soil and water, so they are made from more durable materials that can support the weight without cracking or breaking.
3. Cost Differences
The cost of a garden wall is typically less than a retaining wall because they are smaller and made from less expensive materials.
The cost of a garden wall can vary depending on the materials used, but it is generally less expensive than a retaining wall.
Retaining walls are more expensive because they are larger and require more expensive materials like concrete or natural stone.
The cost of a retaining wall can vary depending on the size and materials used, but it is generally more expensive than a garden wall.
4. Differences in Installation
The installation of a garden wall is typically easier and less time-consuming than a retaining wall.
Garden walls can be installed by homeowners with basic DIY skills, while retaining walls require a professional installation.
Retaining walls require more preparation, such as excavation and leveling, and require more advanced construction techniques.
Garden walls can be installed using simple techniques such as stacking bricks or laying concrete blocks, while retaining walls require more complex techniques such as interlocking blocks or poured concrete.
|Typically less than 3 feet
|Taller than 3 feet
|Decorative boundary for garden or yard
|Hold back soil and prevent erosion
|Lighter materials like wood or brick
|Heavier materials like concrete or natural stone
|Easier and less time-consuming
|Requires professional installation and more advanced construction techniques
TWO Safety Considerations for Both Walls
When building a garden or retaining wall, safety should be your top priority. Here are some key safety considerations to keep in mind for both types of walls.
1. Foundation and Stability
A solid foundation is essential for both garden and retaining walls.
Without a proper foundation, the wall can shift or collapse, potentially causing injury or property damage.
For garden walls, a level base is typically sufficient. However, for retaining walls, a more extensive foundation may be necessary to ensure stability.
When building a retaining wall, it’s important to consider the weight of the soil and any structures it will be supporting.
The first course of blocks should be level and properly aligned to ensure the wall is stable. Backfilling behind the wall can also help provide additional support.
2. Drainage and Erosion
Proper drainage is crucial for both garden and retaining walls. Without adequate drainage, water can build up behind the wall, causing erosion and potentially compromising the wall’s stability.
For garden walls, a simple drainage system may be sufficient, such as a layer of gravel or a perforated pipe. For retaining walls, a more elaborate drainage system may be necessary, such as a French drain or a series of weep holes.
Erosion is another concern for both types of walls. Soil erosion can cause the wall to shift or collapse, potentially causing injury or property damage.
To prevent erosion, it’s important to backfill behind the wall with a suitable material, such as gravel or crushed stone. Additionally, planting vegetation behind the wall can help stabilize the soil and prevent erosion.
Utilizing Walls in Landscape Design
When it comes to landscape design, walls can serve a variety of purposes. They can create usable land space, incorporate into hardscaping, or act as decorative elements. Understanding the differences between garden walls and retaining walls is crucial to selecting the right wall for your landscaping needs.
1. Creating Usable Land Space
Walls can be used to create usable land space by retaining slopes and leveling out uneven terrain.
Retaining walls are designed to hold back soil and prevent erosion, allowing for the creation of flat surfaces.
This can be especially useful for creating flower beds, patios, or seating areas.
2. Incorporating Walls into Hardscaping
Walls can also be used to incorporate hardscaping elements into your landscape design.
For example, a solid stone seating wall can be built into a patio to provide additional seating and visual interest.
Additionally, landscape walls can be used to define different areas of your landscape, such as separating a garden from a lawn.
3. Walls as Decorative Elements
Finally, walls can be used as decorative elements in your landscape design.
Garden walls are typically shorter and used for aesthetic purposes, such as lining a landscape feature or creating a boundary between different areas of your yard.
These walls can be made of a variety of materials, including brick, stone, or concrete, and can be designed to complement the style of your home and landscape.
Professional vs DIY Wall Building
If you’re considering building a garden wall or a retaining wall, you may be wondering whether to hire a professional or tackle the project as a DIY.
Here are some factors to consider when deciding between the two options.
1. Cost and Time Considerations
One of the most significant factors to consider when deciding whether to hire a professional or build a wall yourself is the cost and time involved.
While hiring a professional may seem expensive upfront, it can save you time and money in the long run.
Professionals have the experience and tools necessary to complete the job efficiently and correctly.
On the other hand, building a wall yourself can be a cost-effective option, especially if you have some experience with DIY projects.
However, keep in mind that it may take longer to complete the project, and you may need to purchase or rent tools and materials.
2. Tools and Materials Needed
Whether you decide to hire a professional or build the wall yourself, you will need some tools and materials. Here are some of the essential tools and materials needed for building a garden wall or a retaining wall:
|Building Material (e.g., bricks, concrete blocks, railroad ties)
Professionals typically have all the necessary tools to complete the job, and they may have access to better quality materials.
However, if you decide to build the wall yourself, you can purchase or rent the tools and materials needed from a local hardware store.
Retaining walls are designed to hold back soil and prevent erosion, while garden walls are primarily used for decorative purposes. Retaining walls are typically taller and stronger than garden walls, and they require a higher level of construction expertise to ensure they are built to code and can withstand the weight of the soil they are holding back.
Ultimately, the choice between a retaining wall and a garden wall depends on your specific needs and preferences. By understanding the differences between the two types of walls, you can make an informed decision and create the perfect outdoor space for you and your family to enjoy.