How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes
How long does a dry-stacked stone retaining wall last?
Friday, April 22, 2022
The life expectancy of a dry-stacked stone retaining wall is 50 to 100+ years, with an average of 70 years, if built correctly. Because this type of retaining wall depends primarily on the weight of the stones to resist movement of the soil behind it, boulder-size stones with as much, or more, depth as face surface are necessary for a tall retaining wall.
Dry-stacked stone also requires a drainage system behind it, typically a layer of gravel and possibly mesh to control leakage of soil through the inevitable openings between the stacked stone—especially in sandy soil. A stone retaining wall we examined a few years ago did not have a drainage system or mesh and, as a result, had developed holes in the ground directly behind the wall from soil sliding out of the face.
Sloping the retaining wall a few degrees backward, called batter, is a common technique to increase the strength and stability of a retaining wall. Go to What is batter in a retaining wall? to learn more.
Also see our articles How do I recognize structural problems in a retaining wall? and Do home inspectors check retaining walls? to learn more.
And for the average life expectancies of other parts of a residence, go to What is the average life expectancy of the components of a house? and How accurate are the average life expectancy ratings of home components? Are they actually useful?
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Field Guide for Home Inspectors, a quick reference for finding the age of 154 brands of HVAC systems, water heaters, and electrical panels, plus 210 code standards for site-built and manufactured homes, and the life expectancy rating of 195 home components. Available at amazon.com for $19.95.
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