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San Diego Retaining Wall FAQs

How Tall Can I Build a Retaining Wall?

A Retaining Wall can be built of any height depending on the need, as any North County San Diego expert will tell you. Low walls or walls up to a height of 4 feet can be made as do-it-yourself structures and may be constructed without using cement blocks or mortar. The retaining wall materials could be bricks, timber, stone or interlocking blocks. Taller Retaining Walls need reinforced material.

Do I Need a Permit to Build a Retaining Wall?

A building permit and planning approval are required to make a retaining wall in San Diego. If you live near the coast, a design review and a coastal development permit will also be required. So types and number of permits and approvals for making a Retaining Wall depend on your property’s location. To know these, consult the County Geotechnical Department regarding conditions specific to your property. 

Do I Need a Concrete Footing at the Base of the Wall?

Retaining Walls that are more than four feet tall need a concrete footing at the base of the wall. Concrete Footing is the name of a concrete structure that is made below ground level. It is intended to provide support to the wall above ground level and distribute the weight of the above-ground structure to the soil. The size of the Concrete Footing depends on the weight of the wall and the load carrying capacity of the soil. Concrete or masonry walls are anchored by a flat top Concrete Footing with steel rods or keyed channel connectors. 

What is Geogrid?

The purpose of a Geogrid is to reinforce the soil or sand on which the Retaining Wall is to be built. A grid-like formation made of geosynthetic material is used for this purpose. It consists of connected parallel sets of tensile ribs with apertures; the apertures are of a size to allow strike-through of surrounding soil, stone, or other geotechnical material. In this manner, the surrounding soil can be made to stand vertically as required. Geogrids are available in different material and provide different strengths to suit various applications. 

What is a Segmental Retaining Wall System?

As the name indicates, Segmental Retaining Wall refers to the entire structure that has been built to reinforce the soil and prevent erosion. The unit of the Segmental Retaining Wall comprises modular, solid, dry-cast concrete blocks that are used for earth retention and form the façade of the SRW system. A number of highway projects use this system owing to factors like reduced construction costs, versatility, aesthetic appearance, and ease of installation. 

What Can I Use the Backfill the Retaining Wall?

Generally, a Retaining Wall is used to keep soil from eroding and this very soil comprises the backfill for the wall. Where the Retaining Wall is ornamental, the backfill material for the wall may be the soil with some trees or some gravel that allows water to flow out. Before constructing the Retaining Wall, a study of soil conditions, expected loads and earth movement is done by San Diego engineers and the soil behind the wall effectively compacted. 

What safety factors should the retaining wall engineer calculate?

When making a Retaining Wall, San Diego engineers take into consideration the following factors that are essential for safety purposes and need some calculations: 

  • Overturning, Sliding and Bearing are some external factors of safety
  • Pull Out has to be calculated as an internal factor of safety
  • Local Stability, including Shear
  • Global Stability

Gallery of Retaining Walls in


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