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Common reasons why retaining walls collapse

In Los Angeles and other areas of California, retaining walls are a common sight for residential and commercial buildings. For architects, retaining walls are a perfect solution when they have to build in an area that is hilly or has a slope. Not only are retaining walls an important design element, but they also provide opportunities for creative and unique landscaping.

Like any structure, retaining walls can fail. This can be due to design flaws or simply the forces of nature. Torrential rains can cause landslides that retaining walls cannot withstand. Here are three common reasons why retaining walls fail.

Overturning

Retaining walls have to be built to withstand the pressure of the soil that they are holding in place. However, when the thrust of the soil is stronger than the wall's weight, the wall will overturn and collapse. Builders and architects can avoid this hazard by increasing the mass of the wall.

Sliding

Sliding is another reason why retaining walls fail. This is also due to the pressure, or thrust, of the soil being held in place by the wall. The difference between sliding and overturning is that, in this case, the wall will move in a horizontal line while remaining intact.

The same solutions that can keep a wall from overturning can also reduce the chances of a slide. For instance, a larger foundation, walls with more mass or the use of a cantilevered foundation can help prevent sliding. In addition, a proper drainage system behind the wall will alleviate the build up of pressure.

Foundation settlement

In some cases, the weight of the retaining wall itself will put pressure on the soil and cause it to compress. This can cause the wall to sink as well as other movement in the structure and the soil. Over time, the compression and the movement might cause the wall to collapse.

While even the most structurally sound and well-designed walls are at risk of failure, if the quality of the materials used and the design itself is subpar, there is an increased likelihood of a wall collapse or slide. If this happens, you might be able to take legal action and recoup your losses for the damage done to your property.

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