What are retaining walls?
Retaining walls in Colorado are structures designed to restrain soil to unnatural slopes. They are used to bound soils between two different elevations often in areas of terrain possessing undesirable slopes or in areas where the landscape needs to be shaped severely and engineered for more specific purposes like hillside farming or roadway overpasses. Retaining walls prevent downslope movement or erosion and provide support for vertical or near-vertical grade changes. Retaining walls are generally made of masonry, stone, brick, concrete, vinyl, steel, or timber.
The most important consideration in proper design and installation of retaining walls is that the retained material is attempting to move forward and down slope due to gravity. This creates a lateral earth pressure behind the wall which depends on the angle of internal friction (phi) and the cohesive strength (c) of the retained material, as well as, the direction and magnitude of movement and retaining structure undergoes. Lateral earth pressures are typically smallest at the top of the wall and increase toward the bottom. Earth’s pressures will push the wall forward or overturn it if it is not properly addressed. Also, any groundwater behind the wall that is not dissipated by a drainage system causes an additional horizontal hydrostatic pressure on the walls.
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