Retaining walls are structures designed to hold back soil and prevent erosion. They are commonly used in landscapes to create functional spaces and to enhance the aesthetic appeal of outdoor areas. While retaining walls are generally durable and long-lasting, there are certain instances where they can fail. Here are five common reasons why retaining walls fail.
1. Poor Drainage
One of the most significant reasons why retaining walls fail is poor drainage. When water is not efficiently drained away from the wall, it can accumulate behind it and exert excessive pressure on the structure. This additional weight and pressure can eventually cause the wall to tilt, crack, or even collapse. Proper drainage systems, such as weep holes and gravel backfill, are essential to allow water to flow away from the wall and prevent any build-up of hydrostatic pressure.
2. Inadequate Constructing Techniques
Retaining walls should be constructed following proper engineering guidelines and techniques. Inadequate construction methods, such as insufficient reinforcement, improper compaction, or using low-quality materials, can result in a weak and unstable wall. It’s crucial to hire experienced professionals who have the knowledge and skills required to build a structurally sound retaining wall. Cutting corners during the construction process may save money upfront, but it can lead to costly repairs or replacements in the future.
3. Improper Drainage Behind the Wall
While external drainage is vital for the success of a retaining wall, it is equally important to ensure proper drainage behind the structure. If water is allowed to accumulate and seep into the soil behind the wall, it can significantly weaken the foundation. Installing a geosynthetic fabric or gravel backfill can promote drainage and prevent the build-up of excess moisture. Neglecting this aspect of wall construction can ultimately lead to the failure of the retaining wall.
4. Insufficient Height and Slope Considerations
Incorrect height and slope calculations are another reason why retaining walls fail. Retaining walls that are not designed to handle the specific loads and pressures of the soil they are retaining can experience excessive stress, resulting in bulging, cracking, or collapse. The height and slope of the wall must be carefully considered, taking into account factors such as the type of soil, type of wall material, and the loads the wall will bear. Hiring a professional engineer or a qualified contractor with experience in designing and constructing retaining walls is crucial to ensure that height and slope considerations are properly addressed.
5. Lack of Maintenance
Like any other structure, retaining walls require regular maintenance to ensure their longevity and stability. Failure to perform routine inspections and maintenance can lead to small issues escalating into significant problems. Cracks, deterioration, or erosion should be addressed promptly to prevent further damage. Cleaning out drainage systems and removing any vegetation or debris that could cause damage are important maintenance practices. Neglecting maintenance can result in the gradual deterioration and failure of the retaining wall.
Retaining walls can fail for various reasons, but most failures can be attributed to poor drainage, inadequate construction techniques, improper drainage behind the wall, insufficient height and slope considerations, and lack of maintenance. Hiring qualified professionals, following proper construction guidelines, and implementing robust drainage systems are essential to prevent the failure of retaining walls. Regular inspections and timely maintenance are also crucial to identifying and addressing any potential issues before they become more severe. By considering these factors, homeowners can ensure the longevity and effectiveness of their retaining walls.
Need a Hardscape Contractor in Raymore, MO?
Since 2004, MSE Hardscape Design and Installation has been the expert provider and installer of retaining walls for the city of Kansas City and its surrounding areas. We are dedicated to providing exceptional and professional services to our valued customers. Our specialty lies in the design, installation, and maintenance of retaining walls for both commercial and residential spaces. We offer many services to meet the needs of our customers, including the building and installation of segmented block and large-block retaining walls, interlocking pavers, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, and pizza ovens. Our goal is to create an oasis out of your backyard or commercial space! Call us today for a consultation!