4 Tips to Prevent Retaining Wall Failure

A damaged retaining wall can become a hazard to property and human safety. Understanding the causes of retaining wall failure can help you avoid costly repairs. The following are common problem spots, along with tips to prevent retaining wall failure.

1. Saturated Backfill

If the ground behind the retaining wall is not well drained, you will experience failure. When water pools behind the retaining wall in the backfill, the pressure against the wall can easily double.

Prevention tip: To prevent saturated backfill behind a retaining wall, the surface of the backfill needs to be properly graded to direct water away from the wall. If this is not possible, drainage channels need to be installed adjacent to the wall. A backfill material that drains well, such as crushed rock, can also prevent this problem.

2. Retaining Wall Design Flaws

Design failure should not happen, but many homeowners unfortunately let their budgets dictate their choice of a retaining wall builder. The designer should create the design after fully inspecting the area, so all materials and design elements are tailored to its specific needs.

Prevention tip: Choose a reputable landscaping contractor. Our tips for foundation contractor reviews are just as effective for choosing a contractor to build a retaining wall.

3. Foundation Settlement

The weight of a retaining wall can cause the soil underneath to compress or subside. This will cause the height of the wall above the grade to shrink. If it shrinks far enough, the entire wall will fail, because it will no longer have the right amount of pressure to remain standing.

Prevention tip: Proper compaction of the soil underneath the wall is crucial to prevent this problem. Compacting removes space between soil particles and creates a denser surface to serve as the foundation of the wall. If the soil underneath the retaining wall is too weak, adding gravel or aggregate, and then compacting it, can also help add stability.

4. Improper Reinforcement

Concrete retaining walls need to be properly reinforced to provide adequate strength. Reinforcement often comes in the form of rebar in the wall. Using the rebar properly can be a challenge, and the corners are especially challenging. If the rebar is not properly used, the wall will separate at the corners and fail early.

Prevention tip: To avoid these common mistakes, hire the right contractor for your retaining wall needs. This will ensure that every step, from the initial design to the installation, is done accurately and the wall is strong and secure.

If you already have a retaining wall and it is showing signs of failure, don’t try to remove it. This will damage your property and can increase the cost of repair. Don’t add anchors or try to excavate behind your wall. Instead, call Charlotte’s retaining wall repair professionals at Foundation Repair Services. Serving homeowners throughout the Carolinas, we’ll fix your retaining wall right the first time.

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