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Mechanically Stabilized Earth Retaining Wall

The weather is starting to warm up.  The nights are still chilly, but the days are becoming warmer.  We are well aware that spring is in the way.

At Kahn Engineering, we are thinking about retaining wall designs.  In fact we have already designed three retaining walls this year and are in the process of designing two more.  I thought, why not inform you, our valued audience, about the different types of retaining walls.

Concrete Cantilever Retaining Wall

This type of retaining wall relies heavily on the ability of the stem and footing to hold back the retained soil.  This type of retaining wall is one of the more expensive retaining walls due to the large excavation costs and massive amounts of concrete.  Even here, there are applications where this type is the best for the conditions.


Stand Up Concrete Retaining Walls

These are formed concrete on the horizontal and then stood up to fit in place.  The footing is excavated and poured in the traditional way, and then the vertical part of the retaining wall is attached to the footing.  This again is a more expensive way to build a retaining wall, but definitely does have it applications in taller walls.


Sheet Piling Walls

Sheet Piling Retaining Wall


You will often find sheet piling around ports near the ocean.  These walls require a large portion of the “sheet” to be placed in the ground.  The “sheet” is often rippled or corrugated to have the greatest amount of strength in moment.  These have been used in permanent situations, although most engineering documentation recommends that these be used in temporary situations.


Counterfort or Buttress Retaining Walls

A Buttress is visible or in front of the retaining wall, while the Counterfort is not visible or behind the retaining wall.  These “braces” if you will, can be applied years after the retaining wall is built to “save” a failing wall.  They do require some heavy construction techniques and are not the most easy of construction techniques to build, but can be very effective in the right situation.


Timber Retaining Walls



Most engineers are not fans of these types of walls.  They are prone to failure, due to the fact that they rarely have any type of anchor, so the soil pressure must be held back by the timbers.  Some homeowners build these in small walls (less than 3.0’ high), but do so at their own risk.


Gabion Retaining Walls

Gabion Retaining Wall

These types of retaining walls are very cost efficient and are excellent for along rivers and other bodies of water.  They are wire baskets that the contractor fills with large rock, on-site.  They stop erosion of the stream bank and prevent degradation of the slope going up.


Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Again, most engineers are not a fan of these.  Often the type of stone used in Kansas City area is natural stone quarried in the Kansas City area and is very soft in composition.  Splitting, cracking and failure within as little as 8 years is often seen.  Now if one was truck more solid and less permeable stone, these walls can work; still you would not consider this an engineered wall.


Mechanically Stabilized Earth Retaining Walls

retaining wall

Mechanically Stabilized Earth Retaining Wall

These are the most common, most economical and most widely used of the retaining walls that I have discussed in this blog.  Many manufacturers and a wide variety of shapes, patterns and colors can create very pleasing look.  In combination with trees, bushes, plants and architectural features, these can help create an outdoor living place.  These types of retaining walls can be used to provide a more usable and level area for your family and friends to enjoy. Mechanically Stabilized Earth Retaining Walls have been installed extensively for over 40 years and are a proven way to retain soil.


If you are interested in having a retaining wall build on your property, contact Kahn Engineering today. Contacting the engineer is the best place to start.  We can design an outdoor living place or just create a more level yard for your family.  The engineered retaining wall designed specifically for the conditions in your yard or business ensures the longest lasting and most durable wall for you.  Once you have a design that you and your family enjoys, you can take the plan set to the landscaper or contractor of your choice for the best built wall.