Can a Retaining Wall Protect My Foundation in South Carolina?

Jun 26, 2017

Categories: Foundations

As the premier foundation company, located in Charleston South Carolina, our professionals at CNT are often asked about retaining walls and how (or if) they can protect a home’s foundation in South Carolina.  Many people do not know that there can be a connection between your home’s foundation and retaining walls.  Most homeowners think of retaining walls as merely ornamental designs to complement sloping landscapes, add terracing, or for creating garden beds; however, there can be much more to retaining walls.

In this article, we will define and explain retaining walls, the benefits it offers a home’s foundation, the importance of surveys, signs that you should consider a retaining wall, the importance of surveys before installation, and cost.

What Is a Retaining Wall?

A retaining wall is a structure that holds soil behind it. There are many types of materials that can be used to create retaining walls such as concrete blocks, poured concrete, treated timbers, rocks or boulders. A retaining wall helps stem the movement of soil and control of the water flow. Soil that would drain in a heavy rain or blow away can be protected with the addition of a retaining wall. A retaining wall can become a part of a beautifully landscaped yard and help save your home’s foundation.

Before adding a retaining wall, consider the following:

Size. If the planned wall will be taller than 3 feet, there are you may want to contact Charleston’s city building permits department on restrictions. Also, consult with an engineer to determine soil conditions, drainage details, and construction specifications.

Building materials. Limestone is the material of choice because it naturally blends with the yard to complement the home–especially an older one. Many homeowners are opting for interlocking concrete block retaining walls because they cost less and their appearance has improved over the years.

Design ideas. There are myriad designs for your retaining wall.

  • Incorporate a fountain or water feature in your retaining wall
  • Include an outdoor fireplace in your retaining wall design
  • Install landscape lighting in your retaining wall
  • Include built-in bench seating in your retaining wall
  • For a finished look, have wall caps installed

How Can a Retaining Wall Benefit My Foundation in South Carolina?

Because your home’s foundation is affected by the soil underneath it, protecting your soil is an important part of foundation maintenance. When the soil under your home shifts, shrinks, swells or erodes, your foundation can be put at risk. A retaining wall can help move water appropriately, and therefore reduces the risk of soil erosion around your foundation.

Retaining walls also offer additional benefits, including:

  • Providing a strong foundation
  • Preventing sinkholes in your yard
  • Helping to prevent flooding
  • Protecting your yard from erosion
  • Reducing yard maintenance

How Do I Know If I Need a Retaining Wall in South Carolina?

There are several ways to determine if your home is a candidate for a retaining wall.

If you need a way to control downhill erosion, consider a retaining wall. If heaps of erosion materials are clogging important areas on your property, adding a retaining wall should be considered. Retaining walls minimize erosion by decreasing the angle of a slope and holding soil.

If your foundation is threatened by a sliding hill, consider a retaining wall. Erosion can threaten your home’s foundation and if the soil around a downhill foundation is washing away, or erosion from a slope is compacting an uphill foundation, a retaining wall can help.

Why are Surveys Important Before Installing a Retaining Wall in South Carolina?

Before installing a retaining wall on your property, it is best to have a land survey completed or seek professional input. Because retaining walls control the flow of water and prevent soil erosion, it can affect other areas of your home or even your neighbor’s home by moving water away from portions of the landscape that previously held water. Professionals who can properly minimize the impact of water flow changes can help you avoid unexpected problems. In addition, improperly constructed retaining walls will not offer the same benefits, so it is important to seek the input of professionals who can suggest materials and suitable designs for your retaining wall.

Retaining walls may not work in every area, but they may be a good option in some geographic locations. Consider the connection between your home and a retaining wall if you live in more sloping, uneven terrain, or are prone to soil erosion in your area.

How Much Will a Retaining Wall Cost in South Carolina?

The price of a retaining wall depends on its length, height, configuration, materials used, local labor rates and features (decorative or not).

  • Wooden retaining walls are the least expensive, averaging about $15 to $25 per square foot, including labor.
  • Retaining walls made of poured concrete or interlocking blocks cost about $25 to $50 per square foot, including labor.
  • Natural stone retaining walls, the most expensive, cost about $30 to $60 per square foot installed.

Budget extra if you want curved walls, lighting, steps or other upgrades. If you choose several decorative features, it could be as much as an additional $20 per square foot or more.

Should I Call a Professional or Install it Myself?

Because retaining walls can be expensive, many people consider tackling the job themselves. If you are not a skilled handyman, we advise consulting a professional. If improperly installed, a retaining wall is likely to crack or fail entirely and has the potential to damage your house and will most certainly damage your yard. The job requires significant skill and experience and unless you have the skills and experience, we recommend a professional.

Your home’s foundation is worth the investment of a retaining wall. The value a retaining wall provides your foundation cannot be overstated. Aside from the aesthetics, a retaining wall can help protect your home’s foundation. The purchase of a home is one of the largest investments you will make -ensure that the foundation is properly protected.  Contact CNT to further discuss your home’s foundation and how we can help protect’s foundation and how we can help protect it.