Why Do Retaining Walls Fall?
Over the years, the team at Hinkle Hardscapes has seen a lot of quality hardscape work in Kansas City. We have also seen a lot of poorly constructed hardscape structures. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for us to respond to a call to make a repair instead of installing a brand new hardscape structure. One replacement that we frequently make are retaining walls. Building a retaining wall isn’t as simple as stacking rocks. A contractor will need to consider the slope of the yard, soil components, and design to make sure that the wall will not fail.
Keep in mind, we don’t do patch work or repairs. If your retaining wall has failed, we will need to completely rebuild the structure. We don’t believe in putting a band-aid on hardscapes. Not only does that affect the look and longevity of the project, it could also be a safety hazard.
When retaining walls are properly installed, they should not fall. So, when we are called on to fix a failing retaining wall we know from the start that something didn’t go right during the design or installation of the wall. Typically, walls fall because they were improperly reinforced, there are problems with the foundation or they have poor drainage or design. Continue reading to learn more about each of these flaws found in retaining walls.
Frequently, retaining walls fall because they were not properly reinforced when they were installed. Sometimes, if the wall is installed by someone who is not properly trained, there will be no reinforcement at all. When this is the case, walls cannot withstand the test of time. Eventually, they will begin to lean and with enough time they will fall entirely. A complete replacement of a retaining wall may be avoided if homeowners have proper reinforcement installed as soon as they notice tilting, before irreversible damage occurs.
Problems With the Foundation
A proper foundation is one of the essential elements of a strong retaining wall that will withstand changing weather for years after it is built. The challenge builders of retaining walls often face is that there are typically many factors at play when they are constructing a strong foundation. Builders must understand not only how to build the foundation, but if any problems with the ground below exist and what they can do to properly prepare the soil. Without a proper foundation, shifting of the wall will occur over time that will compromise the overall integrity of the wall and eventually cause the wall to fall.
Retaining walls should be built to allow proper drainage. Unfortunately, walls are frequently designed without drainage holes or with drainage that becomes clogged with weeds or soil. In order for weep holes to continue to drain properly for the long haul, gravel must be used to filter out anything that could causing clogging of the weep holes and eventually prevent drainage.
Most hardscape experts have the training and experience necessary to properly design a retaining wall. Problems arise, however, when someone with limited experience does not understand the many factors that go into designing the wall, the foundation of the wall and the reinforcement that keeps the wall stable over time. All of these things depend heavily on accurate measurements and if the overall design of the wall is bad, it won’t be able to withstand the demands changing temperatures, heavy rainfall, ice and snow can have on the structure.
There is one sure way to avoid a failing retaining wall — hire a hardscape contractor who has a portfolio that proves they understand how to build a wall that will withstand time. At Hinkle Hardscapes, our team members are expertly trained to offer specialized hardscape services including installation and repair of retaining walls. To learn more, click here or call 816-608-8870 to schedule a hardscape design consultation.
Do you want to see more photos of our work? Download our free design book!