The answer to this question is not a clear-cut yes or no. While it may be possible to use a fence as a retaining wall in some applications, there are several factors that must be taken into account before making such a decision. Retaining walls differ from fences in their structure and purpose, and so using one instead of the other could lead to problems.
What Makes Fences and Retaining Walls Different?
Simply put, retaining walls are designed to hold back soil and/or water, while fences typically serve as a barrier between two areas of land. Retaining walls can be made to look nice, and work with the landscape, but their goal is always function. While fences can be purely decorative, and your retaining wall may be in place to give your yard dimension, retaining walls are built to hold things back; to retain them. A fence also may simply not have the structural strength needed to maintain the integrity of your hillside, especially if your wall is holding back large amounts of soil or water. Additionally, fences tend to be designed with much smaller and weaker posts than those used in some retaining walls, and may not be able to bear the weight of the soil or water they are holding back.
Even if your fence is strong enough to serve as a makeshift retaining wall, it will still require more maintenance and repair over time. Retaining walls are constructed with stronger materials and specifically engineered to withstand the weight of a collapsing hillside, and to resist the moisure of the land area it is holding back over a longer period of time. The primary function of a fence can be for privacy, security, decoration, notification of a barrier, and more. Fence posts are often thinner, more brittle, and not buried as deep in the ground as retaining walls that are constructed similarly. Though retaining walls are not always constructed with posts in the ground, versalok, or other types of formed landscaping blocks, are thick, durable, and heavy, so their weight is often enough of an anchor.
Can a Fence Serve as a Retaining Wall?
In short, while it may be possible in some edge case circumstances to use a fence as a short tem substitute for a retaining wall, it is not recommended due to significant structural differences. It is best to consult a professional before attempting such a project, and always be aware of the potential risks associated with using a fence instead of a proper retaining wall. In some cases, a fence can be used as a retaining wall to hold back small amounts of dirt using kickboards.
These are horizontal boards that are installed at the bottom of the fence. They touch the ground rather than the fence panels and are also called “rot boards.” This is because they will rot away from holding the dirt back rather than the actual fence. In this scenaior you will also need to be sure to have strong enough posts.
If you are unsure about whether or not this is the right solution for your situation, it is better to err on the side of caution and invest in an appropriatly engineered retaining wall that utilizes more effective materials, or consult a professional.
Expert Fence Installation in Pittsburgh
At Pittsburgh Fence Company, we can install a variety of fences based on your needs. Have questions about retaining wall fences? Contact our team today!