Your retaining wall serves more purposes than looking attractive. When it’s working as it should, a retaining wall keeps your property safe from erosion. It helps your land drain properly, so you don’t have puddles, pooling and damage to your home foundation.
So don’t risk a flawed DIY project that creates more costly headaches for you down the road. Make sure your retaining wall is installed accurately and professionally—and you’ll avoid these common problems.
Walls Are More than Just a Hardscape Feature
It can be tempting to think of walls on your property as decorative—as design features. And while it’s true that walls can be crafted to look attractive and add curb appeal, most homeowners and commercial property owners don’t install them for their looks.
Retaining walls are built to accomplish vital purposes that keep your property in top condition. It’s essential to grasp this idea—because if you don’t build your retaining wall correctly, it won’t do what it’s supposed to.
What should your retaining wall do (assuming it’s built properly)?
Ensure Safe Drainage
Sloped, uneven land is prone to drainage problems. If water can’t flow downhill away from your home or commercial building, it’ll puddle in annoying places. It can end up seeping into your foundation and doing structural damage.
When your property doesn’t drain well, the moisture washes away dirt supporting your plants, exposing their roots and causing them to wither. Your land can develop ruts. Structures like decks can find their wooden supports more exposed to weather.
Prevent Soil Collapse
You might not realize it, but landscaping is essential to preventing the collapse of sloped land. Without a retaining wall, excess moisture can weaken grass, trees, and plants, allowing soil to loosen and inviting mudslides. The damage from such a collapse can be costly, ruining structures and other property features.
Don’t DIY It—Avoid Common Retaining Wall Mistakes
A retaining wall is worth its weight in gold as long as you build it properly. You don’t want it to fail you—especially after all the time, money and effort you’ve put into erecting it.
So, as you plan your retaining wall, avoid these common problems.
Lack of a Permit
Because a retaining wall is specifically designed to influence how your property drains, you have to think about how it will affect your land—and the land of property owners around you.
Your community may require you to get a permit before you build a wall. You may need to submit engineering drawings and stay within certain height and size specifications.
Important: Anytime you dig, you should be aware of exactly where any underground utilities are located. You don’t want to damage pipes, hit buried electrical wires, or anything else that could injure you and harm your property. So you’ll want to check this too, during the permitting phase.
In theory, a retaining wall can be constructed with many materials, including wood, brick, stone, concrete, cinder blocks, etc. You want to choose the right material to withstand your area’s weather.
You’ll also want materials that can handle your property’s unique makeup. Remember, the wall is holding soil in place, and it needs to withstand the weight of wet dirt until drainage is complete.
A pro installer can help you figure out the right material. (We like concrete for this purpose because it’s so versatile, strong and durable—the elements of a great retaining wall!)
Like any structure, a retaining wall needs a strong, trusty foundation if it’s going to last. This can be hard to accomplish if you’re not used to constructing walls. The trench beneath the wall must be dug deep enough to support the wall’s height.
In addition, that bottom level of blocks needs to be level—we’re talking even and level to a perfectionist’s satisfaction. If it’s not, the entire wall will be lopsided, weakened, and prone to failing.
Failure to Drain
Remember when we mentioned your retaining wall exists to help ensure your property drains safely? Well, you’d be surprised how easy it is to overlook or incorrectly lay the groundwork for proper drainage if you’re not used to building these structures.
To get the wall to actually drain your soil, it must be backfilled with the right size of crushed stones. Then a perforated drainpipe needs to be set in place, with the holes facing the right direction to ensure water moves through the pipe and away from your property.
A lot of DIY-ers forget this step or don’t do it adequately, putting the wall at risk of collapsing.
Do you need a single retaining wall? Or would your property benefit from a series of tiered walls? How high should the wall be?
Details like these can easily be missed by DIY-ers or by handymen who aren’t experienced building retaining walls. These are the kinds of questions a pro team will know to ask.
Making the right decisions will give you a lovely aesthetic, as well as ensure your retaining wall system can stand up to the demands on it, without risk of collapsing.
Get Pro Engineering Guidance and Do It Right the First Time
Remember—these issues are more likely to occur when you attempt to do the installation yourself or hire a contractor that’s not experienced in wall-building. Pros in crafting concrete walls (like our team!) will help you avoid these problems, so you can enjoy your property.
Precision Concrete Wall Installation from R&M Concrete
If your commercial or residential property is at risk of erosion and drainage problems, it’s time to find the right solution. The R&M Concrete team has over 30 years of expertise in concrete installations that delight Tulsa and Oklahoma area property owners.
Discover how our concrete retaining walls can keep your home or commercial space functioning as it should—so you can have peace of mind.