Don’t let your failing retaining wall ruin your home and garden

As I stand here looking at the failing retaining wall in my backyard, I can't help but feel a sense of dread wash over me. This wall, which was supposed to keep my yard from eroding, is now in danger of collapsing. It's a stark reminder that cheaper options aren’t always cheap.

The old railroad tie wall that lines the perimeter of my yard has been in place since I moved into my home over a decade ago. I’m sure it seemed like a practical and cost-effective solution. As time passed, however, it became evident that using railroad ties for construction came with a host of problems. The wood deteriorates and decomposes, making the wall unsteady and prone to collapse. Moreover, the chemicals used to treat the wood leach into the soil, potentially contaminating the environment. Another solution may have lasted a bit longer.

As I researched my options for fixing the wall, I couldn't help but wonder about the history of railroad ties. They have been used for over a century in the United States, and they were once a symbol of American industrial might. Railroad ties were the backbone of the country's transportation infrastructure, supporting the weight of massive locomotives as they crisscrossed the nation. Their presence in my backyard is a piece of history, yet after just ten years, I’m now faced with the challenge of replacing it.

The grass near the failing retaining wall appears sparse, and I wonder if this is a result of creosote leaking into the soil. While there is not much data about the impact of creosote on grass, landscapers have consistently pointed to thinning grass and difficulty growing grass near railroad tie walls. Are my bare spots the result of the creosote? I can’t say conclusively.

Another concern that I have is the effect of my failing retaining wall on my neighbor’s home. By Georgia law, anything that “causes hurt, inconvenience, or damage to another” property is considered a nuisance and is pursuable in court. Soil erosion caused by the increase in water flow onto my neighbor’s property would be difficult to prove but possible. Being a responsible neighbor may constitute replacing the failing retaining wall before significant amounts of erosion takes place.

Finally, an unstable retaining wall could create safety hazards for anyone near it. Falling debris, large cracks in the ground, or even sinkholes can all be potential risks when dealing with a failed retaining wall. So, not only is it imperative to repair the wall for structural integrity, but it is also critical to responsibly dispose of potential contaminants.

It's crucial to take action before it's too late. If you have an old railroad tie wall that has failed or have hired a contractor that has improperly installed a retaining wall, contact us today.