A problem that I frequently encounter when called to assess building problems is retaining wall collapse in Spain.
Retaining walls (of varying sizes and made of differing materials) are an essential component to the stability of a property in Spain and they are a common sight on estates built upon hilly or steep ground. However, retaining walls are rarely identified as such by property owners, who often believe that the walls on the boundaries of their properties are primarily there for ascetic reasons.
However, the truth is that many Spanish properties are very dependent on retaining walls for their stability.
Unfortunately, many retaining walls in Spain are not built properly and can collapse with devastating consequences. This often occurs after a severe rainfall (such as a Gota Fria) – when enormous amounts of water can place a retaining wall under immense pressure. If the wall has not been properly built then it (or a part of it) can collapse.
So, before buying a property in Spain on steep ground it is well worth making sure that any retaining walls are properly inspected along with the house itself. Equally, if you are building a new house in Spain on steep ground then ensure that your builder really does know what he is doing and that he as the knowledge and ability to construct a retaining wall correctly. This is not as simple as it sounds, if the wall is to be effective long term.
In some cases, retaining walls have been omitted and new properties in Spain sit either above or below cut slopes that are highly prone to collapse or landslides. This can risk lives as well as property and is something about which you should be extremely wary.
Sadly, some unscrupulous developers have sold properties with retaining wall issues to innocent buyers, despite the dangers. This is because the construction in Spain of a proper, load-bearing retaining wall – significantly adds costs to a building project, whilst providing no obvious benefit to the layman.
Needless to say, replacing a retaining wall or rebuilding one can be very expensive. Indeed, on some properties, the cost can amount to hundreds of thousands of Euros.
Certainly, be warned that there are plenty of builders who will have their own ‘master plan’ as to how to put things right. Often I find their proposals (whilst they mean well) to have errors, that could result in danger to workers and a potential future structural failure. It is always worth seeking an independent opinion on such matters –not least because the stakes are so high!.
Always check (before buying a property in Spain) whether or not the existing retaining wall is adequate – or whether your intended property should have had one in any event!
Finally, if you have doubts about the integrity of your retaining wall or if it is cracking or leaning or showing signs of stress – then contact me as soon as possible. The collapse of a retaining wall can have huge implications and is one of the building problems in Spain that can require rapid remedial action.