Retaining walls are important for both residential and commercial property, especially if the landscape is hilly or steep. These walls are essential to keep dirt, landscaping, and outdoor property features in place. They prevent erosion and direct rainwater, melting snow and ice, and irrigation to drain safely away from the foundation of your property. Failure means that the wall isn’t doing these vital jobs properly, exposing your property to risks of costly damage
Building a retaining wall is not as simple as laying down stones or bricks. Even if you are a capable handyman, there are several things to consider before you attempt to do-it-yourself.
Take a look at these retaining wall failures that you can avoid when hiring a professional contractor, like R&M Concrete.
What Causes a Retaining Wall to Fail?
Here are the signs that your retaining wall is performing poorly:
1. Clogged Weep Holes
Retaining walls are placed where soil slopes downward. This means that when water seeps into that soil, it does what water does—it seeks lower ground. If that moisture doesn’t have anywhere to safely drain, it ends up waterlogging the soil, especially around the wall, which can weaken it.
To prevent this, weep holes are created in the wall at carefully measured locations. If the holes are not properly placed, aren’t the right size, or aren’t designed with proper filters to admit water while blocking debris, the holes will get clogged. This forces water to gather next to the wall, doing damage.
2. Poorly Designed Backfill
Backfill is the material that’s placed behind the retaining wall during the wall’s installation. Think of it like gravel—loose materials that allow for air space where water can flow through to the weep holes. When properly placed, backfill helps to ensure drainage happens as it should—keeping any water pressure against the wall to a manageable amount as drainage occurs.
To make this portion of your retaining wall work correctly, the installer must carefully consider the size of the wall, the slope of the land, and other factors that determine which backfill material is the right fit for your property. If this step isn’t done right, you’ll end up with a weakened wall.
3. Too Much Pressure on the Wall
A retaining wall is more than a set of bricks or stones put up for decoration. It needs to stand up to the weight of the soil it is holding in place. The dirt itself creates pressure against the wall, and when that soil becomes moisture-heavy soil, the pressure increases.
Without the right design, size and materials engineered into place, you could end up with a retaining wall that can’t do its job properly. The added pressure will cause it to collapse. That’s why it’s important to hire an experienced company (like ours!) that knows how to properly design a wall strong enough for the purposes you need it to accomplish.
4. Inferior Installation and Materials
In addition to size, placement, backfill and weep holes, retaining walls require other careful decisions to be made during installation. For example, if your property’s soil is too prone to getting water-logged, it might be smart to replace that soil near the wall with another option that doesn’t get as muddy.
Other issues can arise too. If the installer or builder lacks experience, they might make the mistake of setting up the wall with vertical joints instead of horizontal ones. Or they might not set reinforcements in the right places to keep your concrete wall secure. This can cause the wall to buckle and eventually fall.
5. Weaknesses in the Property’s Overall Drainage System
Rain, snow, ice and irrigation create water runoff needs all around your property, not just next to the retaining wall. If your overall drainage system isn’t set up properly with sufficient gutters, runoff areas, French drains in the right places, and the like, you can end up with more moisture gathering by your retaining wall than it can handle.
This can lead to higher chances of excessive water pressure against the wall, clogged weep holes, and erosion that weakens the wall’s foundations. And it can cause other issues too, such as pooling water near your building foundation that results in structural damage, worn-down concrete walkways, and driveways that become pitted, broken, and unsafe to navigate.
To put it bluntly, your commercial property vitally needs proper drainage not just to keep your retaining walls in shape, but to protect the entire property’s value.
Why It’s Vital to Prevent Retaining Wall Failure
When your residential or commercial property’s retaining walls don’t do their job, you could be facing a host of issues that are inconvenient, expensive and frustrating to fix:
- Annoying, unsafe sinkholes and potholes
- Mudslides that block drains, walkways and parking
- Drowned plants and trees which get uprooted and die from excess water
- Drainage failures that lead to pooling water that damages your foundation
- Basement and crawl space leaks because water doesn’t drain properly
- A collapsed retaining wall that damages other property features, and has to be completely replaced
All these problems can be avoided when your retaining walls are built well and properly maintained with an effective drainage system.
Protect Your Residential or Commercial Property with Retaining Walls and Drainage Repair
Prevent future retaining wall failures—and ensure top value for your property with the right maintenance.
Learn more about how R&M Concrete’s professional installation can prevent retaining wall failures and safeguard your property.