A retaining wall is a wall that is built to support the soil on one side of it. The soil behind the retaining wall is called the backfill. The backfill is usually soil that has been excavated from the site where the retaining wall is being built. The purpose of a retaining wall is to create a stable environment on one side of the wall while the other side is free to move. This can be important for both preventing erosion and stabilizing a slope. Read about the construction of a retaining wall by clicking here.
When constructing a retaining wall, engineers try and account for a variety of factors to ensure that the retaining wall doesn’t fail. However, sometimes failure does occur, and retaining walls collapse.
There are a few warning signs that indicate a retaining wall is about to collapse and these include;- cracks on the wall, tilting of the wall, bulging, and shifting among others. These are usually deformations on the wall usually caused when the wall is overwhelmed.
Some of the Causes of retaining wall collapse are Soil Type, Poor Construction, Lack of Drainage, and overloading among others.
The type of soil: The type of soil can affect the stability of a retaining wall. Different soil types have different load-bearing capacities which further depend on different aspects like moisture content, drainage characteristics, and particle size among others. Soil with low load-bearing capacity will likely give in to the weight of the retaining wall and settle which might lead to upheaval.
The weight of the load on the retained earth; When constructing a retaining wall, engineers try to compute the expected load the wall will be tasked to retain and account for that in the design. However, sometimes, unexpected and uncounted loads might damage the wall causing failure. An example is a retaining wall constructed to hold the earth next to a road. That retaining wall is designed to withstand load bases expected traffic on the road. However, when the road traffic suddenly increases, more stress is imposed onto the road thus increasing pressure on the wall which could lead to failure.
Poorly compacted soil: Compaction stiffens the soil structure and increases its load-bearing capacity. This is usually done using either hand-operated compactors or automatically operated compactors called rollers. If the soil is not properly compacted, it can shift and cause a retaining wall to collapse.
Drainage problems: Water increases the pressure exerted onto the retaining wall. If water is not able to drain properly, it can build up and cause pressure on a retaining wall, leading to a collapse. The drainage properties of soil depend on the type of soil. For instance, sand soils have better drainage properties than clay soils.
Faulty construction: If a retaining wall is not constructed correctly, it can lead to instability and eventual collapse. There are a number of reasons why the construction of a retaining wall can turn out faulty. Sometimes the materials used aren’t inadequate, and other times the materials are insufficient due to excessive cost cutting.
The Consequences of the Collapse of a retaining wall can be dire. Depending on the size of the wall and how much infrastructure it’s supporting, the effects can include: Damage to Property, Injury, and Death among others. The collapse of a retaining wall supporting a road will have more serious consequences than a retaining wall used to level a compound for landscaping a home.
There are a number of ways you can prevent the collapse of a retaining wall or at least reduce the likelihood of it happening.
Hire a Professional is one of them. Most people opt to use less qualified constructors because they are cheaper than actual professionals, but whatever cost savings they make by opting for less professional constructors, they pay for them in the event that the retaining wall collapses. Read more about the benefit of hiring commercial construction professionals for your construction.
Regular Maintenance is another factor that can help prevent retaining wall collapse. Maintenance activities include regular inspection, risk analysis, and corrective works. Read more about retaining wall maintenance by clicking here.
In conclusion, it is crucial to know the reasons why retaining walls collapse. This knowledge can help you to avoid such a disaster from happening. The three main reasons for retaining wall failures are poor drainage, inadequate reinforcement, and poor design. By being aware of these issues and taking steps to prevent them, you can help to ensure the safety of your property and the stability of your retaining wall.