My house has a concrete retaining wall along the length of my driveway that
is about 40 inches high and roughly 30 feet long. I believe it is made of
cinder blocks. The problem is that the wall has developed a horizontal
crack roughly six inches from the bottom. The wall above the crack appears
to be shifting very slightly (say 1 to 1.5 inches tops in one section) but
the wall is still level and not in any immediate danger of falling over.
My question is whether or not it's worth spending $970 to have a mason do
the following: " wire lath and cement plaster the whole wall, and 2"
limestone cap end to end". I'm just wondering if this will do anything
whatsoever toward prolonging the life of the wall, or if this is going to
just be purely cosmetic work.
My understanding is that the mason is only going to do this work on the
front of the wall, and not do anything to the side with the backfill.
By the way, the wall has weep-holes but they got clogged with dirt, so, I
don't believe the wall currently has the proper granular backfill (although
it MAY have had that at one time and my theory is that the filters
originally installed behind the weep-holes deteriorated, and the backfill
gradually seeped out of the weep holes 'til they got clogged with dirt)
Do you recommend I have the mason wire lath and cement the wall, or is this
just a waste of my money in terms of prolonging the wall's life? Any other
recommendations toward repairing the existing wall?
shifted. Your analysis of the silt through the weepholes sounds about right-
the backfill and drainage behind the wall is probably inadequate, and
hydrostatic pressure is shoving the block over. If you get a hard freeze
right after a heavy rain, it could topple right over, now that the mortar
bond is broken.
The lathe'n'stucco approach is just cosmetic, and won't slow down the
collapse at all. IOW, a waste of money. Start saving for a rebuild.
This could be a DIY job, if you feel like a lot of exercise. Buy the
'retaining walls' DIY book at the big box book aisle, and get digging. Even
if you have a real mason relay the wall, you can save money by doing the
demo and digging yourself. Depending on the mortar mix originally used, you
may even be able to reuse (some of) the same cinderblock. If not, they are
cheap. Drain tile and gravel for backfill, with the top six inches dirt or
mulch for plantings. Or you could splurge and have a reinforced concrete
wall poured, with anchor legs back into the hill.
sounds cosmetic to me,...not worth it unless you're selling soon =)
you could try putting rebar in the tops and filling with concrete
assuming they're hollow. Only other thing you could try is to remove
pressure from the wall but at that point after you dig you might as
well lay new block
As other have pointed out this will do nothing to prolong the life of the
wall. I agree with the post that said save this $970 towards replacement.
Your mileage may vary but we had a similar situation on a house we bought in
1982. I looked at that wall and thought that is going to be a major PITA to
replace. It took 17 years and a 100 year storm to finally topple the thing.
I wasn't wrong about the amount of work to replace it. I replace it with a
concrete footer and the big dry laid retaining wall blocks interlocked with
rebar and filled with crushed stone. Exclusive of the footer, I used about
$1K of blocks to do a 60 foot wall 32" high. I did all the labor.
I'm no expert but this would be my thoughts on the thing.
a) Get some estimates as to what replacing the wall will cost.
b) See if you can find a couple of different people who will give you
some kind of idea how long the existing wall might last.
c) Figure out how comfortable you are with the idea that the wall might
give way one rainy day. Will it trap you in your house? Will it not
be any bother at all? What level of risk are you happy with?
d) Once you have the above then you work out a budget and save $X.XX
a month (week, paycheck or year) so that you have the money to
replace the wall before you start to get uncomfortable with the
risk of it failing.
The argument that it's a waste of money to replace it too soon sounds
somewhat wrong to me. You have to spend that money sooner or later.
When you do spend it then you should be replacing that wall with one
that is properly built and which should last a number of decades.
What difference will a few more years make when compared to the life
of the replacement wall?
The only way it would be cheaper to wait a while is if you have to take
out a loan today but in a few years you could save up the money and pay
for it in cash. Loans always make things more expensive.
BTW, neither will putting re-rods and mortar down the existing
cavities, because that will STILL not tie the wall into any kind of
foundation lip that (probably doesn't exist anyway) runs back under
the higher soil to anchor the wall. Making a "stronger" wall will
merely result in it all tippng over in one unit, what is weak is the
(lack of a) tie to anything to counterbalance the lateral pressure,
not necessarily the wall itself. To, that it is block is highly
highly suspect of an improper job to start with.
The wall being (only) 40 inches, after it gets a bit worse and has to
come down, can you make the vertical cliff into a slope instead, that
will make it much easier to hold back. Just about any decent
'permanent' solution to this would need some back excavation anyway,
for tie backs, and proper foundation, or angling back with those
(easily DIY) modular dry laid retaining block systems.
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