Common Retaining Wall Problems and How to Address Them

Common Retaining Wall Problems and How to Address Them

Sloping land, poor drainage, and harsh natural weathering can create soil and water runoff problems that seriously impact buildings and the surrounding landscape. Retaining walls built to hold back eroding soil must withstand constant pressure from tons of soil and water building up behind it. Poorly constructed walls will inevitably become prey to damage and failure. The landscaping professionals at Capital T Construction fully understand the construction methods necessary to build and repair retaining walls to correct standards.

Signs Your Retaining Wall Is Damaged

Supporting wall damage is easy to spot. A quick visual inspection will show such issues as:

  • Large cracks where the soil is coming through
  • Crumbling mortar
  • Parts of the wall out of alignment with noticeable bulges
  • A noticeable lean when you look at it from the side

Repairing Damage

Depending upon damage level and underlying causes, repairs on retaining walls can restore functionality. Causes of damage include:

  • Faulty foundations, e.g., footings
  • Poor quality materials
  • Drainage problems
  • Inadequate strength to handle the load

Foundation Problems

Not all retaining walls require foundations, as this depends on the building materials used. However, walls made of mortared bricks or stone do require footings. The number and size of footings should have matched requirements based on the planned width and height of the retaining structure. If the calculations were incorrect, then large cracks and collapse will occur.

Footings can be replaced and set to a depth enabling the structure to withstand heavy saturation from rain, nearby water seepage, or soil slides. Foundations can be extended and strengthened with concrete.

Heavy soil slides can be tackled by regrading soil levels using earth-moving equipment.

Poor Quality Materials

Often done to save money at the expense of quality, numerous problems can be caused by using inferior quality materials. Common issues include using:

  • Weak mortar mixes that deteriorate with water seepage, causing the flimsy mortar to crumble and fall
  • Low-quality concrete causing cracking and crumbling
  • Untreated timber that rots, warps, or suffers from insect damage

Techniques used to repair structural damage include:

  • Repointing (removal and replacement of damaged mortar)
  • Replacing untreated wood with treated timber
  • Replacing concrete blocks
  • Strengthening walls by inserting connecting tiebacks.

Drainage Problems

Failing to put in adequate drainage is a widespread problem with retaining walls. While dry rock walls allow for seepage of water (weep holes) from the soil bank, most other structures do not. As the soil bank becomes increasingly wet, additional pressure is created on the wall, causing unplanned strain and eventually forcing collapse.

Drainage pipes can be dug in at base level to enable water to be redirected away from the structure. The ground level can also be changed in parts to divert water away. Weep holes can be inserted to get water draining quickly away.

Not Meeting Load Requirements

Inadequate assessment of the retaining wall’s load requirements results in the most fundamental error; foundations and support structures not built to the necessary strength level. Structural cracking, wall bulges, and leaning, and finally, a major collapse will occur.

Strengthening is achieved by extending footings or inserting concrete at the base. Inserting connecting tiebacks will also strengthen the structure.

Retaining Wall Installation Contractors in New Jersey

Suppose the level of damage requires extensive repair of footings and or significant replacement of materials. In that case, it may be cheaper to start from scratch with a new wall. Capital T Construction can provide you with expert advice on costing repairs or a new retaining wall by our qualified professional staff. For more information, contact us today!