Retaining walls are one of the most popular landscaping additions in both residential and commercial properties. There are several reasons why property owners build a retaining wall. It can serve as a supporting structure that retains soil, helps with slopes, or controls runoff water while adding aesthetic appeal to your yard.
If you have the time and tools, you may want to opt for the DIY building approach. While many retaining wall blocks are easy to install even for homeowners, there are some important things you deserve to know before starting the project. Otherwise, you may get into trouble with the local authorities.
We will walk you through the various critical aspects of a DIY retaining wall project, including the council approval, height restrictions, and engineering. Read on to find out.
Is a Permit Mandatory When Building DIY Retaining Walls?
Councils recognise retaining walls as essentially supporting structures. If they are not well constructed, they could collapse and pose a safety risk to property users. As such, you may need approval from your local council before you begin building a retaining wall.
Not all cases require permission, though. Property owners must meet specific criteria. Generally, if the height of your DIY retaining wall is less than one metre, then you may not need approval. Anything above that will require a building permit.
There may be other regulations with a bearing on the matter, such as those relating to the distance between the wall and boundary line, adjoining property, registered easement, sewer, or water main.
Projects that involve council approval are often subject to other requirements, including submitting a certified building design. This means you will need to hire a professional private engineer and registered building.
Please note that each council sets its own rules and regulations governing construction projects. For instance, in New South Wales, property owners must not exceed the height of 600mm when building retaining walls without permits.
Therefore, make sure you check out the codes applicable in your specific area. Just contact the council’s development team or consult with an experienced retaining wall contractor to shed some light on the matter.
Other Circumstances Where Council Approval is Necessary?
You may still have to obtain approval whether the height is within the 1-metre range. This is especially true in cases where you need to build retaining walls in highly saturated clay soils. Such soils tend to add a lot of pressure behind the walls. Additional reinforcement may be necessary to create a safe retaining wall.
Another circumstance that may require council approval is when you are planning to build walls meant to withstand significant loads, such as driveways.
What is the Maximum Height of a Retaining Wall?
The local council guidelines also touch on the maximum height allowed for a retaining wall. They should give you an idea of the recommended ranges to work with your project. The physical capabilities of your preferred retaining wall blocks also play an essential role in determining ideal height.
If you want to build gravity walls, then the manufacturer of the retaining wall blocks will most likely state the maximum height for their material. Usually, these types of walls are not engineered. They use heavy materials, which create enough weight to resists pressure and hold soil behind them.
Property owners may still need reinforcement even if the height is within the acceptable council limits. The capacity of the wall system can determine whether or not to use an engineered design.
Steps to Getting a Permit for Building a Retaining Wall
If the specifics of a retaining wall you want to build warrants approval, you will need to adhere to the relevant regulations to avoid trouble with the authorities. Filing a construction permit includes the following steps:
Lodge an Application
You can get the application form directly from the official site of the local council. If that’s not an option in your area, you are encouraged to contact their relevant team using the numbers displayed on site. You will get connected with one of the representatives who will tell you how to go about the whole process.
Engage a Qualified Structural Engineer
The engineer will draw plans for your residential or commercial retaining walls.
Hire a Private Building Certifier
Working with a building certifier will make things a lot easier for you, as the professional can manage the approval process on your behalf. They will approve your construction plan and help submit your application to the council. They will let you know if there are additional designs or certificates needed.
The certifier will also be inspecting the construction project regularly, ensuring that the retaining walls get built according to the accepted industry standards. Once the work is complete, they will provide approval documentation. Copies of the document get submitted to the local council.
The building of retaining walls begins once you have been issued with a construction certificate.
How Long Does it Take to Receive a Retaining Wall Permit?
The period varies depending on the where you live and the details of your project. An experienced building certifier can provide correct approximations. Well, this is something they do regularly for a living.
In fact, the professionals will help you to avoid unnecessary delays because they will ensure you file correct information.
Building a retaining wall system is a DIY friendly project, but it is advisable to make sure you have a construction certificate if your local council requires it. If you do not know how to build the walls by yourself, you can check out guides online. There are several helpful articles and tutorials to steer you in the right direction.
Nevertheless, we must admit that some projects can be quite time-consuming and complicated, thus requiring engaging the services of a licensed and knowledgeable retaining wall contractor. Working with professionals is recommended if you want everything to turn out perfect. You will have increased peace of mind knowing the wall is completed to the highest quality and safety standards.