I have a broken retaining wall that I'd like to fix up. It's cracked, presumably from water pressure building up behind it. It's rectangular, about 13'x33', and one of the four sides is connected to the house. The wall parallel to the house's back wall is the deepest. The house is on a hill, so I figure the primary purpose of this retaining wall is to provide a flat surface adjacent to the house.

After I fix all of the drainage issues, the next step is patching up the wall.

Could I simply replace just this one little area without knocking down the entire wall? How would I go about knocking out a small area?

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  • 1) For broad advice about whether to fix the broken area or the entire wall, a picture of the entire wall would help. 2) You should not ask for "design" advice here about whether to stucco the wall, or whether the backfill should be topped with gravel or soil. Your question is complex and has many sub-questions. That MIGHT be OK if you want high level direction but you should remove the parts of the question asking what would look nice. 3) To determine if the underground drain pipe is intact, wait for a dry day and open a hose down it. See where the water ends up.
    – jay613
    Mar 20, 2022 at 18:43
  • Far too many questions in one.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 20, 2022 at 18:47
  • I’ll remove the questions about drainage
    – Taylor
    Mar 20, 2022 at 19:38

1 Answer 1


It's not water pressure which has caused that damage. It is either the weight pressing behind the wall which has 'pushed it over' or it's the lack of stability under the foundation concrete, i.e. the footings have tipped a little and obviously the wall follows. I'd wager it's the former.

Often walls like this are built with shallow footings and then loose backfilled behind, the backfill gets saturated and over the years it settles downwards and unfortunately for you, outwards. This pushes the wall over.

It probably should have expansion joints in it too, but even they wouldn't have stopped this damage. Expansion joints are to cope with a little seasonal expansion and contraction not physical damage.

Solution is to take down the parts of the walls which are leaning over and see what the footings are like, if you're happy that the footings haven't moved, then rebuild the walls with square ends and screw in slip ties. Fill the joint between new and old with a flexible caulk.

Something like this Control joint from imiweb.org/02-010-1303-control-joint-fire-rated-3/ In this case the fire requirement isn't needed.

Carefully back fill the wall again. This is not guaranteed not to move again in the future however, that's just the nature of these "too small" retaining walls really. It takes a lot of strength to stop cubic metres of wet soil and a block wall just doesn't have it...

  • what's the reasoning behind using two square ends in place of each rectangular one?
    – Taylor
    Mar 21, 2022 at 16:56
  • I added an image of a control joint to better explain the 'square ends' comment. Basically you'd cut out the damaged section and rebuild, joining the new to the old in the form of control joints.
    – handyman
    Mar 22, 2022 at 20:41

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