What I'm Seeing Now

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Yep, It's Doing Its Job!

That was my answer when a client asked me if a retaining wall was actually doing anything. 

Retain - verb 1 continue to have; keep possession of. 2 absorb and continue to hold (a substance). 3 keep in place; hold fixed.  ORIGIN Latin retinere - 'hold back'.

Retaining wall - noun a wall that holds back earth or water on one side of it.

Those are my Oxford Dictionary definitions of the two words above.

The retaining wall on the right is 10' high.

It begins at the rear corner of the house, has two corners, and holds back earth to frame a very nice patio outside the rear door. It is made of pressure-treated wood and is properly inclined to hold back weight.  It is also anchored here and there with "dead men," which are perpendicular, T-shaped pieces of the same timber, extending 6 or 8' into the soil behind the wall, and which help hold the wall in place.

If it was not there no patio would be possible and the basement door would open to a concrete stair well.  While the wall is a bit imposing, I think the patio is much more functional!

So, after asking me if this wall was doing what it is supposed to do, we had a look at it with my thermal camera.  The lavender and purple indicate areas cooler than the surrounding wood.  This would be where moisture is present.  But nothing looked wet on the patio side of the patio.  Water was actually retained.

This wall exactly meets the definition Oxford proposed above!  So I said, "Yep, it's doing its job!"

My recommendation:  retaining walls are integral to the landscape in many yards.  Check them out!  Make sure they are doing what they are intended to do.  If stones or wood or concrete are out of place or cracked, you might have an expert have a look to make sure it's doing the job intended.

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 17 commentsJay Markanich • August 25 2010 05:52AM

Comments

  We have an exposed lower level....and the caution i would give anyone considering building/doing the retaining wall thing is to know a good contractor AND be aware of the price...not burying the first course of block...taking shortcuts with fill....will leave a wobbly outcome...ask our neighbors the diy kings...who said we paid too much...oh not...

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 8 years ago

Fer sher S&D!  If it ain't done right, it ain't done!  And doing it right the first time never costs more...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Don't forget it may need weep holes in the appropriate places.

Posted by Alan Bruzee (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 8 years ago

They are at the very bottom Alan, but not in this image.  I could not get the moisture and the holes in the same shot!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I like the thermal image. I really need to get me a infrared camera.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) over 8 years ago

You have a thermal camera? Awesome!! I'm glad the wall was doing its job.

Posted by The Elise Bickel Team, Leasing, Property Management and Sales (ReMax Select Realty) over 8 years ago

Well, Randy, they are about 1/2 the price now than when I bought mine 6 years ago, and much better, with better software.  Mine was state of the art at the time!

Weber Team - of course!  About six years now.  I have many thermal image blogs on this site - just go to my blog and tags and you will find them.  My camera is the sharpest and straightest arrow in my quiver.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, very informative information -- thanks for the images and the explanations!

Posted by Tish Lloyd, Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) over 8 years ago

Tish - thermal imaging is very informative, to us inspectors and to those with little experience with the technology.  I think it is a a great addition to home inspection abilities.

My son is at Camp LeJeune right now.  Just got back from his third tour and will be leaving again in December.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Glad to hear the wall is performing as expected, but the homeowners sense of color is a little wacky. ;)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

Those weren't favorite colors of mine either, Jim, but hey, to each his own...    ;)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay...your posts do bring out the 'nutty and fun' in comments; those colors are interesting, but if anyone watches "Ghost Hunters" on SyFy, the thermal camera is used all the time.. Were this a ghost hunter episode, I would have to say that you captured some 'live--warm' entities on that screen shot.  LOL
Actually, I find your posts very informative, bot your post, the comments & your answers to said comments [please be gentle with this one]
 
Barb & Sal

Posted by Barb & Sal Dragotta, Macomb County Michigan over 8 years ago

Barb and Sal - well, I didn't want to frighten anyone, but that really is a lavender ghost running to the right from the darker, cooler corner!  OK, maybe not...  I have not watched that Ghost Hunters show yet, but have seen the commercials.  I tease my wife all the time that we should go around the house with my camera and see if we can find "entities..."  She really hates that, I don't know why!

Perhaps you had seen my ghostly friend on other posts - I call him Mosby.

This was the second time I met him, and he has followed me ever since:

http://activerain.com/blogsview/1647522/ever-feel-like-you-are-being-followed-

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Thermal imaging is fantastic. Thanks for sharing this story!

Posted by Jason Channell, The House Sleuth (Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan) over 8 years ago

It is definitely important for retaining walls to be checked out!

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) over 8 years ago

Hi Jay, Great illustration, love the thermal camera, I'm sure your client did too.  jay

Posted by Jay Lloyd, Allpro Home Inspection (Cape Coral Florida) over 8 years ago

Jason - it is a great tool that can reveal things otherwise not even thought about.  I am glad to have a thermal camera, and have had one for many years.

Damon - I have to admit, this was my first retaining wall of this size.  And made of wood...  It framed the house and patio, so we thought it important to check out.

Jay - never to date have I had a client dissatisfied with what the camera can do.  It's kind of fun too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

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