What I'm Seeing Now

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Retaining Tree

I often see retaining walls.  If I had to guess a percentage I would say that about half have some movement.  In this case, it's a darn good thing there is a retaining tree!

This tree has been on the job a long time!

I see fences all the time that are held up by vines and plants.

I see sheds all the time that are held up by vines and plants.

But I have seldom, if ever, seen a retaining wall held up by a tree!

And this wall frames a working driveway and garden!

This tree is important!

Another couple of years and maybe another one will be needed.  Maybe two or three!

They should think ahead!

Let's see, what kind of tree would be best?

Should this wall be repaired?  Doing so might actually harm this tree!  And then it would have no reason to live.

My recommendation:  sometimes things look bad, but really might not be!  In this case, though, a couple of more 40 year-old trees might be advisable!

Actually you can see that the wall is crumbling around the tree.  How much longer will the wall last?  I am being tongue in cheek about it being held up well and that only a couple of trees are needed.  When this collapses it will be a mess, and the driveway will not be usable.  It's probably best to get a real wall there now!  I don't know who has responsibility for the wall, but when replaced, obviously, it will need a good guardrail!

 

 

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 29 commentsJay Markanich • December 28 2011 06:09AM

Comments

  Guessing from the construction, this is an "olden days" wall...not the ever popular locking blocks that we see now...walls can really be attractive with trailing greens and multi-textured....certainly soon that scene will replace this one.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 7 years ago

If this wall ever inclined toward the hill S&D, it surely does not now.  And a new one would have drainage installed behind, with a few weep holes visible in the wall.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I wonder if the tree to the right may be causing some of the problems.  Not knowing how close it is could the roots be pushing the wall?  It is interesting on the placement of the tree by purpose or accident

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) almost 7 years ago

James - I would expect that tree pre-existed the wall.  That tree looks to be about 50 or 60 years old, but was obviously much smaller when that wall was put in.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Just thinking outside the box... perhaps there might be a business in selling retainer trees... just sayin...

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) almost 7 years ago

Good morning, Jay. How about some tulip poplar trees? They grow fast and the flowers are amazingly beautiful every spring. You can purchase a nice mature one for about $30. Cheaper than the thousands needed to replace the  wall. Get with the program man...

Posted by Michael Thornton, Nashville Area - Photography & Videography (RadnorLake Video) almost 7 years ago

Andrea!  Please, please don't tell Billy Jays!  That guy will be shipping 40 year old trees out there in a minute's time!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

And those are good leaners Michael, so it can be placed at an angle to automatically catch the rest of that wall!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay: Walls like that are commonplace everywhere. Can you address what would be needed behind the wall to contain all the dirt in another post? Also, didn't even think about the guardrail until you mentioned it. I was too dostracted by the wall!

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) almost 7 years ago

Anne - codes change but I suspect this wall would have required a guardrail when it was installed.  It is high.  It is also at the edge of a big property and not in town, so no County person has probably seen it.  But again, I don't know who the all belongs to!

Behind the wall?  I can do that post.  I'll think about it...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay - I have not seen that in our area, but am pretty sure it does exist somewhere in the greater Jacksonville area - amazing how homeowners can become complacent about things like that, isn't it?

Posted by Carol Zingone, Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty) almost 7 years ago

That is something that has happened a little bit each year for a long, long time Carol!  They may not even notice!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Good morning, Jay.....cha ching, cha ching, cha ching.....now's the time to find an unemployed mason who will work for short money....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, "Franklin MA Homes" (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) almost 7 years ago

Well I guess it's a opportunity to make a pretty wall, right?  Good thinking on the handrail as that can be a real safety hazard.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 7 years ago

Jay - Few of the "older" retaining walls were built correctly; and as time passes their shortcomings become apparent. Perhaps some good old kudzu could help.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) almost 7 years ago

Miss T (from the calendar department, on the desk even now!) - not my problem!  But I think that wall would be a pretty penny, not short money.

Debbie - I would have been doing handflips off that wall as a kid.  Watch Mom!

John - I said in the post that I have seen many a structure held up by plants!  That is certainly the 60s - 70s way of doing a retaining wall!  See all the weep holes?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, in your photo it looks like there is one tree fighting to hold the wall up and another tree fighting to knock it down :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Jay - "a huff and a puff" that retaining wall will be blown down!

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

That leaner on the right is certainly part of the problem with the wall Charlie.  It's only about 5' away.

Eric - another really wet year and that might be true!  Hard to predict anything with retaining walls though.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I see a lot of this type of retaining walls in the older part of the city.  I've wondered for years not if, but when were they going to fall onto the sidewalk.  A lot of them around here have those big trees in the yard above the wall.  Scary stuff. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 7 years ago

Jay -- yes, just planting more leaning trees won't help much with more soggy weather - unless there are some retaining bars between the trees.   Nope, new wall, properly constructed and drained is really the only answer - short of removing lots and lots of dirt.

 

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 7 years ago

Mike - I see these all over town too!  And, as John said above, this type is very old school.

Steven - of course I was being silly and tongue in cheek in recommending more trees.  Surely a new wall is necessary here!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, You are so funny.  I get a real kick out of your posts. 

 

Posted by Katie Munoz (Moving Forward Inc) almost 7 years ago

Thank you Katie.  You mean my tongue-in-cheekness comes through now and then?

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Tear down this wall Mr. Seller. That phrase some how sounds familar to me ;)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jim - I never did find out who the wall belongs to!  Even if it is the house to the side, it is still an issue for the buyer.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I always hate reporting on retaining walls.  How long will they last?  Who knows. When I moved in to my last house about eight years ago, one of my neighbors had a retaining wall by the road that I was sure would collapse any day.  After walking by it every day, I found it never moved an inch.  

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

Good thing this was a strong tree.  Maybe that was the plan from the beginning and the orginal owners had the good sense to pick a sturdy one!  

Hope your 2011 is ending well and your 2012 is a healthy, happy, and successful year for you!

DeeDee

Posted by DeeDee Riley, Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas (Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA) almost 7 years ago

Reubs - I think had this tree not been there that wall would still not be.  On inspections people ask me about how long a wall will last I say, "One really wet month or maybe twenty years, who knows!"

DeeDee - that was a really old black walnut with a cleft near the base!  Strong tree.  Thank you and the same bakattcha!  I like the new photo too.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

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