Home>>Retaining Structures>>Rubble Retaining Wall

Rubble Retaining Wall

Rubble retaining walls are sturdy and functional structures that serve as effective solutions for managing soil erosion and controlling slopes. They are constructed using various types of stones, concrete blocks, or gabions, offering both strength and visual appeal. In this article, we will explore the different aspects of rubble retaining wall, from their construction methods to maintenance tips and the benefits they provide.

Retaining walls are essential features in landscape and civil engineering projects, designed to hold back soil and prevent erosion. A rubble retaining wall is a popular choice due to its durability, versatility, and rustic charm. These walls can be found in both residential and commercial settings, serving a variety of purposes such as creating terraced gardens, supporting road embankments, or protecting structures from soil movement.

What is a Rubble Retaining Wall

A rubble retaining wall is constructed by stacking stones or concrete blocks without the use of mortar. The interlocking stones create a stable structure capable of withstanding the lateral pressure exerted by the soil. The irregular shapes and sizes of the stones provide additional friction, enhancing the stability of the wall. Rubble retaining walls can be built to different heights and configurations, making them suitable for various landscape designs.

Design Consideration of Retaining Walls

Designing a retaining wall involves careful consideration of various factors to ensure its stability, functionality, and aesthetic appeal. Whether you’re constructing a rubble retaining wall, a concrete block wall, or any other type of retaining wall, the following design considerations are essential:

1. Site Evaluation

Before designing a retaining wall, conduct a thorough site evaluation to assess the soil conditions, slope stability, water drainage patterns, and any potential environmental impacts. This evaluation will help determine the appropriate design parameters and construction techniques for the wall.

2. Retaining Wall Height and Slope

The height and slope of the retaining wall are crucial factors that determine its stability and load-bearing capacity. The design should consider the lateral pressure exerted by the soil and the specific requirements of the project. A qualified engineer or retaining wall specialist can provide guidance on determining the optimal height and slope for the wall.

3. Soil Types and Properties

Understanding the characteristics of the soil on-site is essential for proper retaining wall design. Different soil types, such as cohesive soils (clay) or granular soils (sand, gravel), have varying properties and behaviors under pressure. The design should consider the soil’s shear strength, compaction characteristics, and potential for settlement or erosion.

Some of the important factors such as lateral earth pressure coefficient; active pressure, passive pressure and at rest condition, shall be considered correctly. In addition, the necessary surcharged load also shall apply for the design.

4. Drainage System

A well-designed drainage system is critical to prevent the accumulation of water pressure behind the retaining wall. Excessive water buildup can lead to wall failure and erosion. Properly placed weep holes, toe drains, and backfill materials with good drainage properties are essential components of an effective drainage system.

5. Material Selection

The choice of materials for the retaining wall depends on various factors, including the desired aesthetic, structural requirements, and budget. Common materials used for retaining walls include concrete blocks, natural stone, gabions, timber, and geosynthetic reinforcements. The selected material should be compatible with the site conditions and provide the necessary strength and durability.

6. Structural Design and Reinforcement

The structural design of the retaining wall should be based on engineering principles and consider factors such as the applied loads, stability against overturning and sliding, and lateral earth pressure. Proper reinforcement, such as steel bars, geogrids, or geotextiles, may be required to enhance the wall’s strength and stability.

7. Construction Techniques

The construction techniques employed during the building process are crucial for the integrity and longevity of the retaining wall. Proper excavation, compaction, and placement of the materials are essential to achieve the desired stability. It’s important to follow industry best practices and any local building codes or regulations.

rubble foundation

Benefits of Rubble Retaining Walls

Rubble retaining walls offer several advantages that make them a popular choice among homeowners and landscapers:

  1. Cost-effective: Compared to other types of retaining walls, rubble walls can be more cost-effective due to the use of readily available materials.
  2. Natural aesthetics: The use of stones gives rubble retaining walls a natural and rustic appearance that blends well with the surrounding landscape.
  3. Durability: Properly constructed rubble retaining walls can withstand the test of time and resist weathering, providing long-term stability.
  4. Flexibility: Rubble walls can be built in various shapes and sizes to accommodate different terrain conditions and design preferences.
  5. Environmentally friendly: By using local stones or recycled materials, rubble retaining walls contribute to sustainability and reduce the environmental impact of construction.

Different Types of Rubble Retaining Walls

There are several types of rubble retaining walls constructed to retain the earth mainly.

1. Dry Stone Retaining Walls

Dry stone retaining walls are constructed without the use of mortar. The stones are carefully selected and stacked in a way that creates a solid and stable structure. These walls rely on the interlocking of stones and careful placement to maintain their integrity.

2. Mortared Stone Retaining Walls

Mortared stone retaining walls involve the use of mortar to bond the stones together. Mortar provides additional strength and stability to the structure. Mortared walls can be built higher and withstand greater pressure compared to dry stone walls.

3. Concrete Rubble Retaining Walls

Concrete rubble retaining walls are constructed using concrete blocks or poured concrete. The blocks or poured concrete are reinforced with steel bars for added strength. These walls offer excellent durability and can be designed to withstand heavy loads.

4. Gabion Retaining Walls

Gabion retaining walls are constructed using wire mesh baskets filled with stones. The baskets are stacked and secured, creating a sturdy and permeable structure. Gabion walls are often used in areas with poor drainage as they allow water to pass through easily.

Rubble Retaining Walls vs. Other Retaining Wall Options

While rubble retaining walls offer unique benefits, it’s important to consider other retaining wall options as well. Some alternatives to rubble walls include:

Concrete Block Retaining Walls: Concrete block walls provide a clean and uniform appearance. They are suitable for projects that require precise dimensions and structural stability. Concrete block walls can be built in various designs and can withstand heavy loads.

Timber Retaining Walls: Timber walls offer a natural and rustic look. They are relatively easy to construct and can be an affordable option. However, timber walls may require more frequent maintenance and have a shorter lifespan compared to other materials.

Segmental Retaining Walls: Segmental retaining walls consist of interlocking concrete blocks or stones. They are versatile, easy to install, and offer a wide range of design options. Segmental walls can be an excellent choice for projects with challenging terrain or tight spaces.

Consider your specific needs, budget, and aesthetic preferences when choosing the right retaining wall option for your project.

Rubble retaining walls are versatile, durable, and visually appealing structures that offer effective solutions for managing slopes and soil erosion. Whether you opt for a dry stone wall, mortared stone wall, concrete rubble wall, or gabion wall, proper construction techniques and regular maintenance are essential for their longevity. By considering factors such as site evaluation, drainage, and material selection, you can ensure a successful and functional retaining wall that enhances the beauty and functionality of your outdoor space.


Q: What is the cost of building a rubble retaining wall? A: The cost of building a rubble retaining wall can vary depending on factors such as wall height, length, and material selection. It’s best to consult with a professional contractor who can provide an accurate estimate based on your specific project requirements.

Q: Can I build a rubble retaining wall on my own? A: While it’s possible to build a rubble retaining wall on your own, it requires careful planning, proper construction techniques, and knowledge of local building codes. It’s recommended to seek guidance from an experienced professional to ensure a structurally sound and safe retaining wall.

Q: How long do rubble retaining walls last? A: With proper construction and maintenance, rubble retaining walls can last for several decades. The lifespan may vary depending on factors such as material quality, environmental conditions, and maintenance practices.

Q: Are rubble retaining walls suitable for all types of soil? A: Rubble retaining walls can be constructed on various soil types, including clay, sand, and loam. However, a site evaluation is crucial to determine the specific requirements and potential challenges associated with the soil conditions.

Q: Can I use recycled materials for constructing a rubble retaining wall? A: Yes, using recycled materials such as reclaimed stones or concrete rubble can be used for the construction.

Spread the love