What Is A Retaining Wall And What Are Its Benefits?

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Retaining walls stop erosion and create functional space on slopes for planting.When you’re landscaping on a volcano in the sea — which is essentially what Kauai is — dealing with steep slopes and challenging grades is a given. With that comes erosion concerns and planting difficulties.

The solution is building a retaining wall. This wall or system of walls that holds back earth and water. Drainage systems built within retaining walls can manage stormwater and reduce erosion, and the retaining wall structure creates terracing and levels of landscape beds.

Retaining walls address a series of perennial challenges for Kauai commercial property owners: stopping erosion and creating functional space on slopes for planting.

Here, we explain how a retaining wall works and why it can improve your commercial landscape by adding structural integrity and vertical interest to the property.

Form & Function: What Is A Retaining Wall?

Kauai resort and commercial properties often deal with sloped areas in the landscape, and planting in these areas can be a challenge because soil tends to wash away with frequent rain on some parts of the island. In drier Kauai microclimates, slopes are difficult to maintain because of sun and wind exposure, creating a harsh environment for growing turf, groundcover or plants.

Retaining walls are an answer to these problems because they create a strong barrier to hold in soil, can manage stormwater runoff and establish functional landscape beds for vertical landscaping.

Retaining Wall Materials

There is a range of materials available for building retaining walls, including natural stone and interlocking concrete pavers.

  • Natural stone retaining walls blend with the environment and require very little maintenance over time.

  • Interlocking concrete block retaining walls are essentially wall systems that require no mortar and provide a more manicured look.

Regardless of materials, retaining walls achieve the result of creating terracing in a sloped area and holding soil in place.

But there is more than material to consider when installing a retaining wall, which is why involving a professional landscape contractor is important for a project of this scale. Drainage and the property’s grade figure into the wall design.

Also, because installing a retaining wall involves excavation of the land and moving soil and heavy materials, construction equipment is generally required to complete the job.

The Purpose Of A Retaining Wall: Protect the Land And Add Dimension

a retaining wall can create a high-impact entrance, providing terracing for planting flowersWe briefly covered the benefits of retaining walls from an erosion-control and landscaping perspective, but here are some site-specific scenarios where retaining walls become a beneficial landscape enhancement on a Kauai commercial property.

A dramatic entrance: Retail plazas and commercial zones generally boast entrances with robust landscaping and signage. On Kauai, it’s not unusual for an entrance to be at the bottom or top of a slope. And some property owners actually build up slopes and retaining walls at their entryways because it creates more privacy and screens views of parking lots or buildings.

Retaining walls can create a high-impact entrance, providing terracing for planting flowers while establishing a sort of gateway to the property.

Expand usable space: Because of the mountainous landscape on much of Kauai, significant portions of a property could be positioned on land that is not accessible or safe for visitors. Retaining walls can work in concert with patios and walkways to create gathering spaces and more usable space on a property.

Protect the land: Erosion is a real problem for a number of reasons. For one, the soil and its contents (including fertilizers) can wash down into storm water sewers and stream into our waterways. Second, erosion can present safety concerns on steep slopes where rushing water may actually impede traffic or even destroy the land.

Retaining walls keep soil and water in place and become even more beneficial when a drainage system is installed as part of the wall structure.  

Think In Layers: Retaining Walls Expand Landscape Horizons

Retaining walls are essential on so many commercial Kauai properties because of the geography of our island. We can maximize the beauty of our natural assets — the slopes, mountainsides and steep grades that roll into beaches — by implementing landscape features like retaining walls that protect the land, create more planting spaces and blend with the environment.

Let’s talk more about how a retaining wall might benefit your landscape. Call us any time at (808) 335-5887, or fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.


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