Retaining walls do a lot to enhance a residential or commercial property’s value and practicality. They perform the essential function of creating two areas of level ground (at different heights) where once there was only a slanted hillside. A steep site like a hillside is normally fairly useless, but proper retaining walls can turn that pointless space into multiple flat steps that can be used for any purpose.
The Problems With Retaining Walls
The value of a retaining wall is limited, however, by a few factors. Chief among them it it’s resistance to the elements, but also related are it’s strength and it’s flexibility.
- Strength is an obvious concern: if you add a parking lot and a Wendy’s to the middle step of a retaining-walled hillside, you add several dozen tons of weight, all of which puts outward pressure on the wall. If the wall collapses, the building will almost certainly collapse as well.
- Flexibility is also a significant issue because floods or heavy rains, minor earthquakes, and other events will cause the retaining wall to shift slightly. A stiff, brittle retaining wall will simply shatter.
- Finally, resistance to the elements is vital — even a strong, flexible wall can be brought down over time by erosion, annual temperature changes affecting the wall at the molecular level, and similar long-term phenomenon can change the wall’s strength and flexibility over time.
Solving the Problems
Fortunately, there are some quite intelligent general contractors in Los Angeles who have been working on retaining walls for quite some time. They have the understanding to install a retaining wall in such a way that they can avoid problems with soil eroding out from under the wall or tree roots growing into the wall and tearing it apart. (Both can be solved with the proper application of thick black plastic sheeting buried under the wall.)
Similarly, retaining walls can be strengthened with steel rods, treated with various coatings and fillings to improve flexibility, and given proper drainage to reduce the effects of the elements on the wall itself. All of this is old hat to a top-tier general contractor, of course, making a quality contractor key in keeping your retaining walls in tip-top condition.