Retaining Wall?

There was a makeshift retaining wall around 1/3 of the homes property line adjacent to a creek bed. The foundation of the home was solid and seen no defects related to the retaining wall(As a side note from what I understanding the home was recently put in the flood zone due to some upstream problems) Would what would be said if anything about this wall?

Those blocks are 2’x2’x6’ and weigh in at 3600-3800lbs each with interlocking keyways. If what they are sitting on is solid, they aren’t going anywhere.

Where is the home located?


Eastern KY…little town by the name of Pikeville.

From your pic it looks as if both the wall and house are leaning out of plumb. If so, I would recommend that the wall and foundation be further evaluated by an engineer.

Either the picture is creating an optical illusion or the house has structural issues


I agree with Russell.

It is just the way the pic was shot, telephoto lens, If it was that bad they would fall out of bed, and all so cut 3’’ off one side of the kitchen table, LOL.


…was. thinking that was quite a lean for the house. I don’t believe I would put that photo in my report…but that’s just me. YMMV, and apparently does. :nerd_face:

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Looks like no tie-backs in that wall. If those are concrete, as Michael said, they are sometimes cast in shapes them allow them to interlock. Still, I wonder what the foundation for that wall is that has a stream flowing right next to it, and the wall is the only thing keeping the house from being undermined. What exactly keeps the wall from being undermined? I’m picturing that stream swollen to 3’ deep, flowing fast, and all that rock and gravel you see along the bottom becomes water-lubricated abrasive. Pass that liability on to a structural engineer!


I disagree. I think the retaining wall looks in very good order and doing it’s job well. Click on the image thrice to see the best resolution.
The aggregate and water at the bottom on the exposed wall, there is another 6’ below that, look fine.

In situations like this, I use the fencing atop the barrier wall, as the focal point. If not I use a builders 24" electronic digital inclinometer level and string line.

I would assume, the retaining wall had to be ok’ed by the municipality.
It also runs beside a creek or natural aquafer. The aquafer being the principle proponent due to the mountain. Special engineering skills would be required. A Hydraulic engineer. Engineering specialty focuses on water resource.

Take care what you narrate. Don’t over step your skills or authority to which you do not have. Mums the word in this case I feel but it’s your decision.

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A Footing with weep tiles.

Morning, Kenton. I have been fortunate enough, thank you Father, to be either directly involved in or as a invited over sight body of/for hill side land expansion or land reclamation for the purpose of residential building.

In the case a hillside. Graduated aggregate, geofabric and weep tiles are used.
A footing is erected using poured concrete. Weep tiles utilized to direct water to a designated point.
In this situation I suspect, directly into the steam from at the bottom or side angled but remaining in flowing water. A grate is used to cover the end or the pipe to impede blockage or hibernation from aquodic or other living creatures that reside in or near water.

Large boulders are used as base material to gradually level the slope in steps, depending upon the depth of the graduation requires.
Smaller aggregate, typically sand, dumped and vibrated atop boulders to fill voids with geo-fabric atop. Weep tiles are sewn throughout the new landfill material dispersing bulk water to designated exit points.
As with any retaining wall, the poured concrete footing is keep dry with weep tile.

I have been fortunate to have observed municipal plans, I could not directly download them to keep for legal / insurance reasons, prior an estimate I was conducting to fortify a retaining wall 180’ feet long which would have had me excavating a cut at 45 ° from the base of the footing inward, removing the material and replacing the material with select aggerate, geofabric and weep tiles.
A half hazard attempt to install steel Deadman using steel shafts threaded at both ends with metal plates at the front and rear of the shafts was attempted by the owner, an engineer. The plates were undersized. The metal used not the required composition to impede corrosion nor was the steel electrically bonded for galvanic reaction.

My plans passed both the municipal and engineering standards to retain the force of the material being retained. As always I over planned the retaining wall width for durability and purpose.

@kshepard those blocks are poured in special forms with keyways so they can interlock and if not stacked more than 3 high, no tie backs are needed. Here is what they look like:


Yes it is the lens, however that’s not a telephoto lens, telephoto lenses increase focal length, decrease field of view, and in most cases will reduce the perspective and barrel distortion seen in wide angle lenses, which is what is most likely seen here.


In looking at that picture, my concern would be what appears to be lack of a poured footing of some kind. It appears as if the blocks are laid down on the edge of the creek. My concern during flood water surges would be the potential for the undermining of the retaining wall and the blocks sinking down to fill the void, potentially causing slump behind the wall and a path for flood water flow in towards the foundation. As was described above, proper drainage weeping tiles, proper geo-fabric and finer aggregate, etc. All that would help if it is not already in place behind the wall. But all that would be for naught if it the retaining wall was not built on a solid concrete footing, ideally reinforced with rebar or mesh or some other shear prevention component to the footing. The concrete blocks themselves are certainly not the issue. They aren’t going anything, unless what is underneath them slumps away and leaves them undermined.

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Good info.

Welcome back to our forum, Timothy!..Enjoy! :smile:

Thanks Michael! I heard about these for the first time last week from an inspectors who inspects seawalls on the Great Lakes, but I’ve never actually seen them. Looks like they don’t actually interlock, but do connect with keyways kinda like tongue and groove. Maybe it never really floods there, but fast moving water carrying boulders, cobble and gravel is a powerful force for abrasive undermining.

Hello Paul -
Here’s my opinion piece :flushed::
First - You probably didn’t, but just in case - do not describe the retaining wall to your client as “makeshift”. As makeshift suggest that it was thrown together as a temporary solution. This wall does not appear to be as such.
Second - If you are not qualified to inspect the construction of a retaining wall, you should communicate this through your report.
Here’s a comment from my report template. Steal it if you’d like:

Note (For your information):
Retaining wall(s) present.
As noted in the report limitations, retaining walls are not within the scope of this general inspection.
Concerning low built walls:
Low built retaining walls (those walls lower than 36"), such as gravity walls, dry-stack walls, masonry walls, or lumber walls that are typically constructed either professionally or by the homeowner for landscaping purposes only, were observed during this inspection to confirm no trip hazard or obvious safety hazard. Any such obvious hazards will be noted on this report.

Concerning full built or engineered walls:
Full built or engineered walls, such as anchored walls, cantilever walls, piling walls, or mechanically stabilized walls that are typically designed, approved, and constructed by qualified structural or geotechnical engineers - and intended to retain and control major soils and hydrostatic pressure as necessary for the stability of buildings, structures, yards, and concrete surfaces ARE NOT within the scope of this general home inspection. Any such retaining walls present on the inspected property have not been professionally evaluated or tested during this inspection.
As a courtesy only, limited comments may be included in this report concerning observations of such retaining walls - particularly those walls that may be related to the foundation of the subject main building (such as: comments on visible surface cracks, deteriorated mortar, obvious collapse), however the client/owner/occupants should not rely on or consider such comments to be a professional qualified evaluation, regardless of perceived visibility or accessibility of any such conditions.

Recommend: Regardless of any comments found in this report, client/owner/occupant should use due diligence in confirming that all/any retaining walls on this property were properly approved, properly designed, and properly constructed by qualified professionals. This should include qualified approvals related to any room additions, porches, decks, driveways, other structures they may have been constructed on retained soil or surfaces.
Suggest: Procure any professional invoices, permits, available site plans, and professional maintenance plans related to the construction and upkeep of all/any retaining walls.


^^^^^^ Here is a nice gold nugget from Mark Masengale. ^^^^^^

Thanks for sharing, Mark!

Paul - what about drainage? One of the most important things to look for on any retaining wall is proper drainage. I don’t care how big the blocks are, how heavy they are, etc if it doesn’t have proper drainage to allow water to escape from behind the wall, then it’s a problem. Hydrostatic pressure will build up and move any retaining wall without drainage. Water always wins. It’s the most destructive force in nature.

The drainage should be something like a drain tile piping in a gravel bed located behind the wall. It should have some exit points to allow water to pass through. Even if the blocks or pavers that are used for the wall have some kind of open joints that allow some water to pass through, a properly built retaining wall will still have drain tile behind it.

I would note that drainage does not appear to be present and it should be evaluated further.


If Larry gives me a nod - my day is made! :+1: