How Long Do Retaining Walls Last? Factors That Can Affect The Results
If you are looking into building retaining walls for any purpose, you may wonder how long do they last. Retaining walls are not cheap solutions for construction problems, but some things can be done to extend their life. Before deciding if retaining walls are right for your needs, you should consider what options you have.
Retaining walls are made of masonry or concrete and are used to retain groundwater in the base of the soil. Remember that even though retaining walls are designed to hold back soil loads, there is very little room for error when you do a project like this. The durability of retaining walls and their resistance to water damage and longevity depend on many factors that you can’t see. Poor drainage and footing in the soil are two examples.
The first thing to consider is how long the retaining wall will stay standing if it receives only minimal amounts of water. If it is going to take a couple of inches of water per day, the average is about four feet high. In order for you to figure out how much the wall repair is going to cost, you need to multiply the rate per foot by twenty-four, which gives you an idea of how many square feet you will need to repair.
If the retaining walls are not properly insulated, the walls are more likely to fail. Standing water expands when it comes into contact with cold concrete and contracts when it comes in contact with heat. A cold wall also expands and contracts when it gets hot and cold, which can lead to buckling. Insulation not only stops expanding and contracting, but it also helps keep the heat or cold out during summer and winter. Some homeowners believe that weatherproofing is an unnecessary step, but new research shows that it can prevent failing retaining walls. You can use a two-inch thick board as insulation. The added layer can reduce draftiness by up to three degrees.
Another important aspect to consider is the life expectancy of the panels in the wall. If a material is durable and long lasting, it will cost less than a better quality product. An example would be treated cedar, which can last fifteen years or more in a location without changing. If the panel is made of other material, it will not last that long, and you could have to replace it before the desired lifespan is reached.
It is also very important to check the masonry walls themselves for problems. Examine all sides for any cracks or gaps that could allow water into the basement. Any cracks or porous areas should be sealed. You may want to consider waterproofing as well. Some home centers include this type of service with the purchase of the property, and many contractors offer this service as well.
A final consideration when calculating how long do retaining walls last is the mortar that is used. Different types of mortar will last longer than others. Cast iron will last the longest, followed by natural stone and clay. Moisture resistant rock and brick will also work, although these options are not as commonly used. In climates that see high temperatures, rammed earth retaining walls may not hold up as well. Rammed earth is composed of gypsum and clay, and while it does resist moisture, it also leaves a fine coating of salt on the surface that may destroy the underlying mortar.
How long do retaining walls last depends on many factors. For larger buildings, the answer can be simple – if you have enough money, it’s probably best to hire a contractor to handle the job. However, for smaller structures, the answer will likely vary depending on how you build your wall and how you select your materials. For example, brick may be the most cost effective, but if you use larger stones that will create a focal point, the cost per square foot will come down. Regardless of the material, keep the above considerations in mind as you begin to look for DIY retaining wall ideas that will work for you.