Causes of retaining wall failure

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There are many benefits that come with having a retaining wall installed on your property. To name a few, they are mainly constructed to protect an area from soil erosion and also helps with making a boundary between two properties. 

Because retaining walls are absolutely expected to keep soil from being eroded to other areas that may cause accidents, they should be as stable and durable as possible. This is exactly the reason why it is important to have a licensed and experienced masonry contractor along with a structural engineer to plan and construct your retaining wall, especially if it is taller than a regular-sized wall. 

As with other things in the world, however, retaining walls can fail. This can be due to several reasons, and of course, this can also be avoided by having them maintained and inspected regularly. A failing retaining wall can be very dangerous, as it can cause accidents that may harm people, animals, and other properties. 

To avoid unfortunate events, it would be best to look into the most common reasons why retaining walls fail in order to prevent it from happening in the future.

What are the reasons why retaining walls fail?

A retaining wall failure can be traced to various reasons. The most common causes why retaining walls fail, crumble, and get damaged are the following:

Reason #1: A retaining wall can fail due to a lack of drainage.

One of the main reasons why retaining walls fail is due to the lack of drainage. If you are not aware, most professionals require having some sort of drainage in any retaining wall, no matter how short or tall it is when it comes to height. 





Back in the day, it was a very bad mistake to think that shorter retaining walls do not need to have a drainage system, and this is extremely unwise to do. Many homeowners are actually surprised to know this, as there are some contractors who have suggested against have drainage included, as they view it to be “useless” when the wall is not expected to carry heavy soil.

What to do: If you are still planning to have a retaining wall constructed, ask your contractor whether they will include a drainage system into your wall. If you already have a retaining wall that does not have drainage, call a contractor to have it placed before causing a bigger problem in the future. 

Reason #2: A retaining wall can fail due to improperly constructed drainage.

Having a drainage system can be very advantageous, but an incorrectly done one can be very dangerous and is also another leading reason why retaining walls fail. Imagine this: a retaining wall has a drainage system, but its weeping holes – the system that was made to drain water, were not properly made, which results in water and other debris being stuck within the area that was placed around the walls. This is just as bad as having no drainage system as it is not doing what it is meant to do, and instead made the wall more susceptible to failure sooner rather than later.

What to do: If you suspect that your retaining walls’ drainage system is not working properly, get them looked at by an expert. It may be possible to fix, but sometimes, the other option would be to have them redone. 

Reason #3: A retaining wall can fail due to a mistake in design.

When a retaining wall is being planned, there are several things that have to be taken into account, such as the desired height, the weight it has to support, and other important things that will determine what type of wall to be built along with the required height and drainage system to be fitted in. 






At this stage, there will also be some planning to see whether the wall will need to have extra support or footing. If there is something wrong with the calculations, there will be a huge price to pay, as it will definitely increase the chance of your wall to be defective in a short amount of time. 

What to do: In most cities in the United States, it is required to have a structural engineer do the inspection and planning of a retaining wall. Make sure that the contractor you hire is experienced and knows what they are doing. 

Reason #4: A retaining wall can fail due to poor construction.

No matter how good the plan or blueprint is, if a retaining wall is not constructed properly, the end result would be a failing and unattractive wall. 

What to do: Never scrimp on your construction budget. Before hiring a contractor, make sure that they are good, experienced, and licensed to avoid headaches in the future.

Reason #5: A retaining wall can fail due to the use of sub-standard materials.

When the wrong materials are used, this can be a recipe for a disaster. Although not all cheaper materials mean that it has a bad quality, make sure that you are not using materials that have poor reviews just because they are more convenient or are more inexpensive in price. 

What to do: Invest in getting quality materials that have been recommended by your contractor. Doing this also enhances the durability of your wall and makes it last for a longer time. 

Reason #6: A retaining wall can fail due to the soil in the area.

Another expensive mistake that causes a retaining wall to fail when not enough calculations were made can be due to the soil around the area. If the land around is too sloped, it would require an extensive amount of planning before construction can be started. Some soil can also cause problems due to its specific characteristic, such as a poorly compressed one that can be hard to construct a wall in to support it. 

What to do: Although some areas can be a challenge to build a retaining wall into, this does not mean that it would be impossible to do. In fact, retaining walls were specifically made to assist in challenging and sloped land. It would also be helpful to contact a local contractor, as they are more aware of the location and would know some techniques to construct a retaining wall that will last. 

Reason #7: A retaining wall can fail due to age. 

Like other things in the world, it is only natural for a retaining wall that has been constructed for many years to fail after a period of time. Depending on the material, some retaining walls are expected to last longer, but there are also some things that need to be taken into consideration as well, such as its height, the weight it has to carry, and many more. 

What to do: Although there is nothing that can stop time, you can make your wall last longer by having them inspected and maintained regularly. 

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