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What happens if the retaining wall fails?

Oct 9


Concrete retaining walls that fail can cause extensive damage to the landscape and costly repairs. Concrete is more expensive and more complicated to fix than planks or bricks. Another reason to hire an experienced and reliable retaining wall contractor for your construction or repair is that concrete can be more expensive than bricks or planks.

Signs that a collapse of the retaining wall is imminent

A retaining wall that fails will be evident if there is a lot of dirt and debris leaking from it onto adjacent areas. You don't need to wait for the wall to collapse to get it fixed. You can stop a retaining wall from falling apart by recognizing its early warning signs. What are some of the signs that a retaining wall is about to fail?


The leaning or cracking are the most obvious signs. These signs could indicate that the retaining walls are losing their fight to hold back the soil. These signs should not be ignored as the wall could collapse at any crucial moment, such as during a storm.

Failure of a Retaining Wall

To prevent retaining walls from failing, you should first understand the causes. Also, ensure that the wall is not weakened, bulging, or cracked later.

Poor Drainage

Poor drainage is the main reason for retaining wall collapse. Poor drainage can lead to hydrostatic pressure behind the wall. The retaining wall may not be able to support saturated soil, which is significantly heavier than dry soil.


This problem can be solved by retaining walls that have adequate drainage. The drainage acts as a funnel for water behind the wall and leads it out of the structure. Most retaining wall designs have drainage provided by a system that includes a perforated pipe to channel water, gravel to maintain the porosity and geotechnical fabric to separate soil from rock.

Shallow Footing

It is essential that your retaining wall footing is deep enough to resist the weight and saturation of the soil. If frost is in your area, it should be even more profound.

A wall with a shallow footing can less resist the pressure from the soil and water. Gravity walls are dependent primarily on their weight for effectiveness. The footing depth is even more critical in gravity walls.

Substandard Materials or Lacking Reinforcement

Retaining wall failure can also be caused by poor concrete mixes, lack of supports, or a lack of reinforcing bars. Remember that even a 4-foot-high and 15-foot-long retaining wall can hold back up to 20 tons of soil.

Additional Load on the Top

A 3-foot extra load can cause a blowout. This could be a car or a shed. The extra load causes the retaining wall to tip over and eventually topple. Be sure to account for the additional burden the retaining wall will bear before it is constructed. This will prevent any failures due to excessive load. Depending on how much load is being calculated, your contractor might need to increase the strength of your wall by adding anchors or tiebacks.

Slope Failure

Slope failure is also a factor in retaining wall failures. The wall may be subject to stress if the dynamics of the slope it is holding back change suddenly. Learn how slope failure can lead to retaining wall failure. Also, you should read the causes of slope failure.

Repairing retaining walls can be costly. If you are starting to build one, ensure that you hire a reliable contractor with decades of experience with complex builds and concrete structures. Selecting steadfast Custom Construction for your retaining wall repair Pittsburgh is the best option.