Erosion is quite common in Northern Colorado. It is the natural process of soil moving from one location to another, usually by water or gravity. Drainage problems can complicate erosion. This process is more common in steep landscapes and, in some cases, can result in landslides and dirt flow. Erosion is also known as sedimentation and this process is sped up by new housing developments. Erosion can really drive down the property value in a neighborhood, so it is very important to keep erosion under control by implementing a retaining wall. It is very important that new home builders consider erosion planning when building a new development.
Erosion is a problem in Fort Collins, CO and Loveland, CO, and much of the Northern Colorado Front Range. As you may remember, historic flooding occurred in 2013 that resulted in widespread flooding and erosion. Typically, erosion is a longer and more steady process and the 2013 flood was an extreme example of how devastating the impact of erosion can be due to a storm.
Building retaining walls helps taper the effects of erosion. Retaining walls are strong and rigid walls that control sloping earth surface, or “retaining” the heights of two different levels of soil that reside side by side. Retaining walls are found in areas where support is needed to prevent earth from sliding downwards due to gravity. When engineered and constructed properly, a retaining wall is a great solution to potential or existing erosion problems.
Retaining walls are constructed from various materials. One solution involves the use of retaining wall blocks which can be sourced at places like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Retaining blocks come in dozens of sizes and styles depending on the application. It’s important to install these blocks correctly to avoid having to redo the project down the road. Miscalculating the slope of the retaining-wall-block wall installation can result in wall failure or breakage. Be sure to also properly plan for drainage of the retaining wall area. Other options for traditional retaining wall construction involve stone or masonry.
If you don’t solve an erosion problem, the issue naturally intensifies. Avoiding the problem will only incur higher potential costs when eventually correcting the issue. It is important to address an erosion issue quickly to avoid bigger problems down the line.
We see many retaining walls that have collapsed or broken over time. A relatively common issue that we see with retaining walls is crooked settling and leaning, or tilt. These problems are typically due to poor planning or an unstable foundation. We also see many retaining walls that fail due to being underbuilt for their application. Failure to plan appropriately for drainage is another common symptom of retaining wall failure.
Selecting improper building materials can also lead to issues that we handle. Some retaining walls are built from lumber, treated lumber, or railroad ties, but these are short term solutions and not ideal. These options tend to be more of a temporary solution because these building materials rot or deteriorate over time. You can certainly get a few years of use from treated lumber or railroad ties; however, in the long run, these materials are not suitable for a sustainable, long-lasting retaining wall. Many people incorrectly use railroad ties for a retaining wall solution for erosion control to avoid using concrete or retaining wall blocks, but to install a proper retaining wall the first time you need to research design and engineer a quality wall using concrete, block, or stack stone solutions.
We rate the scale of difficulty for a retaining wall project at moderately difficult. These projects can range in magnitude depending on the specific problem that needs to be addressed. We consider difficulty based on other factors such as the amount of specialized equipment needed. It may be necessary to use earth moving equipment to correctly install a retaining wall. Another major consideration is the amount of research needed to properly build and design a retaining wall. Other decisions to consider involve research and analysis of the appropriate building material as many exist, yet they are application specific. You may want to seriously consider calling in the pros on a project of this magnitude. We have seen many walls fall after a very short time due to overly ambitious homeowners attempting a DIY or landscaping project that requires much more planning than initially anticipated.