Fix a Cracked Driveway Retaining Wall
LESLIE: Taking a call from North Carolina with Lorinda (sp) who’s got a driveway question. What’s going on?
LORINDA (sp): We have a retaining wall that separates our driveway from our yard. The driveway goes down to the basement so it’s a pretty good, long wall and now the wall is cracked. And my husband thinks the only way he can fix it is to move the dirt from behind it and fill it full of gravel and redo it. Is there an easier way we can do this?
TOM: Well, do you want to fix the crack or do you want to just take the pressure off the wall or both?
LORINDA (sp): Both. He’s afraid the wall’s going to fall.
TOM: How wide open is that crack right now, Lorinda (sp)?
LORINDA (sp): It’s not wide. It’s – you know, it’s not a wide-open crack. It’s just the wall sort of leans on the top.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Well, if it’s not leaning too much you may not have to take that drastic a step. Your husband is correct in that pulling the dirt out and putting drainage behind it, which is what would be happening if you put the stone and perhaps some drain tile behind it, would take the pressure off it. But what I might suggest in the short term is to adjust the grading to make sure that the water slopes away from the wall so that you don’t trap water behind the wall. If there’s a way to create a swail between the wall and the slope of water that goes into it then that will take the pressure off because the reason it cracks is – what happens is the water gets behind it and as the ground freezes it tends to push and heave on that wall so it has sort of a ratcheting effect that happens winter to winter to winter. If you can simply improve the drainage so that there’s less water against that wall then it’s not going to move anymore.
LORINDA (sp): Oh, OK.
TOM: So why don’t you give that a start? Because these things happen very slowly. If it’s just a hairline crack right now, if it stills gets bigger then he can tackle the big job next summer.
LORINDA (sp): Well, I just dreaded him having to dig up my yard. (Tom and Leslie laugh)
LESLIE: I think you also didn’t want him to be right. (Tom laughs)
LORINDA (sp): Right. (laughs)
TOM: Lorinda (sp), thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LORINDA (sp): Thank you.