If Your Retaining Wall Isn’t Retaining Dirt, You May Have a Problem

Home Builder with Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366 CSL#642819



If Your Retaining Wall Isn’t Retaining Dirt,

You May Have a Problem



The idea of a retaining wall is usually to hold back soil. It may be keeping soil from coming toward your home, the wall can be used to hold the ground away from your fence, and sometimes a retaining wall can help to keep soil from eroding away from under the foundation.


We see this sort of construction up in the foothills of the Sierras when the properties are located on rolling hills. The soil may have been cut back for a driveway or the foundation of the building; when this is done the fresh earth is very likely to wash away during a storm. Putting in a retaining wall holds that soil in place.


What if the constructed retaining wall fails? They don’t last forever, so the need to repair or replace them is important. If for example the wall is holding the soil around the building in place and the structure breaks down, over time the soil will begin to erode. This could lead to the dirt around the build to wash away, leaving the foundation unsupported. This can lead to crack of the foundation and structural failure.


In the photo, we can see that the fence and building are not far away from the retainer. We have seen the soil washed out from some rain and irrigation water. The soil level has dropped the fence height, and A/C unit already and the building is only a few feet away.


Perhaps a general contractor with experience in the construction of a retaining wall in El Dorado County can help in the replacement of the wall. This would solve the erosion of the soil and help to maintain the safety of the building.




Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Lenn Harley 02/21/2014 09:46 PM
  2. John McCormack, CRS 02/24/2014 02:04 AM
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Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Tom. Great....something serious to worry about and you are 3000 miles away. Anyone who sees your pictures and think they look familiar, should call you quickly.

Feb 21, 2014 08:33 PM #2
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

It seems to me that the key word in the term "retaining wall" would be the word retaining...

Feb 21, 2014 08:34 PM #3
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Tom,

Very important information to get out there! I showed a house a few weeks ago that is built and has retaining walls on both sides and the back of the house is supported on tall piers (have been reinforced but are still buscking). The retaining walls are failing and need to be addressed before the home slips down into the gully below!!!

Feb 21, 2014 10:33 PM #4
Tom White
Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com - Franklin, TN
Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN

Tom, yep, wood rots and there goes the "wall". In this case probably a good idea poorly executed!

Feb 21, 2014 11:14 PM #5
Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC - Fort Collins, CO
Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate

Hi Tom - One of the worst jobs I ever did was replacing a retaining wall. It was badly rotted railroad ties, and I had to haul all the old wood out, treat new ones with creosote (back when you could buy it), drill holes for rebar, and wreck my back. The next time, I'm calling you.

Feb 21, 2014 11:19 PM #6
Donna Foerster
HomeSmart Realty Group - Parker, CO
Metro Denver Real Estate Assistant

Tom~ I'm sure there are folks out there that think this simply a problem of the retaining wall not looking its best so they don't spend the money to replace or repair. They just don't realize the damage it can do. Great post. 

Feb 22, 2014 12:07 AM #7
Hella M. Rothwell, Broker/Realtor®
Carmel by the Sea, CA
Rothwell Realty Inc. CA#01968433 Carmel-by-the-Sea

Tom: I can't believe they used wood, even if treated, to hold back that amount of dirt. Came over from Lenn's reblog. 

Feb 22, 2014 12:31 AM #8
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Good grief, people do the oddest things. Can't imagine thinking a wood retaining wall is a good idea. Lol.

Feb 22, 2014 03:41 AM #9
Mike Cooper, GRI
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro

The use of wood was pretty short-sighted. I do see it quite a bit though. 

Feb 22, 2014 11:18 AM #10
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

We have all dealt with deferred maintenance when talking to potential sellers.  If they had spent a little at a time and kept things up when they happened, it would have been much easier on them.

Feb 22, 2014 11:39 AM #11
Christi Hacker
Keller Williams Greater Omaha - Omaha, NE
Your Omaha Area Real Estate Specialist
I suspect that by the time the homeowner takes notice of the problem, damage has already been done. Great post!
Feb 22, 2014 02:07 PM #12
Donald Reich
Prudential Centennial - New Rochelle, NY

Great post!!  A good retaining wall, and regular maintenance is so important. Thanks for sharing.    



Feb 22, 2014 04:44 PM #13
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

I've seen a few rotted wooden retaining walls around here.  They need to be repaired, not only due to visual problems, but structural.

Feb 22, 2014 09:49 PM #14
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Tom, most DIYer's forget that drainage is an important factor when building a retainer wall.

Feb 22, 2014 10:02 PM #15
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

I sold a house where the home next door was above it and had railroad ties for the retaining wall. Two years later if fell down and dirt filled the surface drainage system. Shortly after that one of our big rainbstorms hit where we get 4 inches in an hour and the water could not be drained away and it filled the garage up to 3 inches or so. The law odf unintended consequences hit home on maintaining integrity onr etaining walls.

Feb 22, 2014 10:19 PM #16
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County

This reminds me of a sea wall I saw last week. Needed work because retaining the bank was not in the plan!

Feb 22, 2014 10:30 PM #17
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Yes to this subject and post...I went and bought the metal stakes and wood and took care of business recently. Now, I just sit back and watch my work hold up just fine

Feb 22, 2014 11:44 PM #18
Dwight Puntigan
DRP Realty, LLC - Saint Peters, MO
Dwight Puntigan

More house value is lost to a poor water drainage plan on the property than almost anything else.

Feb 23, 2014 01:07 AM #19
John McCormack, CRS
Albuquerque Homes Realty - Albuquerque, NM
Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me!

Excellent Tom!

Feb 24, 2014 01:59 AM #21
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage

The value of a good retaining wall is immeasurable!

Build it right, maintain it, and it will serve you well.  :)

Mar 05, 2014 11:47 PM #22
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Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366

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