How to Select the Right Retaining Wall Contractor.
Selecting the right contractor for your retaining wall project can be challenging, especially when deciding between several different retaining wall systems. However, as with any significant investment, doing your homework upfront will pay dividends in the long term. The first step is to familiarize yourself with permit requirements and then learn which retaining wall type suits your site best.
Once you have made some progress with your research on retaining wall construction, you can schedule a few site meetings with prospective contractors. An online search is the best way to find retaining wall contractors who provide services in your area. By spending time on their website, you can get an idea about the types of retaining walls they offer. For example, suppose your retaining wall is less than 1 meter (3′ 3″) in height, and you are looking for a decorative retaining wall solution. In that case, you can look for contractors who build similar retaining walls regularly. However, suppose your retaining wall is taller than 1.7 meters (5′ 5″) or a challenging build. In that case, concentrating your efforts on contractors with similar building experience is a good starting point. One point to remember here is that even though a contractor that primarily builds 1-meter-tall retaining walls should be capable of building a 1.7-meter retaining wall, that is often not the case. The two retaining walls require very different skill sets.
Once you meet with the contractor, the easiest test to determine if they fully understand the fundamentals of retaining wall construction is to ask them to describe the failure plane. If they provide a satisfactory answer, you can confidently discuss retaining wall solutions for your site.
Visiting a few completed projects and talking to previous clients are good ways to gain further knowledge about your potential contractor. Ask to see retaining wall projects older than five years and not the most recent projects they have completed. Suppose a retaining wall was not constructed properly. In that case, you can detect the tell-tale signs of a failing retaining wall 4-5 years after its construction.
Ensuring your retaining wall contractor has a $2-5 million general liability cover should be an absolute must. Retaining wall construction involves heavy equipment operating close to structures (and often near the public). In addition, vast quantities of supplies need to be moved back and forth from the site to the road. General liability coverage can protect you in an emergency.
Once you decide, ask your contractor to provide you with a contract. The contract should delineate your responsibilities as a client and the contractor’s responsibilities. The contract should also have a clearly defined payment schedule. For example, a certain amount is due once the foundation has been completed. Until all items in the contract have been completed, you should hold back a minimum of 10% of the project value.
Finally, even if it’s not a mandatory condition for a building permit, it is an excellent idea to have an independent structural engineer review the construction of the retaining wall and issue a Letter of Completion. This is a certified report issued by a structural engineer with a P.Eng designation. The engineer will review the construction of the retaining wall at different stages and certify that the retaining wall has been built according to the approved design and specifications. Consider it as insurance on your significant investment.
We provide in-house design services and have extensive experience working with every city in the Greater Hamilton and Greater Toronto areas. We also offer stamped design drawings, slope stability assessments, arborist reports, and letters of completion.
Contact us today for a free consultation. We will happily provide an innovative solution for your retaining wall project.