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Old 06-29-2012, 09:10 AM   #1
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


See the attached photo.
Just bought this place in April. I was told the house had piers put in and recently adjusted (slab foundation) to correct some issues. You can clearly see in the brick areas where the grout was repaired (the darker areas). Also you can see that the brick and the grout are both cracking again.

On this same side of the house there is a rotting retaining wall. As you can see in the pictures its sagging and leaning and mostly rotted.

The retaining wall looks to be on the neighbor's property (but its mostly my problem), the neighbor's house is foreclosed empty and in a state of disrepair so i can't ask for any help from the neighbor.
You can also see that a LOT of the foundation is exposed here too.

What should I do? Until I get some ideas or help with the retaining wall I'm going to put a soaker hose around the foundation (since its getting really hot and dry here in Texas and thats when the soil shifts the most).

I have very little DIY experience, very little money, and no tools. I would like to just replace the wood with more wood because stone (from what I understand) is more expensive.

It looks like it would be a LOT of work to take out all of the wood, re-dig, put new wood in, put something to anchor it? and then back fill it.

Any tips advice etc would be appreciated. This is going to be one of my top summer projects because I really want to protect my foundation and I feel like the moving dirt is probably party to blame for the cracks.
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Old 06-29-2012, 09:24 AM   #2
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


Certainly you should consider ways to repair the retaining wall, however the retaining wall likely has nothing to do with the foundation problems, and fixing the retaining wall will almost certainly not stop foundation issues. The two problems are probably unrelated.

As to the retaining wall, wood is generally a bad material for retaining walls, other than it is cheap and available. The simplest long lasting material for a retaining wall is precast concrete block such as the type made by Allen Block, Versalok, Keystone, or many other manufacturers. Concrete block will last for at least 30 years, perhaps 50 or more years. Block is easy to put in, looks good, very durable. Of course you may not be able to afford block, and with block you still need to remove the unsuitable soil from behind the block and backfill with suitable material such as sand or gravel. The zone you need to backfill is typically about half the height of the wall, so if the wall is three feet tall, you need about 1.5 feet of granular backfill. A fair amount of work, but you get good results.

I cannot comment on the foundation issues, I assume you had an inspection before you bought the house, so you should have been aware of any issues. If you are having financial issues dealing with the retaining wall, you are not likely to have the funds to deal with foundation issues, which are generally much more expensive to handle than a small retaining wall.

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Old 06-29-2012, 09:29 AM   #3
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


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Originally Posted by Daniel Holzman View Post
I assume you had an inspection before you bought the house, so you should have been aware of any issues.
I got an inspection, there was evidence of the previous repair and that was it. The house had been foreclosed, bought, and re-sold to me. So we don't know who put in the piers. But The re-seller had a company come in and supposedly adjust the piers that were already in place. Everything seemed pretty solid at the time.
Now things have shifted though. Don't know what gives. The house had been empty for almost 10 months before we moved in. Could the weight of all our stuff have any effect on the foundation? Also, for months there were no gutters. I had them installed as soon as we moved in though.
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Old 06-29-2012, 09:31 AM   #4
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


You can clearly see that a wooden retaining wall is not working ... There is one thing you can guarantee with wood; if it is in contact with earth then it will rot eventually and you will be back where you are now. Without any tools or DIY experience you are going to struggle to do anything and when it comes to fixing foundation issues that is more than most home owners are capable of. Get that wrong and the consequences are severe.

Stone is expensive, if you use real stone. There are concrete blocks designed for retaining walls. Do you know how to mix cement ... If you have no DIY skills at all then it's kind of like trying to teach someone to fly a plane on the Internet ie. not a good idea.
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Old 06-29-2012, 09:33 AM   #5
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


Hi Knot,

Wood tie retaining walls are usually held in place by 4 ft. long metal posts, but it doesn't look like that was used on your property, so removal shouldn't be a problem. To rebuild it properly, you would dig down and put a 6" base of loose 1" dia. aggregate, then lay the wood ties on top. 1 1/2 courses of wood tie should be buried underground. The important part is to backfill with 4-6" of loose aggregate because you need a place for water to move and not push against the retaining wall. Ideally, you could put a perforated PVC pipe at the base of the backfill to collect water and drain it away. You can also ensure that the backfill slopes gradually to a place where it can outlet, for example, from the back of the lot to the street. After building the wall, you would secure it with long, smooth, metal bars hammered into place (ensure holes drilled in the wood line up) - put two in each tie.

At least this is how you would build it in my area.

Using precast retaining blocks is much easier to build. You would do everything the same as above (6" of aggregate at the base, bury 1.5 courses underground, backfill, and slope to drain (or use a PVC pipe)) - but you don't have to secure it with long metal spikes.

Usually retaining blocks from a landscape supply store are more expensive, but the tradeoff is that its easier to build. Building supply costs in the States, from what I understand, are cheaper the closer to the center of the country that you go. Maybe a trip northward to a building supply store would be worth it, depending on how much gas you spend.

Hope this helps,
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Old 06-29-2012, 09:35 AM   #6
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


I can mix cement.

I wouldn't touch the foundation really. I was looking for anything around the foundation that would be effecting the foundation that I could possibly fix, improve, or modify. The retaining wall stood out as something that could indirectly effect the foundation. Thought it might be cheaper to fix the retaining wall than to have my piers adjusted.
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Old 06-29-2012, 09:38 AM   #7
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


Concrete blocks might be the way to go then. Since they are less expensive than stone and will hold of better than wood.
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Old 06-29-2012, 10:04 AM   #8
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


I'd have to agree that the wood retaining wall probably isn't your best choice. Concrete block comes in many nice combinations of colors now, we just had our retaining wall replaced (not DIY) and it's very attractive, and cost less than I expected for our area. Our neighbor's wood retaining wall is rotting, as did the wood window wells in my parents' new home after just 5-6 years. I haven't seen wood hold up well anywhere it comes in contact with water. If you spend a little more now and get a material in there that won't rot, it'll probably save you money in the long run, and the irritation of having to rebuild it again later.
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Old 06-29-2012, 10:34 AM   #9
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues

See the attached photo.
Just bought this place in April. I was told the house had piers put in and recently adjusted (slab foundation) to correct some issues. You can clearly see in the brick areas where the grout was repaired (the darker areas). Also you can see that the brick and the grout are both cracking again. Hi. So your "slab" has been adjusted? When you hurt your back, you say "man, I need to go to the chiropractor and get adjusted." When your house foundation starts to shift it doesn't say "man, I'm falling apart, I need some piers put under me." Just for clarity. When you say slab foundation, are you telling me that you don't have a basement, and that your first floor is all concrete? Take a photo of these "piers" that were put in place to "correct" some issues. That retaining wall probably has little, or nothing to due with foundation issues.
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Old 06-29-2012, 10:38 AM   #10
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


Slab foundation, first floor all concrete, no basement. The type of piers they put in are the type that go on the edge of the foundation and hold it up like a shelf with a long long pole that goes down as far as the rock bed below. I would have to dig them up to take a picture of them. From what I understand to "adjust" them foundation companies use a screw type device on the pier to move it up or down.
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Old 06-29-2012, 10:58 AM   #11
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


Okay. I understand. That would be my first step then. You need to find out who did this work. There had to have been some kind of city inspection if this work was done. If you feel as if whatever fix they provided didn't work, then I would be finding out information such as warranty, new homeowner clauses, things like that. The foundation is the absolute most important part of a home, if that goes bad you're in for some trouble. As far as the brick being repaired? That wasn't repaired by any means.. They put a piss poor band-aide on it. That is not a "professionals" work. As many photos I see on this site/forum, it was done by a hack, and not corrected properly. Congrats on the new home though!
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Old 06-29-2012, 11:31 AM   #12
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Retaining Wall / Foundation Issues


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Originally Posted by CopperClad View Post
Okay. I understand. That would be my first step then. You need to find out who did this work. There had to have been some kind of city inspection if this work was done. If you feel as if whatever fix they provided didn't work, then I would be finding out information such as warranty, new homeowner clauses, things like that. The foundation is the absolute most important part of a home, if that goes bad you're in for some trouble. As far as the brick being repaired? That wasn't repaired by any means.. They put a piss poor band-aide on it. That is not a "professionals" work. As many photos I see on this site/forum, it was done by a hack, and not corrected properly. Congrats on the new home though!
Because the house was forclosed there are no records or warranty for the installation of the Piers.

The guy who re-sold it had a friend's foundation company come in and adjust the piers to bring the foundation up more level. This was corroborated by my neighbor who told me that a foundation company did dig up around the foundation, do some work, and back fill it. That company I guess will be the first ones I call. I talked to the owner of the company and she said she doesn't normally warranty work done on piers she didn't put in but verbally told me she was warrantying the work for one year. I tried to e-mail her a couple times to "confirm" (i.e. get it in writing!!!) what she said over the phone but never heard back so I think that "warranty" is not worth the paper it isn't printed on.

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