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Old 05-02-2011, 09:44 AM   #1
Stay-at-home GC
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Pittsburgh,PA
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Finding a Structural Engineer for retaining walls


Any suggestions on finding an Engineer willing to work with Homeowner on retaining walls?

As some of you may know, from my posts over at ContractorTalk, I am a GC with a number of years in Carpentry, Framing and Construction but no Hands-on in Landscaping unless "pulling weeds" counts.

I am currently working on a large landscaping project at my own home and I am having some trouble getting it off the ground.

To make the whole, long, sad story short: my wife and I bought this place pretty much site-unseen following an out-of-state relocation. After arriving we realized we had bought a "pig-in-a-poke" (hence my great love and respect for Real Estate Agents). In fact I actually went into the Trades to learn something about how to fix our Money Pit. So, 9 years later, the sagging ridge beam in the living room has been remediated. The sloping floors were corrected during the gut-job kitchen remodel. All three bathrooms have been gutted and the attic insulation and air flow problems have been corrected. Now it is time to start on the outside.

So we have this crummy high-side lot.here

If you view it in Google Maps or Earth and turn on the Terrain feature, you can get a fairly good idea of how it slopes to the street. Coming from North Carolina as we were, we said "Ahh, how refreshing not to have to mow acres of flat grass" What we should have said is "Do you know that all those dry-stack retaining walls are built wrong?". We had 5 Landscape Architect and Design Build guys out to look at the place last Summer. 3 of them said "No Way, To Big", one said $50k and the last guy just did a drive by, never even stopped.

So it falls to me. The problem I'm having now is the scope is to big for the Engineers that are willing to work with Homeowners and to small for Engineers that work on Commercial and Civil Projects (Actually its not to small for them, they just assume it is. If I could get them out for a site visit, I'm sure they would agree there is some interesting technical problems to be solved).

I am working with our local Building Official on permitting and I will probably have to request a Variance at some point regarding the height of walls (currently they allow 4 feet w/o Engineering, stamps required for 4-6', and nothing over 6'). I am getting a 2' Topo in the next day or so, but I suspect the slope is going to require about 16' of interacting (dependent) retaining walls.

Any suggestions on finding Engineers willing and able to get into this Tar Baby? The budget is there but we would be upside down if we pay someone to handle it and it just makes no sense for me to pay a Project Manager to handle this when I am perfectly capable.

Note: "Burn it down" has been put forward several times but is not a viable option as I would be the prime suspect

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