Repairing Crumbling and Failing Retaining Walls
Your retaining wall is showing signs of failure.
What is a Retaining Wall?
Retaining walls serve to retain the lateral pressure of soil. More simply, retaining walls are used to hold back soil and substrate from moving due to the effects of gravity and erosion. Retaining walls are typically designed out of concrete, stone, wood (including railroad ties), vinyl, masonry, steel, or brick.
- Tilting Walls
- Separation of Retaining Wall from Adjoining Walls
- Forward Movement of Wall or Wall Sections
- Buckling, Cracked, or Crumbling Walls
- Rotted Wood
How to Fix It:
We install either a wall anchor system or helical tieback system along the retaining wall to reinforce the structure.
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Identifying Retaining Wall Failure
Signs of a failing retaining wall are usually easy to identify, as shown in the different examples below. The important thing to know is that these symptoms will become increasingly worse over time. Unless proper repairs are made, the wall will eventually fail completely.
Signs Of A Failing Retaining Wall
Most often, a retaining wall will show signs of failure in one of three ways:
Collapsing/Tilting Retaining Walls
Soil issues and/or poor construction are often the culprits for retaining walls that are tilting.
This can happen if the footing toe is too small or if the wall wasn’t properly reinforced. Railroad tie retaining walls can begin to collapse due to wood rot or deterioration.
Most retaining walls require drainage “weeps”. If water accumulates behind the wall, this additional weight can cause clay soils to expand, leading to cracks and tilting.
Retaining Walls Separating From Adjacent Walls
Like collapsing/tilting retaining walls, walls that are separating from adjacent walls are often caused by poor quality construction.
A separating retaining wall may not have been designed to withstand the weight that actually bears on the wall.
Poor drainage and inadequate reinforcement or connection to the adjacent wall are other possible causes. In unusual cases, expansive soils may also cause a retaining wall to separate from an adjoining wall.
Crumbling/Failing Retaining Walls
Retaining walls can crumble for a wide variety of reasons, most related to the improper design of the walls itself.
Often, the wall was not designed to bear the weight load behind it. In the case of concrete retaining walls, the issue may be inadequate, weak, or poorly mixed concrete.
Concrete retaining walls may also have been designed with inadequate steel rebar, resulting in insufficient strength.
Repairing Retaining Walls
To repair retaining walls, we at Baker’s Waterproofing typically recommend either wall anchors or helical tiebacks to restore structural integrity.
Both wall repair techniques use a strong steel wall bracket on the exterior of the retaining wall to brace the wall and properly distribute the anchor’s clamping pressure.
With both wall anchors and helical tiebacks, your foundation repair contractor will also attempt to return the wall to its original position, restoring its appearance and structural integrity.
Wall anchors accomplish this by driving an anchor rod through 1″ holes driven into the retaining wall. These rods are connected to earth anchors that are placed within augured holes within the soil beyond the retaining wall.
Once assembled, the wall plate is installed, and the rod assembly is tightened. This can potentially straighten the wall and return it to its original position.
Helical anchors are installed from the exposed face of the retaining wall, through a hole cut in the wall. The anchor’s helical blades help to pull it deep into the soil and anchor it there. After closing the hole in the retaining wall, a wall plate is installed and a nut is tightened over the protruding threaded rod to brace the wall.
Wall anchors are generally the more economical solution to repairing a retaining wall. However, in some cases, wall anchor installation is not a possibility, and helical anchor installation must be considered.
This includes situations where rocky soil is an issue, or when space restrictions make auguring a hole beyond the retaining wall an impractical solution. Your foundation repair specialist will be able to advise you on the most appropriate solution for you.
What NOT To Do
Like other solutions for structural issues, you will encounter many options for repairing your retaining wall. Here are two “fixes” that we at Baker’s Waterproofing do NOT recommend:
Removing & Rebuilding The Retaining Wall:
Unless the retaining wall is showing extensive deterioration, removing the walls and rebuilding them should not be a necessary step.
Removing and rebuilding a retaining wall is an expensive, time-consuming process that typically involves heavy equipment, major excavation, extra labor, and the loss of valuable landscaping features.
Poor Quality Wall Anchors:
Retaining wall anchors are exposed to the elements — both in the soil and on the wall plates themselves. If these anchors are poorly made or not treated to resist corrosion, they will quickly look old and unsightly. This will lower the property value and possibly lead to early failure of the wall anchor system.
We recommend installing wall anchors made with galvanized steel — with a written warranty that stands by the product for decades to come.
We Repair Retaining Walls In PA & WV!
At Baker’s Waterproofing, we provide warrantied solutions for retaining wall repair throughout Western PA and Northern West Virginia. For homeowners interested in learning more about their unique problem, we offer free, written retaining wall repair quotes at no obligation. To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, call or e-mail us today!