When is a retaining wall needed (with pics) ?

13 Replies

Good morning BP!

I’m considering purchasing a duplex but noticed some un-retained land next to the driveway that looks suspicious. A power pole is about 2-3 feet or so behind the top, and I think the septic tank is 10 ish feet behind that.

The property seems like a good deal; over 8% CoC return and low $300/ month of pure cash flow but that could be gone quickly with this problem.


Any experience stories or advice from the experts?  


Thanks!

Jordan

@Jordan Thompson my Family owns one of the best landscape design companies here in Columbus OH. I used to work for them and if My father went out to a job site and saw this he would 100% recommend a retaining wall. You could probably get away with doing a 4' high wall and grading the rest. Assuming you need 30 linear ft we would charge anywhere between $8k-$12k. But you could probably find a deal of a contractor 

My thought is did the power company put that pole in before the cut, or after.

If it was after, perhaps the pole goes extra deep, down through the hilly area and below the ground level of the driveway.

If it was before the cut, will a retaining wall be enough to hold back the leverage of a big storm, or will you have a downed pole and a bunch of scattered blocks.

Leverage is a powerful thing.

Cost to move the pole might be less than a wall, but you still have a septic tank in that hillside.

If that starts to wash out, it will be unpleasant, but maybe you could move it somewhere else if that happens.

Just my 2 cents.

Thanks Steven!  I’ll check around locally and see who has some experience before I take the plunge. 

I had a similar thought too, Scott.  I took a photo of the pole ID number; I wonder if they even know about how close it is and if they have any contacts they work with for this sort of thing. I’ll reach out and confirm. 

Jordan

@Jordan Thompson honestly, it looks pretty rocky and stable from the pictures. I’m not seeing any signs of erosion or deterioration. It may be fine just the way it is. If you are concerned about it have an engineer come check it out.

@Dave E. Thanks Dave. It’s actually mostly clay and dirt; I was able to scrape off a decent amount with the back of my flashlight. If it were mostly rock I think I would be fine with it but the crumbling sent up a red flag for me.

Do utility companies have any requirements usually on how far a pole can be from something like this? I wouldn’t want to put up a wall only to find out the pole has to have like 4 feet or something of ground around it...

I’m waiting on some replies from contractors now about their thoughts along with what the seller may know about it. I’ll keep you guys posted.

Thanks for all the advice!

Jordan

It doesn't appear to me that it is washing out at a fast pace. I wouldn't do anything with it. If you get some wash out, you can contour it later. The driveway is gravel, so it isn't a cosmetic issue, because the whole area appears rustic. A retaining wall on that could easy cost $15,000. 

Find out who owns the telephone pole. If it is owned by the utility, they will fix it if there is a problem. If it is owned by the property owner, that may be a concern.

You could write your offer contingent on the evaluation/pricing of that potential retaining wall situation.  Might not be the best offer they get, but you never know.  We have some friends that just purchased a home that had a crappy chimney, and they had money held aside from the sale of the home from the buyer, put into escrow, and was used to rebuild the chimney.  I've heard Brandon say on a BP podcast that he's thrown in three differently written offers on property before, it gives a seller choices and lets them know you're serious.  Just some thoughts if wanted to get an offer in but didn't have time to get the estimates done.  

@Jordan Thompson

You don’t/won’t own the telephone pole, utility company does.

Would you go fox a random neighbors grade issue at your cost?

Poles should have a wire, oftentimes 2. These are what keep it from falling over. These connect underground. There is a number on the pole, you can call the utility company with the pole number and ask them to take a look at it, possibly add a new wire, but ultimately this is not your problem. They should have an easement to be there.

UPDATE 9.21.21    So Duke energy owns the pole and I had them send out a technician yesterday who called me yesterday evening from the site. His words were “I’ve probed all around the pole and don’t see any problems. It should last for years...” so that’s something. Also, the Google street view image capture is from may of 2019 and the embankment looks the same just less vegetation; since then we’ve had a 5.1 earthquake, a lot of rain last year and several hurricanes so while I would like to have a wall there at some point it doesn’t appear to be in any immediate danger...

Thanks again for all the replies and opinions!

Jordan

Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock :

It doesn't appear to me that it is washing out at a fast pace. I wouldn't do anything with it. If you get some wash out, you can contour it later. The driveway is gravel, so it isn't a cosmetic issue, because the whole area appears rustic. A retaining wall on that could easy cost $15,000. 

Find out who owns the telephone pole. If it is owned by the utility, they will fix it if there is a problem. If it is owned by the property owner, that may be a concern.

I agree 100% here. Where I live that's considered flat ground :P . The pole is going to be deeper in the ground than what's exposed there.