Retaining walls almost always enhance a property’s value and functionality, whether they’re used in residential or commercial settings. On a steep site that wouldn’t normally be suitable for development, one or more retaining walls can be used to create level areas where building lots, driveways and parking areas can be located. A retaining wall can improve a home’s living space and real estate value by creating space for a walkout basement.
Walls vary in size, shape and materials used for construction
Retaining walls come in all shapes and sizes. They can be straight or curved, with exposed faces that are vertical or tilted back into the earth. Massive versions are sometimes used to separate divided highways. On the opposite end of the spectrum, shorter walls are just a foot or two high, are often used as landscaping elements, creating garden spaces, sheltered alcoves and visual variety.
Just as they vary in size and Retaining wall repair shape, they can also differ because of the materials used to build them. Railroad or “landscape” ties enable people to construct these walls from wood. Short walls are often fashioned from native stone. A wide variety of modular concrete blocks are available specifically for retaining wall construction. These systems typically involve interlocking blocks designed to improve the overall strength of the completed wall. Standard CMU (concrete masonry unit) block retaining walls can also be found, often constructed by do-it-yourselfers. Poured concrete retaining walls are built using techniques very similar to those used for poured concrete foundation walls.
Common structural issues can compromise value and safety
The value of these walls -functional, aesthetic and property-enhancing-is significantly compromised when it starts to fail. Failure can take several forms. Models made from wood ties start to fail when the wood deteriorates because of rot. Masonry retaining walls start to fail as cracks develop, as individual blocks shift or fall out of place, or as the wall bows or tilts toward the ground, threatening to topple.
Retaining wall problems should always be addressed as soon as possible for two reasons. First of all, once a problem develops, it will only worsen over time, usually becoming more expensive to correct. Secondly, a weakened wall can pose a safety problem, since complete failure of a wall can release tons of soil onto people, pets and property.