Q: I’ve noticed some cracks in the block retaining wall adjacent to my driveway. Is this a sign that the wall is failing?
A: The answer depends on the nature of the cracks you’re seeing. Small shrinkage cracks in the mortar or binding material are typically harmless because they don’t penetrate the entire depth of the wall. However, vertical cracks that appear open toward the top of the wall and narrow at the bottom may indicate a problem with settlement of the soil. Horizontal cracks may indicate too much pressure at the rear of the retaining wall. When a retaining wall fails, the cause is usually poor drainage. Make sure the wall is standing vertically or sloping toward the embankment. If the wall is bowed or heaving forward, then it has a problem with pressure from water, the earth or both that can eventually lead to collapse. If this is the case, the wall should be repaired to prevent further damage.