7 Reasons Retaining Walls Fail, 7 Steps To Repairing Them, And More

This Is Why Stone Retaining Walls Fail, How We Repair Stone Retaining Walls For Our Clients In Kansas City, Missouri, And How Long Retaining Walls Last

It’s smart to know the lifespan of your retaining walls. Even though they’re made from stone, they can’t last forever.

In this post, you can find out why retaining walls fail. You can also discover how to fix a leaning stone retaining wall and how to repair a collapsed stone retaining wall. Finally, you can find out how long should a retaining wall last.

Old overgrown stone retaining wall

Does Our Retaining Wall Look…Off?

“Jenn, come take a look at this!” yells Michael from the front door.

“Ok,” she answers, standing up from the couch. Michael walks her to the driveway and points beside the driveway. “Does our retaining wall look…off, to you?” he asks.

Jennifer stares at it, turning her head a few times, walking around to get different angles. “I’m not too sure. Shouldn’t it still be ok for a lot longer?

Michael shrugs. “Unless it wasn’t built well then yeah. I’m going to still look up how to fix a leaning stone retaining wall, how to repair a collapsed stone retaining wall, and how long should a retaining wall last.”

Jennifer nods. “Then I’ll look into stone retaining wall installers near us, just in case.” Michael nods and the couple starts digging around Google.

Here’s what Michael finds:

7 Reasons Why Retaining Walls Fail

Failing stone retaining wall

Retaining walls fail when they can’t hold back the weight of the dirt behind them. This can happen because the retaining wall was built poorly. It can also be due to the combined weight of the soil and the water causing damage over time. It weakens little by little until it fails.

There are 7 main reasons a retaining wall can fail:

1. Bad Subgrade Or Footing

If the foundation of any structure is bad it will fall over.

It could be the dirt or gravel under the retaining wall is shifting or not compacted well.

Maybe whoever built it used capstones (the ones that go on the top) for the footing. Top stones aren’t as big as others, so it’s like building using the smallest blocks first.

2. Improper Drainage

Poor drainage can destroy your retaining wall.

If water can’t find an easy way out it’ll start forcing its way out. This can cause water to push against the wall and wear it down. It can also make the soil behind it heavier, which can push it over.

Even proper drainage systems can break down over time. If the damage becomes clear you may want to contact someone immediately.

3. Improper Backfill Procedures

The backfill for retaining walls is the soil behind them. This is what makes retaining walls different from normal walls.

If the backfill isn’t layered correctly so water can easily move down it, improper drainage damage can occur.

4. Incorrect Building Materials

Some people may use softer stones that’ll crumble. They may also use top row stones for the base and base stones for the top.

5. Building On Top Of A Retaining Wall

Trying to build on top of a wall that’s not made to support that weight isn’t a good idea.

Unless you build a wall to support the weight of a structure, it’ll fail. We’ve seen this when someone tried to build a deck with a retaining wall supporting it. Long story short, it didn’t work out and we had to come in and fix it.