A sloped lot would be great if you lived at a ski resort, but as a homeowner in Wilmette, IL, you would rather have the majority of your land be as usable as possible. A retaining wall can make the most of your backyard space, whether it involves a slope or you have a need to prevent erosion. Here are some landscape design tips on how to add functionality to your backyard with retaining walls.
What Is a Retaining Wall?
A retaining wall holds back soil, stabilizes slopes, and creates functional space at different elevations of a lot. But it doesn’t have to be all about function—a beautifully built retaining wall can become an attractive focal point in your landscape.
For instance, think about the hilly slopes of the Mediterranean—they require the use of terraces to create functional land. You can do the same in Wilmette; with the help of landscape design experts, you can create your own backyard oasis!
Water and wind can turn a beautiful landscape into a series of muddy gorges that cause water and soil to flow downhill and potentially cause damage, not only to your landscape but potentially the foundation of your house as well. Retaining walls help reduce water runoff by leveling the land, supporting the soil, and providing adequate drainage. Drainage pipes can be integrated into the wall’s construction, and level terraces allow water to absorb into the soil, especially when heavy rains can cause soil to become saturated.
Add Functional Space, Fun, and Drama
One way to incorporate retaining walls into your landscape design is through a series of terraces that create visually stunning and functional outdoor rooms. You could also extend your entertaining space by having low retaining walls double as extra seating; with taller walls, built-in seating will achieve the same effect of clutter-free seating for large gatherings.
Once the terraces are in place, there are many options for maximizing their usefulness: intimate seating areas, a gourmet outdoor kitchen, multi-level play areas, edible or ornamental gardens, a hot tub, cascading waterfalls, a meditation space, a plain-air painting spot—the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!
Bring in Convenience and Utilities
Retaining walls offer spots in your landscape to install low-voltage lighting, as well as discreetly hide electrical and gas lines to an outdoor kitchen or spa. Utilities concealed behind retaining walls do away with dangerous extension cords, further adding to the functionality provided by these walls.
Choosing the Right Materials
Retaining walls are a visually dominant feature, so the right design and the right materials matter. Stacked stone walls are gorgeous in traditional or rustic settings. Or, to achieve a sleek, modern, and unified look, you could opt for stones that match your existing hardscape features.
The choice of materials goes beyond the face of the wall—consider the visual and functional effect of any steps you’ll have installed that unify various levels; columns that define spaces and provide support for outdoor lighting; as well as the design details. Do you want the cap stones to be the same color as the wall for unity, or would a contrasting color make the wall stand out?
Work with a landscape professional to get ideas, and to ensure that your retaining walls are functional, durable, and beautiful.