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How to evaluate a retaining wall project

5909 Views 4 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Aggie67
So, I am building a large number of retaining walls this Summer and thought I would start a thread on How To. I'm no Pro, just some house building experience, so this is very much a learn as you go project for me.

If you are considering anything bigger than a flower bed (2' high or so) I would recommend the following:

1. Mock-up a concept of your wall on paper or in Sketch-Up. Draw Plan and Section Views showing approximate grades into and away from the wall.

2. Take your Concept Drawing to your Building Code Enforcement Office: Many won't approve or permit a wall that big without Engineering, lest it fall on someone. Ask if he knows an Engineer that works with Homeowners (many will not).

3. Consult an Engineer: Even if your Building Code Office allows a big wall with no Engineering, you should bring one on for peace of mind. That is a lot of work if it falls over next year (on someone :eek:). Your Engineer may want to see Topographical Surveys of the area.

4. At the very minimum read "The Homeowner's Guide To Drainage Control & Retaining Walls" by Erickson

5. Produce solid Working Drawings. If your Engineer hasn't already provided Drawings, take yours to an Engineer and have him 'run the numbers' to see if your wall is safe.

6. Knock yourself out (figuratively speaking)

I'll add to this Thread as I learn more and my mistakes become apparent. For a less formal version, check out my Thread "Talk me off this ledge..." in the Landscape and Garden Section.

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The most common type of retaining walls are segmental interlocking walls (SRWS) because of the cost, ability for a DIYer and flexibility of layout (straight, inside or outside curves) and variable heights. I assume this is what you are referring to.

The most common height for engineering to be required in the U.S. is either 4' or 5', since it is just a gravity wall if less than that. Here, the municipalities even provide "generic" drawings for the construction of the major brands of walls. - It is a "no-brainer". If the block is a local "knock-off" or a copy, it may not work for the details. These drawing are also routinely used by the municalities for local crews to build walls up to the 4' oor 5' height without any engineering on municipal projects.

Drawing are always good for getting a permit (if required legally or for your protection) are very helpful. If you try to avoid building several lower walls set back, make sure you show those to cover yourself. If you have a "generic" design sheet, attach it to any application to eliminate questions.

All of the major brands (Allan, Anchor, Keystone and Versalok) have outstanding sights for construction tips that work for all similar walls. These units are made by local manufacturers in most areas and countries. They also have engineering guides for engineers and an engineer on staff for professional assistance to other engineers.

It sure is a good, dursablr method for landscape of just for straight walls compared with the cost and problems associated with poured walls and footings since a SRW cannot use a concrete footing, steel reinforcement or mortar. If you have a large wall, they can be engineered up to 40' high last I observed.

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