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Design Notes for Gabion Retaining Walls

Jul. 21, 2022

Depending on the height of the wall, most gabion walls require a layer of 50 mm to 100 mm compacted base made of granite, clean crushed concrete limestone crushed.

The retaining wall toe prevents the gabion wall from sliding forward, and the depth of the toe needs to increase as the wall gets larger. When constructing gabions on softer soils, both the depth of the toe and the size of the base need to be increased to spread the load over a wider area. The engineer's design will consider the design limit state and specify the toe and base dimensions of the wall.



Any excavation should be checked for any flow or seepage that requires drainage measures. Any water flow, seepage or ponding should be drained to a suitable drainage outlet as soon as encountered. The (tie/jet) wall drainage system must be inspected and maintained annually, as well as after particularly heavy rainfall events. This is essential to prevent any increase in pore water pressure behind the retaining wall. Gabion retaining walls require adequate drainage, and the design of the drainage system is as important as the design of the retaining wall. Drainage pipes are usually contained in filter bags to prevent silt and clay from clogging the pipes.

A safety fence or barrier is placed along the top of the gabion wall to prevent falls. It is assumed that this fence will be post and mesh, or open panels, to avoid adding any wind or impact loads to the gabion structure. Possible wind and impact loads need to be considered and the design modified to accommodate these loads on the gabion retaining wall.

For small walls under 1.0m with flat ground behind, you can place soil against the gabions, provided you have installed a geofilter fabric between the soil and the gabions. For gabion walls over 1.0m high, larger walls place a greater load on them. We recommend placing the drainage gravel 150mm from the top of the wall, with the geotextile between the soil and the drainage gravel. For larger retaining walls and difficult sites, ZERUN recommends a soil survey and design of the retaining wall by a qualified geotechnical engineer.


Temporary excavations have the potential to collapse quickly and without warning and can become unstable in wet weather. Contractors should plan their work to reduce the risk of such collapse and consider using temporary supports during construction. When gabion retaining walls are subject to additional surcharges from driveways or other loads, designers are likely to increase the thickness of the gabions to handle the higher anticipated loads.

Most gabion retaining walls can be constructed on soils with a minimum bearing capacity of 100 Kpa. Any soft, loose, organic or unsuitable material must be removed and replaced with a compacted granular fill.


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