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any way to reinforce old, leaning railroad tie retaining wall?

Posted by jbrooks544 NE US (My Page) on
Mon, Sep 12, 11 at 15:34

I own a unit at an office condo complex and am on the condo board/committee. It is about 30 years old and has about a 200' retaining wall that has started slightly leaning in toward the parking lot. I'm wondering if anyone knows a way to reinforce it with steel piles, or something relatively cheap, so that the whole thing doesn't have to be undone/re-done at very high expense.

For most of the 200' there are two levels of railroad ties. right in front of where cars park, the wall goes up to about 3' high. Then the bank goes horizontally back for about 4 feet and there is another, higher 3'. Generally, almost all of the railroad ties are fine. only a few, here and there need replacing from deterioration. The main problem is the spikes holding the deadmen, or the deadmen themselves have slipped and the wall is probably 2" out of plumb over its 3' height. I imagine being able to have someone drive in steel piles every 4' or so to stop it from tilting any more. Has anyone heard of doing this, or have any other ideas? I think replacing it all isn't really necessary, as the wall is intact and it would probably cost mega money. Who would I call/contact to do piles? It is all pure sand, very well drained soil. Thanks in advance for your thoughts/experience


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: any way to reinforce old, leaning railroad tie retaining wall

You ask whom you should contact to do piles. In my state ( California ) you would call an Engineering Contractor with an A license.
Your state might allow a C27 or equal contractor ( landscaping ) to do this work. To be sure call your county or state building department.

If you live in an area that has a building department that oversees code compliant projects you will be required to have a structural engineer do an inspection and write a report to identify if in fact the wall is structurally sound and can be salvaged. The structural engineering contractor will need this report in order to obtain the permit to start the work.
No inspection= no report = no permit = no work to be performed.

It would be professionally irresponsible for someone to tell you that you could fix the existing structure with steel I beams without seeing and doing a complete investigative site analysis.

In my area ( N. Ca.) not only would a structural engineer be required to write the report but a soils engineer would be required so that the structural engineer could submit the correct mathematical calculations in his report.

so I guess that is one thing to be thankful for. You''re project is not located in the state of California.

good luck.
save those pennies , 30 years is a good run to get out of a wood retaining wall.


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RE: any way to reinforce old, leaning railroad tie retaining wall

If California is at one extreme, parts of Arkansas must be near the other. In my small town there are no permits required or inspection of the construction or repair of retaining walls. Most of my knowledge of walls has come from observing the ones that failed. And there have been many, maybe as many as 200 in a five mile radius over the last 40 years. I've never heard of an injury caused by any of the failures, which makes me wonder if there is any real need for regulating walls under 4 feet in height.

If your neighbor has a wall that threatens you, it's a waste of time to call the city. What works is to call the guy's insurance agent. Faced with the cancellation of their homeowners policy, most will correct the problem.

In our warm climate, wood walls of any type seldom last more than 25 years. But the failure of wood walls under 3 feet tend to be a slow process from first movement to final collapse; often a period of several years.

There are ways to brace wood walls after the deadmen have begun to fail. But it only extends the wall life and often the cost does not justify the repair unless only a few extra years are needed before something else is planned for the site.

So my advice is in agreement with deviant-deziner, "save those pennies".


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RE: any way to reinforce old, leaning railroad tie retaining wall

I wrote a post yesterday, but--duh--must have forgotten to push the final button to commit it. I suggested that you post a picture that is representative of the situation that that we can see what's really up. No guarantees, but at least that gives a fair shot at appraising the situation. If, indeed, as others have suggested, don't put good money after bad (I'm not yet corroborating this yet)...you might be interested in what suggestions follow...where to go from here. I have seen many retaining walls put in where I felt strongly that slope would have been a better--lower cost and lower maintenance--choice.


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