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Retaining wall failures. A typical cause of failure is when the wall is backfilled with fine-grained soils such as silt or clay that have a low shear strength. (Photo: Warren Forensics)

A wall is really boring … until it fails. A retaining wall is supposed to hold back soil to either support a structure or keep a space clear. When it fails, both of those roles are compromised. A retaining wall does not have to collapse to fail. In fact, failure is perhaps better defined as when the wall does not perform as expected.

A retaining wall is a structure designed to provide lateral support for soil or rock and vertical loads. For example, a basement wall supports both lateral soil loads and the vertical loads of the walls, floors and roof. Conventional retaining walls are gravity walls, counterfort walls, cantilevered walls and crib walls.

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