Retaining walls provide a functional and beautiful addition to landscaping. If you add a patio or pool to your backyard, it will help stabilize any slope that has been created after the ground has been leveled. Plus, they are often installed to match the house’s facade when a front yard can’t be leveled out and help cover up a large area that is not even with the rest. They can also line a walkway leading to the house as a stairway.
However, you might run into trouble as the years go by and the wall starts to age. You might even have concerns about retaining wall failure. Which is usually caused by poor drainage. When the soil behind the wall absorbs too much water, the hydrostatic pressure pushes the wall, causing it to crumble or at least bow out. So, to hold back the pressure, every retaining wall must have a deep footing.
Additionally, low-quality materials or inadequate reinforcement can also affect a retaining wall. Keep in mind, though, that natural stone or a paver product will always hold up better than a wooden retaining wall. Also, pay attention to how you use the walled area because any extra weight or unplanned load can cause wall collapse.
So, here are the most common problems and tips for preventing them.
- Adequate drainage
- Quality materials
- Foundation Issues
- Reducing the retaining wall’s height
- Removing and replacing the backfill of the retaining wall
- Expert contractors
No one likes to see a saturated backfill. The backfill surface must be correctly graded to ensure no water stays around the retaining wall. When this is not an option, adequate drainage channels must be installed. Backfill of the retaining wall that allows good drainage, like crushed rock, will easily prevent this problem.
Many homeowners choose cheaper materials due to budgetary limits that lead to design failures. To avoid the problem, you can hire a retaining wall contractor. They inspect the area and choose materials and design elements appropriate for the terrain, your landscaping scheme, and your budget.
The weight of the retaining wall tends to compress the soil below. Proper soil compaction is critical to curbing ground settling, thus leaving a denser surface stable enough for a wall foundation. And in the case where the soil is weak, but the wall is already there, adding aggregate or gravel, followed by compaction, will help stabilize the area.
Reducing the retaining wall’s height
There are various options to reduce the soil pressure. It is often preferred to re-grad the backfill surface to decrease the height of the retained soil. You can also modify and shove the drainage at the wall’s back face. These methods help the retained earth’s apex to a sufficient level that lessens the stress on the wall.
Removing and replacing the backfill of the retaining wall
This solution is utilized when the backfill soil can not be mitigated due to saturation. Crushed rocks are often used as a replacement for backfilling earth. And it helps for a well-functioning wall base drainage system compared to soiling alone.
There are extraordinary site conditions that can be solved with an effective method that saves time and money. In such cases, experienced retaining wall contractors can not only solve the problem but also prevent demolition and rebuilding. After all, retaining wall stability is not only a landscaping issue but also one that involves safety.
Retaining Wall Failure FAQs
What are the signs of retaining wall failure?
The most common signs include- cracking in the masonry or concrete surface and leaning and bulging the entire wall. These characteristics tell you that your retaining wall might buckle at the most inopportune moment—like during a bad storm. Also, you might look closely at the soil on your wall to see if it’s sinking, which indicates that failure is imminent.
How long do retaining walls last?
That depends on the type of material from which your wall is constructed. Ideally, retaining walls made from stone should last between 40 to 100 years. Walls made from concrete and stone can last 50 to 100 years, while wood retaining walls only last 40 years. The longest-lasting type of retainer wall is constructed from brick and mortar.
What are the conditions of stability of a retaining wall?
First off, the wall needs to be structurally sound to where it holds the pressure applied to it and proportioned to where it’s not overturned by lateral force. Also, the wall should be safe from sliding and contain enough weep holes to prevent water from accumulating behind it. Finally, the weight of the wall combined with the earth behind it shouldn’t place too much stress on the foundation.
How to push back a retaining wall?
This is where retaining wall contractors (like Harris Excavation) would come in handy to effectively get your project done. The process has two options—either cutting into the wall and removing parts of it or removing the wall altogether and saving as much of the materials as possible for recycling. After that, you would move the dirt back after removing some of it and construct a new wall.
How to repair the retaining wall?
You can choose between 2 choices depending on the extent of the repair required.
- Foundation repair
- Demolish and rebuild
It’s often advisable to hire a professional to prevent complete retainer wall failure.