Be it for a raised bed or a retaining wall, when it comes to materials for garden walling there is a lot more available to you then using just simple brick. That’s not to say brick walls aren’t good in the garden, they are, and it can be nice to use bricks that match your house wall, it’s just there are a lot of alternatives available to you, which might look better for your situation.
What’s the best type of material to use for a retaining wall?
Retaining walls do need to be strong, so it’s important whatever you choose has the strength to retain the soil behind it. If you want something very decorative, then you could have a block wall that actually retains the soil, and then put the decorative part of the wall attached at the front to the blocks.
You can also use timber for retaining walls, but it doesn’t have the lifespan of brick or stone walls, even if it’s pressure treated. Timber walls should last at least 15 to 20 years and are a much cheaper alternative to brick.
What type of wall should you use for a raised planter?
This will all depend upon the style of your garden and house. If you have a contemporary style, then rendered blocks can look really good. There are renders available these days that don’t require you to ever paint them because the colour is already in the render, and this cuts down on the maintenance.
Climate will also play a factor as to what type of wall you use, for example the tiles you see in the Mediterranean, will simply not work in frosty locations.
Consider using local stone and rock, as they can look really nice. If you create really straight edges, you can have local stone look very contemporary. If you want a more rustic feel, then use lots of different size stones and have them with not quite such defined straight edges.
Basically, the more perfect and straight edged the material is, the more contemporary it will look, the more uneven or rounded the material, the more rustic or traditional it will look.
How deep should your wall be?
It will depend upon how much soil the wall has to retain, and also if you are planning to sit on the wall. I like to have walls constructed that are at least 20 cm deep, which makes for a nice seat, especially if the wall is about 45 cm high.
I find the walls that are only one course of brick deep, always look a bit puny, even if they are low walls, so visually having a double course of brick, does look better, even if you don’t need it.
It is important to waterproof behind the wall
Having a waterproof lining on the parts of the wall that are touching soil, is essential. This is especially the case with rendered walls, as it stops the water getting in behind the render and damaging it, and also staining it. There are special bitumen paints that you can use, or plastic sheeting etc, anything really that will protect the wall from having contact with the soil is beneficial.
How to correctly position retaining walls
Whenever you put a wall in a garden, no matter how low it is, your eyes will immediately come to a full stop at the wall. Even if there is a large area of garden behind the wall, your eyes will still stop at the wall. Therefore it’s really important that any steps that you are going to put in to get to the next level line up with the main windows or doors that you use. Steps will automatically lead your eyes from the lower level to the upper level of the garden.
Also, just because there is a change in level at a certain point down the garden, doesn’t mean that you have to have your retaining wall go straight the way across. You can curve or stagger the retaining wall to create more interest.
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