Gravity Masonry Retaining Wall

A traditional gravity masonry retaining wall uses the mass of the brickwork/masonry to retain the earth behind it. The table on the below shows typical designs for a number of different height walls.

A masonry retaining wall can be built using a number of materials. The mass or weight of the bricks or blocks will determine the size of the wall required.

The example design is using class A engineering bricks that are quite heavy and work well. The Victorian railway engineers used this type of wall construction when they built large retaining walls and bridges for the railways, and you can still see them today.

Masonry retaining walls can be built by a local builder. No specialist equipment or techniques are required, just the skills of a bricklayer.

The reason most masonry retaining walls fail is that they have not been designed correctly.

The Design Guide

The design table presents Indicative designs based upon a base material with allowable bearing pressure of >200kPa.

The retained material is assumed to be well graded, granular backfill with the back of wall drainage or weep holes to relieve hydrostatic pressure. 

All indicative information presented in this table is based upon assumed loading and ground conditions and may be subject to change following detailed, site-specific design and selection of the masonry type.

Masonry Retaining Wall Design Guide
Masonry Retaining Wall
 Brick Wall

Hydrostatic Pressure

It is essential to allow any water at the back of the retaining wall to flow away. This can be done by putting a perforated drainage pipe at the back of the wall or building in weep holes.

The back of the wall needs to be filled with clean stone or gravel again to allow water to drain through to the drainage pipe or weep hole.

A build-up of water behind the wall causes hydrostatic pressure that can cause the wall to fail.

Compare Prices of Retaining Wall Types

Which retaining wall type is the most economical to build? We have written an article on retaining wall price comparisons. The article details the types of retaining wall and gives you a price of each type for comparison. 

Retaining Wall Design Service

The design of a retaining wall requires knowledge of the retaining material, the water table, the ground bearing capacity and any site constraints. The design requires a ground investigation and a structural engineer to ensure the design is fit for purpose.

We offer a full design service from carrying out the ground investigation to final working drawings.

Other Retaining Wall Types

If You Are Not Sure Ask Us a Question

Complete the form below to ask a question or request support. I normally answer questions and respond to requests as soon I notice the message.

I can give you direction and support with anything described on this site.

My background is civil engineering from building a civil engineering construction company from 1990 to 2005. I have practical experience of building a large range of structures.

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