"Understanding Your Home" by Building Inspector Mark Visser
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Bowing or leaning. These are signs that the wall has moved and more movements can be expected. The rate of movement is not necessarily the same every year and the wall should be monitored often. Eventually it will have to be replaced.

Retaining Walls
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Retaining wall. Design and construction. Wood, stone and concrete.

Retaining walls can be constructed of wood (railroad ties, pressure treated), stone or concrete. A properly constructed wall leans into the hill, is secured to the hill and has proper drainage. Walls made of timbers do not need weepholes because they are self-draining. However, excessive seepage promotes wood rot and shortens the life expectancy of the wall.
Interlocking stone retaining wall systems are long lasting. The concrete units come in a wide variety of sizes and styles and can be used for straight and curved walls.
A proper lean is provided by maintaining a minimum back-set of 1/2" (13 mm) on each course. Some gravity wall systems have a back-set of 1 1/2" (28 mm).
Anchor posts and dead-men's are used to secure the wall into the hill.
Drainage can be provided by installing weep holes. Drainage can be even more improved by backfilling with gravel. Gravel also reduces the pressure on the wall caused by frost.

Retaining wall with railroad ties

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