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Replacing Your Retaining Wall

Last Updated Mar 12, 2012 · Written by Jaclyn Fitzgerald

Retaining walls are one of the true garden work horses so it’s not exactly a surprise that they can fail or deteriorate over time, especially if they’ve been there for many years.  While repairing your wall may seem like a good option, in many cases the best thing to do is to remove the existing retaining wall and replace it with a brand new one.  Here is some information about doing just that.  For more advice, have a chat with your local retaining wall specialist.

Issues that Can Require Replacement of Your Retaining Wall

There are several issues that can cause you to need to replace your retaining wall altogether.  These include failure of the wall, the wall leaning in the wrong direction, or the soil just being too heavy for the wall to hold any longer.  As well you might get issues with a specific type of retaining wall such as timber retaining walls rotting through or warping, concrete retaining walls cracking severely, and brick and stone retaining walls coming loose from the mortar.  Poor drainage can also cause problems or even the total failure of the wall over time.  If your retaining wall suffers from any of these, it is often more efficient and safe to tear it down and replace it completely.

The General Process of Replacing a Retaining Wall

The specific steps that you have to follow when replacing a retaining wall will depend on the type of retaining wall that currently have.  However, there are some general steps that need to be followed.  First is the removal or demolition of the existing wall.  This should be done slowly and carefully so you don’t disturb the soil behind any more than necessary.  It may actually be necessary to dig some of the soil out and/or add temporary supports so that the wall does not cave.  Once demolition is done, the foundations for the new wall are laid.  The next step is to add any drainage that is needed and then begin the process of erecting the new wall.  Once the new wall has cured appropriately, the soil can be backfilled if necessary.

Retaining Wall Specialists

If you suspect that your retaining wall might need replacing, don’t even think about just starting to tear it down and starting over yourself.  It is a very good idea to call out a professional first.  The retaining wall specialist will be able to correctly identify the factors that caused your retaining wall failure, which in turn will allow them to design the replacement retaining wall so that it does not suffer from the same issues in time.  They’ll also be able to look at the specific site issues that you have and design a retaining wall that meets your needs most appropriately.  Another reason why you should call a specialist is the possibility that the wall or the soil may collapse when you are attempting to remove the old wall.
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