DIY Home Improvement, Remodeling & Repair Forum > DIY Home Improvement > Bricks, Masonry and Concrete > BIG retaining wall is on its way out

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Old 05-07-2008, 10:29 PM  
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Default BIG retaining wall is on its way out

oh, boy,

ultimately it's contractor time for this repair. i know this. but i'm looking for advice on maybe an effective "band-aid" type bracing concept so we can get a little more time to incorporate plans for foundation work for a planned home addition that would essentially butt right against said wall.

or, frankly, ANYTHING else at all that's helpful. read on, and after i spill the beans i'll hammer out some questions.

the wall is 10 feet tall, first off. it's approximately 40 feet in length. the yard above the wall is on my property. the home is below, with about a 10-or-12 foot concrete slab patio area directly beneath the wall and between the wall and the house. the wall is cinder block with rebar, filled in with concrete, and looks like a concrete foundation, as well.

when we bought the place, four years back, the wall had already been damaged by a bush/tree that had been allowed to grow directly against the wall. (if i could get ahold of the monkey that let it happen....grrrr... but never mind that.) we knew it was going to be trouble at the time, but it wasn't IMMINENTLY coming down, so much as... well, it's eventually gonna need some serious work...

i have gradually watched the cracks get bigger, and the wall is no longer even near plumb--the top is hanging out half a foot over, at least, at the worst spot. there's a staircase on the end near the main damage and a corner (90 degree) at the stair case, and the corner has developed some bad cracking now, as well. the 3/4 rigid conduit used as the frame for a wire fence atop the wall has begun to look kind of like a 3-point saddle.

i have pics from four years ago, and i'll get some new ones taken, and try and post them here.

like i mentioned before, the plan was to add on to the home and fix the wall at the same time, but now there's a couple 2-year-olds running around, and the wall seems to be getting worse faster now, and i'm wondering if i can gain any more time by removing (a massive amount of) dirt from behind the wall and bracing it somehow (with anchors into the patio slab and big-*** lumber) or if that'll a.) do anything at all, or b.) even make it worse?

searching the net i don't see anything even approaching the size of this wall on any DIY sites, and when i come across documents from cities talking about low bids of $80K for emergency retaining wall repairs i simply shudder.

i appreciate your time and concern.


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Old 05-08-2008, 05:55 AM  
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Default Band aids.

California and bandaids please.

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Old 05-08-2008, 09:19 AM  
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Hmmm - My first thought is to do it correctly once. I like your idea of incorporating it into an addition. Your second floor would have direct access to the area above the wall. Seems it would be a nice feature. If you go that route then your foundation company/ arcitect / engineer could engineer the entire job as part of the addition project.

If you just replaced the wall it would be cheaper but may not fit into the addition plans down the road.

If it were me, given the info you provided, I would do this...
1) look for drainage pipes - The wall is likely failing due to tree roots and accumulation of water behind it. If you have drains make sure they are clear and remove any trees that may be applying pressure. Your goal is to keep things from getting worse.
2) engage an arcitect/engineer to draw up plans for you addition, incorporating the wall.
3) Take those plans to foundation companies to get bids
4) have them fix your wall in such a way it will be usable for your future addition

steps 2-4 will be expensive and a big disturbance but will not be wasted money. Certainly not 80K but I could be wrong.

Good luck
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Old 05-08-2008, 11:57 AM  
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Welcome JT:
I have a retaining wall that is over 50 years old, had no weep holes to relieve the pressure behind it, is falling apart and looking really bad. Mine is only 4' tall so it is not nearly as much a problem as yours. I have already contracted a back hoe and dump truck guy to cut the dirt back to a 45* angle (the accepted norm for dirt not to settle or wash, if protected) get rid of a bunch of trees that are pushing the wall out, lay black plastic on the dirt and lay the retaining wall down over the plastic.

By doing this, I hope to make the wall less of a danger to the neighbors below it, stabilize the movement and eleminate any mowing on the bank.

Your wall sounds like it is a hazard to your house and needs to be removed or replaced. Of course, you have to own at least 10' of land above the wall to cut it back on a 45* angle. I see no option as far as trying to stabilize the wall or pull it back unless you dig out a lot of dirt from behind it. Then, you could add several anchors into the bank, add steel beams to the face of the wall to pull against, and try to re-align the wall. Let us know how it turns out for you; you have my keen interest.
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Old 05-11-2008, 11:05 AM  
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If you cant fit it right now a band aid it better than doing at nothing.

i would anchor 4x4 or 6x6 every 8 feet against the wall. Anchor the bottom to your patio with a bracket and concrete anchors then angle another post min. of 14' to patio with more brackets and anchors.(chiping out some of the patio will help to angled post from moving) add a couple rows of posts connecting the posts together. then add 8x6 fencing for looks and plus to stop any loose cinder block from falling.

other than an earth quake, it should hold as long as you have good anchors in the cement.
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Old 05-11-2008, 05:10 PM  
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Default You need to do something.

The issue with trying to band aid it is this. California has terrible mud slides and loose soil. This is why the wall has moved so much in the past 4 years.
Get above the wall and see where the water is running. Keep away from the edge and try a diverter water troth to keep it away at the least.
Adding supports to the wall will not help when it decides to go. It is a false sense of security.
I would make a temporary fence to keep folks away from the first.
Contact your local officials to help out. They may have some options in your area for help. Don't be afraid of em, they would rather help out before a traumatic event.

Just my 10 cents.

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