Should I wait for my retaining wall to fail before I replace it?

Offering reliable landscaping services to homeowners in British Columbia since 2013

Natasha Maerz

Natasha Maerz

Owner/Office Manager

When you have a retaining wall in your yard that is barely hanging on, as a homeowner you have two options. Wait for the wall to completely topple over and then replace it, or replace it before your wall fully fails.

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Why replace a failing retaining wall before it falls over

The expense of replacing a failing retaining wall

If you have a current wall that is failing, you may think that it would make sense to wait until the wall has fallen over to replace it, especially if the wall still looks like it has a couple years left in it.

If you are replacing a wood retaining wall with another wooden wall, then it might make sense to wait to replace it because wood walls have a short life span.

If you are replacing a wooden wall with an Allan Block wall, this logic does not work, since Allan Block walls last 100+ years when build correctly.

If you are having your failing wall replaced and it is currently standing, it will be way easier for the excavation to take place, and you will save money on your new retaining wall in the long run.

This is because when a current  retaining wall is getting demoed and the old wall is being pulled away, all of the soil that it was retaining will hold for the most part.

When this happens, the soil can be carved out exactly as needed, and the proper amount of excavation can take place. If a wall has already fallen over, the soil that was being retained will start to slough away from the bank, and will erode the more that is rains, leaving you with a lot more soil to excavate.

Because there is going to be a lot more soil that needs to be excavated, a lot more gravel will need to be brought in to replace the soil, rather than just what you need to build the wall.

It is much more cost effective to replace a wall that is still standing, because you will only be excavating what you need to.

Soil disposal is actually more expensive than most people realize, and the heavier it is the more the disposal cost will be.

This means that if the soil from the bank has eroded, and is wet and heavy, you will be paying even more for disposal costs.

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When the retaining wall will be built

When hiring a contractor to build a retaining wall, you certainly want to do your due diligence and hire a competent company that is going to be able to build you a sound wall that not only functions, but serves as a focal point for your yard.  

If you are needing to hire a company based on timeline, you may go with the first company you find, and hire them out of desperation, even if they are not a good fit for you and your family.

Once your retaining wall fails, you will be in more of a panic to get it fixed quickly, and deal with it as a time sensitive manner.

Hiring a company based on when they are able to build the wall should be on the lower end of reasons to hire a contractor, and when you are buying based on urgency, you could be making a costly mistake.

Getting your wall schedule while it is still standing will be able to give you the time to vet a contractor properly, and ensure that your wall will be built accordingly.

 

Safety

Unless your wall is only 2 ft tall and is a small retaining wall, having it fail is a big safety concern. A failing wall that falls on its own is going to do lots of damage to its surrounding areas, whether that be a patio, pool deck or even a shed that is on top of the wall.

If your wall is still standing when you are getting it replaced, huge repairs and issues can be avoided.

 

Stress/Worry

When a wall has failed or is about to fail, the stress and worry that a homeowner feels can be overwhelming.

They are most likely thinking about how safe their yard is, if they can even get someone to come build a replacement wall in a timely manner, and worse, if there is rain or snow, if all of the soil the wall was retaining will come crashing down.

Instead of waiting months to repair your retaining wall and worrying about when the wall is going to suddenly give out, replace your retaining wall sooner rather than later.

There is no downside to being prepared and having your wall built before all of these problems arise.

The time of year your wall is built

The time of year that your retaining wall is built matters a whole lot. Building a retaining wall in the summer time is way cleaner than building a wall in the fall or winter.

Anytime it is raining, or the ground is frozen and harder to deal with, brings challenges, and adds on to the labour and cost to do the job.

When a wall is built in the summer, equipment makes less mess in the yard, plywood is not needed, and the soil is cheaper to dispose of because it is not wet and heavy.

By getting ahead of the fall and winter weather, and replacing a failing wall before it topples over, your wall will be cheaper and faster to build.

 

 

Protecting the retaining walls surroundings

Most retaining walls have plants, trees, or flowers that give their wall an extra design element. When you plan ahead and get your wall fixed before its completely failed, you can ensure that these plants, flowers and trees will be salvaged.

If your wall fails and the walls surroundings have not been remedied, most, if not all of the existing greenery around, on top, and in front of the wall, will be damaged and unable to be used again.

 

Saving money, your beloved plants, not having to stress and worry about the safety of belonging and people, and ensuring hiring the right company for you, make it apparent that there is virtually no downside to building a retaining wall before it fails.