Skip to Main Content

Collapsing Retaining Wall

Are your retaining walls bulging or leaning? Do cracks spread across the blocks, mortar, or concrete? Don’t ignore these signs of impending collapse.  

At JES Foundation Repair, we know that deteriorating retaining walls indicate serious issues requiring quick action.  Arm yourself with the knowledge to recognize and repair failing retaining walls before catastrophe strikes. 

What is a Collapsing Retaining Wall? 

Retaining walls are structures designed to hold back or “retain” soil and prevent erosion. They prevent soil, plants, and other landscape elements from shifting on sloped terrain. Retaining walls come in many forms, including: 

  • Stacked cinderblocks or bricks 
  • Poured concrete 
  • Built-up landscape timbers 
  • Stone or boulder construction 
  • Precast interlocking blocks 

Over time, the immense pressure of restrained soil and water causes retaining walls to deteriorate and eventually collapse. Bulging, cracked, or leaning retaining walls are in danger of complete failure. Collapse poses serious risks of property damage and injury. Addressing retaining wall issues early by performing preventative repairs preserves their structure and aesthetic appeal. 

What Causes Retaining Walls to Collapse? 

Why do sturdy, properly constructed retaining walls eventually weaken and fail? Several factors contribute to their decline: 

Excess Pressure 

The soil, mulch, plants, or other material behind the wall exerts constant lateral pressure. Over the years, this intense force exerts stress on the wall. Poor drainage and saturated ground intensify the pressure, causing walls to buckle under the substantial weight. 

Water Damage 

Water is the number one enemy of retaining walls. Rainfall, improper drainage, leaky pipes, and groundwater all introduce moisture. Water causes erosion around the base and saps strength from concrete and mortar. Freeze/thaw cycles expand cracks. 

Poor Design 

Insufficient width, missing drainage, subpar materials, and improper construction lead to the downfall of many retaining walls. Design flaws overwhelm walls over time. Even with quality materials, they cannot withstand intense pressures indefinitely. 

Insufficient Foundations 

Like any structure, retaining walls require firm foundations for lasting integrity. Walls need proper footing or become separated from their base as the ground settles. Without robust foundations, collapse is inevitable. 

Deteriorating Materials 

All building materials gradually weaken. Conventional concrete and mortar succumb to cracks, shifting, crumbling, and mineral leeching from water exposure. Unprotected wood rots. Metal components rust. 

Nearby Trees 

Tree roots infiltrate and displace porous materials like mortar. They pry apart block retaining walls, seeking moisture. Large roots gripping onto walls to maintain stability transmit movement and vibrations. 

Poor Maintenance 

Regular inspection and preventative maintenance help retaining walls withstand elements. Lack of appropriate care allows damage to accumulate undetected until significant repairs become necessary. 

Detecting the early warning signs allows time for reinforcement wall repairs before collapse. Accurately identifying all contributing factors is key to complete, lasting solutions. 

Warning Signs Your Retaining Walls Are Failing 

Take action before complete retaining wall failure. Watch for these common signs of deteriorating retaining walls: 

  • Bulging – Noticeable outward bowing indicates excessive lateral stresses. 
  • Tilting – Whole sections leaning outward or backward scream, “Collapse coming soon!” 
  • Cracking – Large cracks through blocks and mortar mean integrity is compromised. 
  • Gaps – Separations between blocks or concrete indicate loss of cohesion. 
  • Efflorescence – White powdery deposits signal water leaching through. 
  • Erosion – Sunken, washed-out areas around the base demonstrate water damage. 
  • Previous Patching – Crumbling repairs made years ago highlight vulnerability. 
  • Pooling Water – Poor drainage and directing water toward walls quickens deterioration. 

Don’t turn a blind eye to any indicators of retaining wall distress. The sooner you start repairs, the better the outcome. 

Professional Solutions for Failing Retaining Walls 

Tackling extensive retaining wall repairs DIY-style rarely succeeds in the long-term. At JES Foundation Repair, our retaining wall repair experts bring decades of experience assessing damage and matching ideal solutions to each unique scenario. We offer multiple proven options to reinforce your landscape walls and prevent collapse: 

Carbon Fiber Wall Reinforcement 

Thin, flexible carbon fiber straps come in various widths to suit your repair needs. Our experts encase straps in a weatherproof resin and bond them across cracks and problem areas for powerful reinforcement without altering aesthetics. The completed carbon fiber application is 8x stronger than steel. This lightweight option works on brick, block, stone, and concrete walls. 

Wall Anchors 

Helical wall anchors embed in stable soil away from vulnerable retaining walls. Our equipment neatly augers narrow holes for anchors. Once deeply placed into firm, undisturbed earth, the anchors connect to brackets bolted along the retaining wall’s façade. Slow tightening of the wall anchors uses controlled force to nudge walls back into plumb alignment. The anchors also permanently stabilize walls against lateral earth pressures and prevent future movement. 

Ongoing Maintenance 

Without intervention, new issues arise, and fresh damage accumulates. We establish maintenance plans customized to each retaining wall project. Regular upkeep enhances longevity and prompts attention to any new concerns before they compound. 

Why Repair Failing Retaining Walls Today? 

Pay attention to clear warnings that your landscape retaining walls are in distress. Here’s why: 

  • Deterioration rapidly escalates when left unaddressed. Minor problems cascade into expensive ones. 
  • Collapse dangers intensify as soil pressures multiply against weakened walls. 
  • Cracks and bulges degrade aesthetics, Hampering your home’s curb appeal. 
  • Poured concrete repairs become more expensive and complicated for long-neglected issues. 
  • Leveling or replacing collapsed retaining walls affects surrounding landscaping. 
  • Cascading soil from collapse damages vegetation, patios, pools, and adjacent structures. 
  • Reconstructing promptly after collapse requires hauling away debris and backfilling. 
  • Homeowners bear liability risks from collapse-related injuries or property damage. 

Take a proactive stance to protect and fortify distressed retaining walls as soon as feasible. Addressing problem signs early is more affordable and prevents damage from sudden catastrophic failure. 

Contact JES Foundation Repair for Retaining Wall Inspections and Repairs 

Retaining walls are under constant attack from moisture, erosion, soil pressures, and other threats, which gradually undermine their structural integrity.  

At JES Foundation Repair, we pinpoint the issues threatening your landscape retaining walls using thorough diagnostics. Then, we quickly reinforce and repair using proven carbon fiber, wall anchors, veneers, reconstruction, drainage, and maintenance solutions.  

Don’t gamble on DIY repairs to salvage crumbling, cracked walls. Our retaining wall repair expertise keeps your landscape walls solidly in place for decades to come. Contact JES Foundation Repair today to schedule a free retaining wall inspection


Publish Date:

Last Modified Date:

JES Foundation Repair service area map of the Mid-Atlantic region.

Our Locations


8361 Town Center Ct
Nottingham, MD 21236


311 Central Rd.
Suite 2-02
Fredericksburg, VA 22401

Hampton Roads & NE NC

2569 Quality Ct
Virginia Beach, VA 23454

Northern VA & DC

7940 Gainsford Ct.
Bristow, VA 20136


309 Quarles Rd
Ashland, VA 23005

Southwest Virginia / Roanoke

2033 Cook Dr.
Salem, VA 24153

Western Virginia

456 Old Courthouse Rd
Appomattox, VA 24522


45 W Boscawen St,
Winchester, VA 22601