Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby DeanSpencer » Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:21 pm

We have recently moved into a new-build house (Feb 2016) which was built by Mandale Homes.

Before Mandale were able to build on our land they had to re-level it, as a result our back garden is about 8' lower than the neighbouring property. The land next door is actually a pub car park.

Mandale Homes have used railway sleepers stacked one at the top of the other with steel beams at either side which presumably go deep into the ground. At the car park side of the 'wall' they have put tarmac up to the sleepers. To reiterate the sleepers raise about 8' in height, and span across around 20m down the garden.

I am concerned for a number of reasons. Firstly the sleepers will rot, having looked on the internet the life span can be between 25 and 50 years, but I'm not sure they are designed for this purpose. I am concerned about drainage against the sleepers which will reduce their life, as well as the weight above them. Secondly if the wall collapses, this will be our responsibility.

I know I should have picked up on this before buying the house, but we bought from plans and apparently there was going to be a stone retaining wall originally.

I have asked Mandale why they chose sleepers, someone 'off-the-record' told me it was to save cost. Mandale dismiss the conversation when I try and take it up with them.

Can someone please tell me, is this legal? Who would I report it to, and what grounds do I have for remedial action?

Thank you,

Dean Spencer.
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby MacadamB53 » Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:52 pm

Hi Dean,

We have recently moved into a new-build house (Feb 2016)

you been watching all the recent 'Back To The Future' stuff? :D

Kind regards, Mac
PS sorry - couldn't resist
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby DeanSpencer » Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:58 pm

Ooops sorry, we moved Feb 2015.
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby Collaborate » Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:00 pm

Speak to your conveyancing solicitor. That's one of the things they're there for. It could be breach of contract, but more likely misrepresentation.
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby jonahinoz » Mon Nov 09, 2015 9:31 pm

Hi,

Surely an 8ft retaining wall is subject to Building Regulations? Something like the wall thickness must be half the height of the wall above it, but some BCOs will accept a third.

I understand that dry-stone walls are no longer allowed, as it is difficult to calculate their resistance to sideways forces. Dry-wood walls? :shock:

Assuming that you have a mortgage, what did your lenders surveyor say about this wooden wall? Or did he make his valuation "off plan", and never returned? Was your insurance arranged by the Lender? Usually a lot more expensive ... but IF wasn't you that filled in the proposal .... :roll: It's your insurers who will have to deal with the problem, as and when. But possibly more immediate, would anybody want to buy your house? In the middle distance, would you want your children playing near it?

John W
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby MacadamB53 » Mon Nov 09, 2015 9:40 pm

Hi John W,

would anybody want to buy your house? ...would you want your children playing near it?

why do you ask that?!?
the OP hasn't suggested there's anything wrong with the wall - he just expressed some concerns about a near-new retaining structure that is absolutely fit for purpose but not what he expected is all...

Kind regards, Mac
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby arborlad » Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:39 pm

MacadamB53 wrote:....a near-new retaining structure that is absolutely fit for purpose...........



...........and you know this how?


For the OP, any chance of a photo.
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby Roblewis » Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:44 pm

Your house will be subject I would guess to something like an NHSBC guarantee. If so then contact them immediately. You need also to go back to the conveyancer and demand answers from the builder. A stone retaining wall is likely far stronger than sleepers but you need the design evidence for this wall immediately on request. No design then the wall has to be deemed inadequate by default. A breach of contract suit is possible.
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby jonahinoz » Tue Nov 10, 2015 10:14 am

would anybody want to buy your house? ...would you want your children playing near it? why do you ask that?!?

Hi Mac,

Why do I ask? Why do you say it is absolutely fit for purpose? Why is the OP worried about the "life" of this wall?

Well, I wouldn't want to buy this house, unless the price reflected the cost of replacing wall with a "Standard Construction" material, plus a few thousand quid.

It would be interesting to see the design calculations for a retaining wall constructed from railway sleepers, retained by steel beams. Rust?

John W
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby jonahinoz » Tue Nov 10, 2015 10:26 am

Hi,

Done a Google, found this ....

http://www.ozbuildmaterials.com.au/pdf/ ... ions03.pdf

OK, I may be wrong, but I still would be wary of buying this house.

John W
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby arborlad » Tue Nov 10, 2015 10:50 am

DeanSpencer wrote:I know I should have picked up on this before buying the house, but we bought from plans and apparently there was going to be a stone retaining wall originally.




Do you have anything other than hearsay to substantiate that claim?

At some point you may need to engage a surveyor to give a qualified opinion on whether the wall is fit for purpose, in the interim, do you know anyone with experience of this type or work to cast an eye over it and give an opinion on its suitability.

When the developer lowered the land he was obligated to retain the higher land, how well he has done this will depend on a number of factors.

What sort of land is being retained, heavy clay will require something different to light sandy loam.

What size of steel has been used and how deep and how well it has been placed in the ground.

There is a vast difference in the quality of sleepers available, from new unused hardwoods to used treated softwoods.

There should be some evidence of drainage.
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby Roblewis » Tue Nov 10, 2015 11:59 am

The link above is to an Australian technical note which only emphasises, as does arborlad above, that design must be undertaken and without it the wall cannot be deemed adequate or fit for purpose. You could get a letter of claim issued by a solicitor and this will force the revelation of ALL relevant documents including BR approval, Planning Agreements, material specifications and certifications etc etc from the developer in relation to this wall. This must include minutes of all meetings where the construction of this wall was discussed, both on and off site. Thinking about it this route is essential before any structural engineer could make a decision on its abilities to act as a retaining structure. Me I would get the letter off asap.
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Re: Retaining Walls - Potential Issues

Postby arborlad » Tue Nov 10, 2015 1:50 pm

jonahinoz wrote:would anybody want to buy your house? ...would you want your children playing near it? why do you ask that?!?

Hi Mac,

Why do I ask? Why do you say it is absolutely fit for purpose?
John W




Thankfully, some very timely editing occurred last night...........
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