Retaining Wall Safety

by Kelly

We are concerned about retaining wall safety.

We have an under garage and two 7 foot large boulder type retaining walls, one to each side of the garage. We also have a 4 yr old and a 2 yr old, and the retaining walls are a danger to them because there is no barrier to keep the children from running across the yard (at first floor level) and falling right off the seven foot wall onto the driveway! No matter how close you watch them, it COULD happen in just a split second.

I don't want to just put a fence there - a safe but potentially ugly solution.

I don't know if I can put shrubs - 1) I don't know if there's enough soil, with the boulder construction of the wall. There's a lot of rock right there, and 2) I'm afraid the shrubs wouldn't be dense enough or high enough to prevent a fall.

Do you have any ideas for an attractive solution for the top of a retaining wall that would also prevent falls from that level. (I'm not talking about kids climbing up and over something, or forcing their way through something - I just want to prevent them from accidentally running too close and tipping over the edge onto the driveway below.)
It would have to be at least a couple feet high and sturdy and without sizable gaps... enough to prevent an accidental fall through. Both retaining walls slope down along their length and taper off at the base of a hill next to the driveway, so they're 7 feet at the top right next to the house, down to basically nothing at the base.

I'd appreciate any ideas!

Comments for Retaining Wall Safety

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Landscape Retaining Wall Safety
by: Susan

Hi Kelly,

Retaining walls can be dangerous if there is no protection at the top. You are right to be concerned!

Let's see if we can come up with a solution for your situation.

It is possible to install fences on both sides, without them being unattractive. The way to do this is to set the fence back from the wall about one foot. Plant something on the wall side that is low maintenance, such as Ivy. I say low maintenance because it will not be very accessible. On the outer side of the fence, you can have a planting bed. Perhaps a perennial garden? If not, then just some pretty shrubs that will soften the fence.

If you don't want to install a fence, you really can design a planting bed at the top of the wall that will work. Evergreen shrubs would be best. Their denseness would remain in the winter since they won't lose their leaves. The trick is to come up with the right shrubs.

Here are some that you might consider:
Boxwood 'Green Velvet' - gets to be about 3 feet tall
Forsythia - quite wide. Even though it does lose its' leaves in the winter (not evergreen), its' branching structure is very thick.
Rhododendron - if you have some shade.

Those are just a few...there are others.

I would also make the bed deep. This will be both a physical and visual deterrent. Depending on which shrub you select to go along the top of the wall, the bed might be 6 to 8 feet deep....the deeper the better. If you use the Boxwood (about 3 feet wide), extend the depth of the bed another 3 feet. Here you can place lower shrubs. Perennials wouldn't be advisable since they die down in the winter, although you could tuck a few in here and there.

You didn't mention how long each wall is. If they are fairly long, you might consider using more than one shrub variety. Use them in groups of three at the minimum.

I hope this has helped. Good luck to you!

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