Understanding Retaining Walls
Retaining walls play a critical role in the protection of structures from damage related to soil collapse, but many property owners are unaware of just how integral these walls are to the overall health of their property. Properly constructed and well-maintained retaining walls not only mitigate soil erosion and wash-out after excavation, but also keep soil from collapsing. Soil collapse can put your building at risk for damage and any bystanders in physical danger, so it’s vital to maintain your retaining walls properly, and to understand their role in the protection of your home or commercial space.
What are Retaining Walls?
In order to gain a clear understanding of retaining walls’ importance to your property, you must first have a basic understanding of what retaining walls are and how they work.
A retaining wall is erected after excavation or filling an embankment to provide support, which prevents soil from eroding slowly or collapsing suddenly. These walls may be constructed from a variety of materials, including reinforced concrete, timber logs, concrete blocks, brick or stone. They may be built to support terraced gardens or fill earth, in addition to excavation sites and filled embankments.
How Building Materials Can Affect Retaining Walls’ Stability
If you’re considering a construction project which would create the necessity for a retaining wall, you’re in the position of being able to choose the building materials which best suit your needs and individual environmental factors. This means you’ll need to understand the benefits and drawbacks relative to the most commonly chosen building materials. Likewise, property owners whose properties contain existing retaining wall structures should also make an effort to learn more about retaining wall building materials in order to better understand the stability and maintenance needs of these structures.
Timber logs are a popular choice for retaining walls, but can require more dedicated maintenance than other materials due to their susceptibility to both timber pest infestation and moisture-related rotting. Young concrete and lime mortar, however, can be strengthened by exposure to dampness, and as such may be better choices for areas which see heavy rainfall. Boulder and stone retaining walls, which provide the durability inherent to stone materials and a pleasing aesthetic quality, are typically only as strong as the skill of the builder who erects them.
Protecting Your Retaining Walls, Protecting Your Property
Both new and long-established retaining walls should be evaluated periodically by a professional within the building trades with no financial stake in the findings of that evaluation. This is where a registered building inspection company can be of substantial assistance. Because building inspectors do not provide construction, repair or damage mitigation services, there’s no potential for conflict of interest or inaccurate reporting for the sake of driving up prices.
Protecting your retaining walls through regular inspections is a great way to protect your entire property, by ensuring the stability and structural soundness of the walls which prevent soil collapse and potential injury. If you have an existing retaining wall, are considering the purchase of a property which contains one or are embarking upon a construction project which will create the necessity for a retaining wall, contact a registered building inspector to ensure your wall is safe, secure and up to its job.