When HOA’s have retaining walls, many times it is a HOA capital item that is given little thought of for long term planning. However, as with any HOA capital item, retaining walls no matter their construction, need to be considered for replacement. As we always recommend to our boards a reserve study done by an engineering firm is a good business practice.
A retaining wall is a structure used to stabilize sloping ground and to prevent erosion. Retaining walls are constructed to redistribute the lateral pressure of sloping ground. A myriad of materials are used in the construction of retaining walls.
The most common materials in retaining wall construction are poured concrete and concrete block. There are interlocking concrete blocks that are used in retaining walls that offer vast flexibility in construction because they do not require motor to hold the blocks together. Retaining walls are also commonly constructed of treated lumber and used railroad crossties.
Poured concrete retaining walls are generally vertical, while interlocking block and wood are generally sequential steps or tiers. These tiers may not only be structurally necessary, they may help in erosion control as well. Tiers may be more aesthetically pleasing than vertical concrete walls.
Tier retaining walls can include different types of plantings or materials in each tier to bring more interest to the area. A tiered design may also provide more efficient erosion control by distributing soil, and therefore structural weight held by each division of the wall. An important element of a retaining wall is the weep holes or seepage holes, which allow ground water to escape. This release should reduce the pressure created by accumulated water and help keep the wall structurally stable.
Retaining walls can have a short life cycle of 10 years and some can last up to many decades. An HOA needs to plan on eventually replacing their retaining walls and a professional reserve study is the best method of planning for this eventuality.
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