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08.11.2013
While decorative, retaining walls form a highly functional component of many landscape design projects.  Crafted from a variety of materials, a retaining wall acts to hold back soil that otherwise would move downward with the force of gravity. At Rivertown Landscapes, we have utilized all manner of retaining walls in our landscape designs, from decorative boulder walls to functional retaining walls for seating.  No matter the use, we will collaborate with you to design a retaining wall that both does its job and adds ambiance to the landscape. Around houses, retaining walls make sloping areas usable by creating level space for gardens, driveways, terraces, and walkways. Retaining walls are typically designed out of concrete, stone, wood (including railroad ties), vinyl, masonry, steel, or brick. We install either a wall anchor system or helical tieback system along the retaining wall to reinforce the structure. Signs of a failing retaining wall are usually easy to identify, as shown in the different examples below. A separating retaining wall may have not been designed to withstand the weight that actually bears on the wall. Retaining walls can crumble for a wide variety of reasons, most related to improper design of the walls itself. Concrete retaining walls may also have been designed with inadequate steel rebar, resulting in insufficient strength. To repair retaining walls, we at Ayers Basement Systems typically recommend either wall anchors or helical tiebacks to restore structural integrity. Both wall repair techniques use a strong steel wall bracket on the exterior of the retaining wall to brace the wall and properly distribute the anchor's clamping pressure.
With both wall anchors and helical tiebacks, your foundation repair contractor will also attempt to return the wall to its original position, restoring its appearance and structural integrity. Wall anchors accomplish this by driving an anchor rod through 1" holes driven into the retaining wall.
Helical anchors are installed from the exposed face of the retaining wall, through a hole cut in the wall. Like other solutions for structural issues, you will encounter many options for repairing your retaining wall. At Ayers Basement Systems, our wall anchor systems are designed with galvanized steel to help protect from rust and corrosion. Unless the retaining wall is showing extensive deterioration, removing and rebuilding the walls should not be necessary.
Removing and rebuilding a retaining wall is an expensive, time-consuming process that typically involves heavy equipment, major excavation and the loss of valuable landscaping features.


Retaining wall anchors are exposed to the elements -- both in the soil and on the wall plates themselves. We recommend installing wall anchors made with galvanized steel -- with a written warranty that stands by the product for decades to come.
At Ayers Basement Systems, we provide warrantied solutions for retaining wall repair throughout Michigan.
We proudly serve Kalamazoo, Lansing, Grand Rapids areas such as Jackson, Muskegon, Battle Creek, Traverse City, Niles, Alpena, Mount Pleasant, and nearby. Rather than move, the Koehlers decided to redo the wall with new technology pioneered by Hortech Inc., a wholesale groundcover nursery in Spring Lake. It's called a "living wall" and is constructed of hundreds of open-faced bricks built into the slope. Hortech's living walls have been used along roads, parking lots, commercial buildings, hospitals, restaurants, universities and at homes, including the Koehlers' two-story brick home on Elmwood Drive SE in East Grand Rapids. Their wall starts near the driveway, runs beside a detached garage, along the back of the lot and along the side property line. Purple blooms from echinacea tower above the wall where it begins near the garage, with hens and chicks, phlox, a ground-hugging heath, an evergreen and a flowering shrub filling in. Dwarf forsythia, viburnum and hydrangea hug the top of the wall with flowering dogwood, elderberry and Serbian spruce intermingled for color and interest.
Building a retaining wall can be accomplished in a weekend, provided you have help and materials. Kellogg says the typical living wall installation, including plants, runs between $25 and $34 per square foot. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of the jobs have been commercial, though residential use is expected to pick up as people see it at public and commercial sites, Kellogg said, noting Twin Lakes Nursery is putting in a 3,500-square-foot living wall at Spectrum Health's Blodgett hospital. They're called living walls, green walls, vegetative walls and plantable walls -- it all depends on how it is being promoted and packaged, Kellogg said. Extreme grades can be terraced using building materials such as railroad ties or field stone.
Slopes are best planted with quick-growing ground covers; they establish an effect in the landscape that is impossible to create with grass, and they generally require less maintenance. More simply, retaining walls are used to hold back soil and substrate from moving due to the effects of gravity and erosion. If water accumulates behind the wall, this additional weight can cause clay soils to expand, leading to cracks and tilting.


Poor drainage and inadequate reinforcement or connection to the adjacent wall are other possible causes.
In the case of concrete retaining walls, the issue may be inadequate, weak, or poorly mixed concrete. These rods are connected to earth anchors that are placed within augured holes within the soil beyond the retaining wall. However, in some cases, wall anchor installation is not a possibility, and helical anchor installation must be considered. For homeowners interested in learning more about their unique problem, we offer free, written retaining wall repair quotes at no obligation. Newby IIA new look: Hank and Candi Koehler wanted a new view for the retaining wall in the back of their East Grand Rapids home.
Newby IIBefore the magic: The Koehlers' retaining wall lacked decorative bricks and a variety of colorful plant life before their backyard was transformed. As the wall snakes toward a shady area of the backyard, bleeding heart, lily-of-the-valley and ajuga take over.
The Koehlers looked at several living wall systems as well as the traditional, albeit uninspired, block retaining wall. It is a viable alternative for people who cannot afford a living wall system but are tired of maintaining grass in difficult-to-access places. As an added bonus, many of these deep-rooted grasses are native to Michigan, meaning they were here before Michigan was settled by Europeans in the 1700s.
In unusual cases, expansive soils may also cause a retaining wall to separate from an adjoining wall.
After closing the hole in the retaining wall, a wall plate is installed and a nut is tightened over the protruding threaded rod to brace the wall.
This includes situations where rocky soil is an issue, or when space restrictions make auguring a hole beyond the retaining wall an impractical solution.



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