Retaining Walls Pittsburgh

“What is one to think of those fools who tell one that the artist is always subordinate to nature?  Art is in harmony parallel with nature.”
– Paul Cezanne

Retaining Walls in Pittsburgh

Retaining walls are a creative way to surround one or both sides of any sloped area of your Pittsburgh home or business, especially when embellished with decorative shrubs and vivacious garden flowers. The top edge of the retaining wall also offers the added opportunity for seasonal decoration, such as a row of alternating potted mums and grinning jack-o-lanterns to welcome autumn. The wall itself takes on a festive facade when draped with lush evergreen garland for the winter holidays.

Retaining walls are functional additions to your landscape, and they can be extremely attractive. Used to create level areas out of hillsides, they can provide you with additional areas for playing with the kids or gardening. If you have been considering the benefits of taking control of your landscape, then consider trusting Wichman Landscape Construction, a highly experienced Pittsburgh retaining wall contractor. Call us today at (412) 760-8524

Retaining walls come basically in two types, Natural Stone or a Segmented Retaining wall and within each type you have either gravity stacked wall or a reinforced wall.  The gravity stack wall resists the forces of failure such as overturning, tilting forward or global failure (forward movement at the foot of the wall) by the weight, depth and batter of the wall components.  Reinforced retaining walls are a composite system that include at least four (4) major components:  the blocks and footing, the use of horizontal layers of geogrid reinforcement, the selected soil fill and the drainage from within this component,  and the drainage rock and drain tubes behind the wall which can be expanded to meet ground water incursion behind the wall.

What to Consider When Building a Retaining Wall in Pittsburgh

When faced with the choice to build a retaining wall in Pittsburgh, Wichman Landscape Construction can assist by walking a client through the following steps to insure the proper questions have been asked.  They are:

  • Slope Stability:  Is there need for an analysis to examine the influence of all geometry, subsoil properties, ground water conditions, and slopes above and below the proposed retaining wall?  What is the long term global or slope stability assessment that needs to be addressed?
  • Settlement:  What are the type, thickness and compressibility of the foundation soils?  Are the conditions suitable for a wall or are there issues that need to be addressed?
  • Groundwater conditions need to be ascertained and verified.  The information should include:
    • current ground water levels,
    • seasonal fluctuations of ground water,
    • maximum previous ground water elevations,
    • regional ground water flow,
    • possible influence of the retaining wall on ground water flow and elevation, and
    • the potential for hydrostatic pressure or seepage on or in the selected soils and retained soils zones.
  • Seismic: if there is a potential for seismic activity, (highly unlikely in Western Pa.) then horizontal and vertical acceleration should be examined and considered.
  • Other issues to consider are:
    • relative location or other structures,
    • location of other engineered walls in the area,
    • subsurface mines,
    • steep slopes,
    • local building codes

What Type of Retaining Wall to Choose

Though there are only two types of walls; Natural Stone or Segmented, there are within each genus if you will a multitude of variants, designs and construction features.  All of which build off gravity and reinforced designs.

Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Natural stone walls have a certain timeless old world look about them.  In Western Europe, they have with stood the test of time in many varied settings since the Roman days and in South American, they served as the application of choice in Inca construction throughout the Andes.  If built right, they will be the longest lasting wall built especially when constructed with indigenous stone.  Furthermore, they can be less expensive to build than segmented retaining walls.  If we examine value, the order progression of lowest to most expensive in our geographical area is: repurposed Sandstone Block, Sandstone Boulders, Steppers, Ledge Stone, Pa. Mountain Stone, Field Stone, Colonial Stone, Sandstone veneer and lastly Limestone veneer.  Wichman has even repurposed Granite wall block that was shipped in from outside the Pittsburgh region to construct a retaining wall.  In retrospect, segmented concrete wall blocks can be a more expensive material to use and usually slot into the higher end of the preceding progression.

In days past and throughout the Greater Pittsburgh Metropolitan area, Sandstone block was the preferred material of choice to build retaining walls, seating or free standing walls, pillars and gate entrances.  Therefore, whether they are driveway walls, property walls or estate walls, there are an abundance of them in our area.  In all instances, Wichman has either repurposed or supplied new material to recreate the look and rebuild the walls in kind employing proper installation techniques.

Click on photo to read more about our natural stone designs and to view photos.

Segmented Retaining Walls

The construction of a Natural Stone Wall does require a skill set and experience factor that is slowly being lost as many of the craftsmen who have the experience retire. The crews employed by Wichman are artists in stone and their ability to work with Natural Stone is second nature.  They know how to shape, place, support and build Natural Stone Walls.  However, not all clients seek a natural stone product and prefer a segmented design using precast shaped concrete product. This product comes in many various sizes, shapes, colors and constructions/installation methods, all of which are familiar to Wichman Landscape Construction.  Generally speaking, they are either a concrete formed rectangular block that has interlocking features or they can be a concrete modular unit (cinderblock) that has either a brick or stone veneer mortared to it.

In the Western Pa. and specifically the Pittsburgh, Butler, and Beaver areas, Wichman specializes in installing segmented retaining walls in many various settings.

Whatever the design, retaining walls need to be able to withstand incredible pressure from the earth they are holding back.  Properly built walls can rise over fifty feet, allowing you to customize your landscape to your exact specifications.

Retaining walls will increase the value of your property and boost curb appeal. Whether you want a flat, clean area for a patio, pool or garden, a retaining wall can help you transform your landscape to meet your desires.

Wichman Landscape only uses the highest-quality blocks and proven construction methods to ensure that your retaining walls last for generations to come.  We will install blocks from the following recommended material manufacturers that supply wall system product into the Pittsburgh region:

Trust the experienced team at Wichman Landscape to build stable retaining walls in Pittsburgh that will last for generations. Call us today at (412) 760-8524 for a free estimate!

– Visit our retaining wall technical specifications page to learn and understand the basics of hardscape wall construction.

Mr. Wichman was very professional and knowledgeable. He replaced our back patio with a beautiful flagstone finish. The old patio was removed and excavated. New base of stone chips tamped down. Mr. Wichman was open to discussion as work was being completed to accommodate alterations in original plans. Work was completed in a very timely manner. The laborers were polite and hard working. They cleaned up very nicely after the project was completed. Thank you for your service manners, for your suggestions and one on one phone conversations.

Kathy B.

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