Retaining Wall questions/concerns

Old 08-28-08, 10:30 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Phoenix, Az
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Retaining Wall questions/concerns


I live in a housing subdivision and the lots to the rear of mine are higher in elevation than mine. All the lots are surrounded by block walls. The wall in the rear part of my yard is at the higher elevation of the lots behind me. So in my back yard I have a hill thatís taking up a good amount of space. I was thinking I would like to put up a retaining wall to make a really nice planter along the back of my yard and get a little more usable space in my yard.

The hill is about four and a half feet high from the level part of my yard, and around ten feet deep from my back wall to where the yard levels out. Itís also sixty feet wide. I want to cut the hill back to about 4-5 feet deep from the existing block wall to the new retaining wall, and make the retaining wall as tall as the highest level of the hill (approximately four and a half feet high)

I was planning on using the blocks with the interlocking lip on the on them to build the wall. I have never built a wall before. Does this sound like a project I should take on myself? I am concerned that if the retaining wall fails I will wake up one morning and find the rear wall of my lot laying in my yard.
Old 08-28-08, 11:46 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Retaining Wall questions/concerns

It is very dangerous to start excavating near an existing wall. You could be removing soil that was relied on when the existing privacy wall was built. If there is a heavy rain or wind, what you do could case more than just dirt in your back yard - you could get get a bunch of bills for damages and reconstruction.

What you are proposing is possible if done correctly. Without photos, or knowing about the local soil, it is difficult to give an exact answer. The construction of a wall using segmental retaining wall block is very much a DIY project.

Usually, you can build a retaining wall less than 4' high, depending on the local ordinances. In your case, you could be afffecting the surrounding wall foundations.

If I were you, I would get an opinion from a local soils/structural engineer. He could also give you a design in case something out of the ordinary is required for your situation. If the privacy walls in your area are typical they would be on the plans for your development, so this will give your engineer something to look at.

Normally, a retaining wall less then 4' does not need a permit, but not all areas are the same, so it might be good to see if one is required. If you have an engineered design, it might be good to get a permit also and get a local building department approval. The city probably has a standard design that they use for 4' or less walls they use for street wideneing and regrading.

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