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Landscaping: Retaining Walls

Calgary Landscaping Services - Retaining Walls


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Retaining walls are an essential part of most landscapes in Calgary, but they don't need to be strictly functional. With proper design and construction, a good retaining wall will truly transform your space, increasing its function value and visual appeal.

There are many different types of construction materials available for retaining walls, including poured in place concrete, treated wood , natural stone or one of the many varieties of modular pre cast block. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the design process can help you determine which one is best for your project.

Many of the modular concrete block products have stir materials that work well with their products. In this case, dimensional steps combined with Belvedere Walling were used to retain this side yard into a sitting area, path and planted terraces.

Coda is another modular block that's made to mimic natural stone. In this case, we used it to create a modern contemporary style retaining wall with strong linear lines, or contrast that with a Pisa 2 wall used in this case to create a more curvilinear shape.

Retaining walls could be used to great effect to increase curb appeal, providing practical level spaces for garden beds and a greater visual impact. Local Rundle stone shines in an informal style or in a dry pack style, with each piece shaped and fitted by hand. Natural armour stone from the Canadian Shield is suitable where a larger format walling material is desired.

Steps could be constructed from the same material for a pleasing colour and texture match. This product is Rosetta outcropping, and it is designed to mimic natural stone in a larger format. Again, from a design standpoint, it is important to choose retaining wall materials that are appropriate for each situation.

Treated timbers are still a strong and functional product in the landscape. They're economical and a good fit for many situations.

We hope this is inspired you to give the wide variety of materials and design options for attaining walls some serious consideration, and above all, make sure it is designed and built correctly so your investment will last and provide enjoyment for years to come.

Comparison of retaining wall options

Here's a comparison of the different types of retaining walls:

  • Treated Wood Retaining Walls: Treated wood retaining walls are a popular choice due to their affordability and ease of installation. They are typically constructed using pressure-treated lumber, which is resistant to rot and insect damage. However, they have a shorter lifespan compared to other materials, typically lasting 10-15 years. They may also be vulnerable to water damage and may require regular maintenance to prevent rotting.
  • Stone Block Retaining Walls: Stone block retaining walls are durable and can last for many decades with proper installation and maintenance. They are resistant to rot, insect damage, and water damage, making them a great option for areas with heavy rainfall or water runoff. They can also provide an attractive aesthetic, as they are available in a range of natural colors and textures.
  • Natural Rock Retaining Walls: Natural rock retaining walls are similar to stone block retaining walls, but they use uncut or minimally processed rocks instead of blocks. They can provide a natural look that blends well with the surrounding landscape, but they may be more difficult to install and may require more extensive excavation work.
  • Concrete Retaining Walls: Cement retaining walls are strong and durable, making them a good option for large or heavy loads. They are also resistant to water damage and can last for many decades. However, they may be more expensive than other materials, and they may not provide as much aesthetic appeal as stone or natural rock walls.

In summary, the best type of retaining wall for your project will depend on several factors, including the size and scope of the project, the desired aesthetic, and the site conditions. Stone block retaining walls and natural rock retaining walls may be the most visually appealing, while cement and treated wood retaining walls may be better suited for heavy loads or harsh weather conditions.

Retaining wall to define spaces with beautiful design - Auburn Bay 003 landscaping project

Our designing team used retaining walls blocks create level spaces in a unique design that splits the yard into spaces. The design provided different level flat areas including a unique lounging area in the center of the yard which has artificial grass and therefore is low maintenance. This main level is a perfect location to lay down on a blanket and enjoy the sun and view of the lake. This center focal point is at the house level which then steps down to the main patio areas. By splitting up the yard, the retaining wall blocks also act as a seating area around the yard for larger gatherings or family events. One of the goals with the use of retaining walls in this backyard project was to have a large area of patio at the sand and lake level. Closer to the side of the yard, the retaining walls created a large patio and seating area with a gas firepit. This landscape design using the retaining wall blocks has a modern and unique feel from a visual standpoint, but also made almost all areas of the backyard useable space.

View the project page for more landscaping photos, videos and information.

patio steps down towards the lake using stone block retaining walls
artificial turf and paver patio design
landscape design from paver patio to sand beach
fake grass in beachfront backyard
modern patio and lounging area
warm evening nights with mordern gas fireplace
large backyard patio with Dynasty paver slabs
retaining walls used stone blocks

Acreage retaining walls with large natural armour stone - Bearspaw 001 landscaping project

Large natural stone which had to be shipped in as it isn’t available locally. The stone will be sent by shipping containers, therefore over a period of time, our crew was unloading shipped containers until the product was here to do the job. Often if the client job is designed in fall or winter, the timing to receive the natural stones works out well in advance of the start of the landscape construction in the Spring.

Building a retaining wall with large natural stone is timely process as each stone is not equal in dimensions, therefore to create level retaining, these large stones have to be flipped around and moved multiple times to gain the proper look and level of each terrace. Labour costs can be much greater with natural stone due to the installation and placement of these uneven stones, but the final product is really stunning and something you will not commonly see in other properties. In comparison now, there are large manufactured stone blocks such as Rosetta Outcropping that are created to look like natural stone and have the same heights on each stone, therefore making the installation process much faster. These manufactured block are engineered to allow for solid wall construction at greater heights as well.

This property is hard to visualize in photos, but at either end of the property, the land is higher and in the middle is where the house is located so it is almost a saddle shape. This allows a walkout scenario front and back of the house, but with the house sitting in a ravine, the landscape design required the large retaining walls on either side. Within the terraces of the natural stone retaining low maintenance gardens were planted.

Natural stone blends well with other products such as pavers as there are many natural colour hues. Mixing and matching your natural stone retaining wall with other manufactured landscaping products is part of the choices our team will assist you with in the design process.

View the project page for more landscaping photos, videos and information.

acreage landscaping with large armor stone retaining walls
sloped acreage landscaping
view fro top of natural stone retaining walls
retaining walls and steps made from armor stone
Steep slope retaining walls on this acreage
acreage propery landscaping with retaining walls

Retaining walls to step into your backyard landscaping - Auburn Bay 004 landscaping project

Belvedere walling and Dimensional steps were used for the side yard retaining walls. The slope into the backyard was steep, therefore retaining was required to make the backyard accessible by making steps and garden terraces. Retaining walls also offered the ability to create a private patio seating space on one of the terraces in the side yard. With so many seating areas in the yard, each of the patio spaces can offer sun or shade at different times of the day. Beside the outdoor fireplace, the retaining wall stones used to create a flat lower patio space also provide some framing around the seating area.

View the project page for more landscaping photos, videos and information.

Dimensional concrete steps
small patio seating area in the garden
view of outdoor fireplace, water feature and patio

Beachfront landscape design with multiple stages of development using retaining walls - Lake Bonavista 001 landscaping project

This yard was completed in stages and has some unique requirements for the retaining. Having spaces for the children to play as well as the adults was important, therefore the large natural lawn area, sandy beach area and synthetic putting green offer spaces for an active family.

Retaining walls were used to create useable spaces in this beachfront backyard space. The upper terrace level is for the outdoor kitchen and dining area, stepping down to a sitting patio space. Stepping down from the sitting patio is a terrace that can direct you to all areas of the yard where you can walk in four different directions, down the stairs into the house, down the steps towards the beach, towards the open lawn area and over to the patio and dining area.

The original landscaping was create with the lower retaining walls defining the sand and beach area. Once the home was renovated, it was decided to remove the old deck and design new retaining wall areas for the dining area, sitting patio, synthetic putting green and more. The different terraces created with the retaining walls makes the yard more welcoming, not having one big wall and one large set of steps. Incorporating low maintenance gardens into the design with the retaining walls makes for a beautiful landscape design.

View the project page for more landscaping photos, videos and information.

beachfront landscape design
retaining walls created space for a wynthetic putting green
low maintenance stone block gardens
patio terraces for relaxation or cooking
landscaping terraces
landscaping terrace with backyard putting green
lake view patio lounging
low maintenance garden beds designed into this lakefront yard

Subtle retaining block used to level and create design spaces - Lake Bonavista 002 landscaping project

The yard already had a retaining wall at the back of the property, therefore leaving a subtle slope to deal with. As a putting green and patio need to be flat spaces, the concept from a design perspective was to use retaining wall blocks to define different spaces in the yard.

There was always an option to raise the back fence level up and completely flatten the full yard grade, but the subtle differences in height really make this backyard landscaping beautiful. If we need the wall anyway, we might as well take advantage of the designers vision which created more interesting spaces in the yard.

View the project page for more landscaping photos, videos and information.

Outdoor firelplace beside putting green and pond
artificial putting green feature in landscape design
dining area on backyard patio
synthetic putting green

A sloped backyard with a view transformed into modern patio spaces - Cranston 002 landscaping project

With a steep slope down to the river level, the goal of this Cranston yard was to create patio spaces without compromising the view.

The focus with design was to terrace the backyard into useable spaces without requiring railing or fencing. Staying within 48” on the terraces and designing edges with low maintenance gardens protect guests from any vertical drops. The goal was a clean modern look with the exposed aggregate retaining walls and the design incorporates concrete steps to exit the yard to the park. Concrete does offer some design flexibility as well, rather than using precast blocks for stairs, the designer can adjust stair heights and how the stairs step down from the patios. The concrete retaining creates unique spaces for enjoying sun or shade in this yard and the artificial turf and gardens are all focused on low maintenance. The overall goal of a modern contemporary outdoor living space was well suited to the use of concrete retaining with the exposed aggregate look.

View the project page for more landscaping photos, videos and information.

poured cement retaining walls
low maintenance gardens on edges of terraces
Stairs with landing and low maintenance gardens were designed into the concrete retaining
The poured cement retaining terraces allow a clear view of the river

Front yard landscaping using retaining wall blocks to create raised garden spaces - Braeside 001 landscaping project

This property is Braeside started off as a typical 60’s bungalow style house with sloping grass yard and cement block steps. The customer started with a complete home renovation and then hired our team to design and construct the front yard landscaping as well as the backyard landscaping. Retaining walls were a prominent part of the design features for the front yard at this house as the focus was garden areas with lots of colour in the plantings and focus on attracting nature. The stone block wall was chosen as it had more of a natural look to it. As part of the plantings, the design on the upper terrace included some height with a columnar spruce and feather reed grass.

The retaining walls start at the property line at the height of four steps to the first terrace. The retaining wall was designed to create garden spaces on either side of the steps and entry sidewalk. As the gardens extent closer to the edge of the property, the retaining walls blocks curve into the grade and blend into the lawn area.

View the project page for more landscaping photos, videos and information.

retaining walls and gardens
The front yard space prior to constructing the retaining walls and landscape design
Front gardens designed with retaining walls
The first terrace created by the retaining walls create a beautiful garden area in the front yard design