There is more than one way to build a retaining wall. There are block retaining walls, stone walls, poured concrete retaining walls, etc. Another common material used for making these walls is brick. But they are all time-consuming and expensive in many ways. A simple solution to all of this would be a retaining wall made from concrete bags! They can be an ideal way to help you create an inexpensive retaining wall within a very short time. But in the process, a common question may always tuck into your mind: Do concrete bag retaining walls last?
Concrete’s durability and weather-resistant capability may lead you to answer the above-mentioned question as yes. But the question is too complex to answer just with a simple yes or no. Several factors can make concrete bag retaining walls last longer or shorter. In this article, we will assess all the possible criteria that can impact a concrete bag retaining wall’s lifespan. In addition, some advantages and disadvantages and cost comparisons between concrete bag retaining walls and brick-made retaining walls will also be illustrated.
- The retaining wall helps to confine soil to a slope that it wouldn’t naturally maintain.
- Concrete bags use pre-mixed dry concrete ingredients; the only missing thing remaining is water.
- Concrete mixing type, purpose of the wall, and bag placement can alter the wall’s lifespan.
- The risks in a concrete bag retaining wall just aren’t worth the costs.
Concrete Bag Retaining Walls
Concrete Bag Retaining walls are nothing but retaining walls made of pure concrete filled into bags to sustain their shape once dried up. These walls help confine soil to a slope it wouldn’t naturally maintain. When in use, they gradually retain their hard character and work, just like placing bricks to make a wall. Usually, these walls are hardened because they have soil on one side and the other side mostly remains wide open. This concrete bag retaining wall requires less time, effort, and cost to build with concrete bags. It doesn’t require additional cement or structural material for integrity. Just place the concrete bags one above another to form a well-heighted wall.
Do Concrete Bag Retaining Walls Last? – 3 Determining Factors
Usually, concrete-made structures are durable and can last over centuries. However, concrete bag retaining walls, their longevity depends on various factors. Some of the leading factors to determine if a concrete bag retaining wall lasts long are:
Nature of The Wall
The nature of the wall is very important in determining the retaining wall. There is no specific list of retaining wall categories. In most cases, concrete bag retaining walls hold a huge amount of soil on one side and have an open space on the other side of the wall. Such retaining walls by the side of your backyard garden can last if there is not much pressure put on them from the soil-filled sides.
This makes the walls vulnerable to being slid off sometimes. If the wall is made in a water current flow, the water can remove soil particles beneath the soil and make the wall fragile enough to be broken.
Concrete Mix Type
Concrete bags use pre-mixed concrete in them. The nature and type of the concrete bag impact the longevity of the retaining wall by a great margin. Note that these bags can either be filled with pre-made concrete or ready-made concrete can be poured into them. You can DIY make this concrete by mixing the required materials and pouring them into the bag afterward. The mix of the concrete can be a determining factor in the retaining wall’s longevity.
Concrete has different characteristics than raw cement and requires additional materials to be mixed in the exact correct ratio to have a well-integrated concrete mix. If the concrete mix has been done on-site and some materials, even water, is put in an incorrect ratio, then it will affect the overall integrity of the retaining wall. You may not understand it firsthand, but upon cooling off the concrete mix in the bags, cracks, and loose concrete particles can arise. To solve this confusion, mixed concrete bags and qualified engineers are needed at the site.
The next determining factor is the placement of these concrete bags for the retaining wall. To retain the structural integrity of the retaining wall, it is important to place the concrete box in the correct location. Depending on the soil they will hold against to fall, there should be enough layers of bags, alongside a robust basing layer. When we see any concrete bag retaining wall, it is always the single layer of bags that holds the wall steady.
There can be a second or even third layer of bags put side by side. Together, they form a sliding, angled structure. A special geometric formulation is required to determine the number of bags needed. If not placed accurately, the soil pressure can easily penetrate the hardness of the concrete walls.
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Advantages & Disadvantages of Concrete Bag Retaining Wall
Concrete bag retaining walls have both advantages and disadvantages of their own. Some of these are:
- Easy Set: Concrete bags are a simple, easy, quick, and inexpensive solution to retain a wall around anything. Just buy, place, and dry — your wall is ready to use.
- Doesn’t Require Inner Structure: Unlike other concrete retaining walls, concrete bag-formed ones don’t require any inner structure and typically need irons to be placed. It makes them less expensive than most heavy-duty walls.
- Ideal For Water Places: These concrete bag retaining walls are best for placing temporary or permanent barring. These concrete bags are sometimes mixed with waterproof substances. Meaning they can even dry in water.
- Bags Are Gradable: The bags used to hold the concretes are disposed of by themselves after a few years. Some bio-degradable bags are made to get composted within months.
- Your Desired Appearance: These concrete bags come in different sizes and can even be custom-resized in different designs to meet each of the user’s requirements.
- May Or May Not Cure: Premade concrete mix requires water to be poured over the bags to initiate the curing process in the concrete. This can lead to insufficient water curing of some of the bags. This can cause the wall to be weak.
- Center Of The Bag Dehydrated: Another deal-breaking issue with concrete mix bags is, that even though they may see well-hydrated outside of the bag, their core may not be hydrated even a bit. With a higher amount of unopened bags staked, this can make the wall nothing but crumbling pieces of dusty bags in their core.
- Can Change Shape: Upon soaking the bags with water, the bags can rearrange their sizes until they are properly cooled off. In the process, they can cross their altogether appearance beyond your expectancy.
Are Concrete Bags Better Than Concrete Bricks? – Cost Comparison
Both bricks and concrete mixed bags have seen immense use in making retaining walls. They have their own advantages when used for constructing different types of retaining walls. While bricks offer a better appearance and more ease of construction in dry spaces, concrete mix bags provide better integrity in a wet situation and a better hold against heavy soil. But if you are thinking of cost-effectiveness, then bricks are somewhat less expensive than concrete bags.
An 80-pound bag of concrete costs around $5 to $8 per bag. Each bag has a dimension of approximately 20.5″ x 14″ x 4″ thick. When stacked to build walls, the face of each bag results in covering approximately.57 square feet. This means you are spending between $8 and $14 per square foot when building with concrete bags. Standard Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU) cinder blocks cost $1.25 to $2.50 per block, while larger CMU blocks cost $2 to $4 per block. By taking the support structure and materials into account, the concrete blocks will still cost almost half as much as the concrete bags.
Pre-mixed concrete bags have a shelf life of 3 to 12 months if stored properly. It will require a moisture and humidity-free room to store these bags. Otherwise, they can be hardened once in touch with water. The bags should be placed off the floor to retain their nominal form.
Concrete has pre-mixed cement in it. Calcium in the cement creates a chemical reaction when comes in contact with the water. This creates calcium silicate hydrate gel and this substance causes the concrete to harden. This will only happen if the bag comes in contact with water or the stored room is humid.
Concrete retaining walls are made of poured concrete instead of bagged concrete. A structural integrity assistant metal structure is put in place before pouring the concrete. This makes the retaining wall very durable and can last 50 to over 100 years.
The answer to whether to do concrete bag retaining walls last is dependent on the setup. There can be several possibilities for concrete bag retaining walls failing because of a lack of curing, hydrating, or placement accuracy. They can change their initial shape and damage the wall by sliding off. But if you get lucky and have experienced eyes to monitor the process properly, your retaining wall may last forever. After all, concrete is a long-lasting solution to just about any building project. However, the risks of a concrete bag retaining wall just aren’t worth the costs.
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I am Donald M. Beyer and I am backyard enthusiasts. I am a homeowner who has been doing DIY projects in and out of my house for many years. From simple backyard lunches to making an old-school pizza oven in my own backyard, I have a lot of experience in turning my backyard into my and my family’s personal playground.