Retaining Walls

failing retaining wall

There are many different materials that are utilized for retaining walls. Builders use a variety of landscape stone, fieldstone, ledge rock, brick, poured concrete, concrete blocks and railroad ties. Most of these retaining walls provide support for soil that is on a vertical slope. Most retaining walls literally keep your home and the surrounding landscape from sliding down a hillside and into your home. Other times retaining walls are necessary to prevent drainage or erosion problems. For whatever purpose these retaining walls are serving, these special structures are relatively expensive and deserve careful attention to protect your initial investment. Retaining walls should be carefully inspected periodically, for shifting, displacement, bulges, leaning or loose structural material. If you notice that your wall has loose material, or cavities that could cause loose material, I highly recommend that you or a professional Contractor repair or reinforce these areas right away, before the wall worsens. Once a wall is compromised or is allowed to worsen, your expenses to repair the much needed wall will be exorbitant.

Make sure that all the lower footings are protected from erosion. Look for weep holes at the lower outside portion of your retaining wall. Weep holes are exposed holes (on the face of the wall) that contain pipes that penetrate the retaining wall and assist in draining the water from the area immediately behind the retaining wall. Weep holes should have a minimum diameter so as to permit free drainage; for large walls, 4-inch weep holes are common. Adequate spacing between the weep holes allows a uniform drainage from behind the wall. At times, perforated drainage pipes are wrapped in geotextile material or buried in a granular filter bed, and serve to convey water to the weep holes from areas deeper within the back-fill. If your property has solid walls and weep holes are not visible, I highly recommend that you have a professional landscaper install these as soon as possible to prevent water retention which in turn, causes serious heaving, displacement and leaning of the wall.

If your property has the landscape timber walls (railroad ties, as pictured above), I recommend that you probe these walls periodically for hollow areas. Carpenter Ants tend ruin these walls over the years and require replacement because they become hollow and very weak. If you want your wood retaining wall to last forever, it's always good to have these wood retaining wall areas professionally treated for Carpenter Ants to prevent any infestation.

If you are planning to replace a wood retaining wall, I recommend replacing the material with landscape stone, brick or other masonry material for a longer lasting wall.

A retaining wall that does not weep water and is not maintained properly, could become one costly upgrade in the future.

retaining wall failing



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Dave had an impressive website that seemed to be too thorough to be anything but genuine. The thing that seemed to sell me was that he says right on his website that you may pay a little more for his service, but that his quality is higher. So I decided to give him a try even though I had no reference from another person hoping for someone of top quality. I was not disappointed. He was at the home early as promised and had done an inspection of the exterior and was writing up notes so that when I arrived, he walked me through the exterior first. Even with his early arrival, we were still there for about 3 hours looking through every little corner and cubby. He would occasionally stop and fill out his inspection forms which were easy to follow and read; he gives you a full folder of his notes that are well organized.

Dave was open to all questions and concerns so every time I saw something that was potentially concerning to me, he would look, give his opinion and often shared other experiences with similar circumstances. He also had a good sense of humor which helped to lighten what can be a stressful experience (having someone pointing out problem items that you didn't see). I would highly recommend Massachusetts Home Inspections.



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Last updated on  Feb 28, 2013