Why You Need a Structural Engineer for Retaining Wall Designs
Xpressengineering, 12 months ago 3 min read 10
Retaining walls are designed to level out sloped ground. They hold back the soil to prevent it from moving to lower ground. Retaining walls hold back tons of weight. They also have to withstand inclement weather conditions and even seismic activity. If they are not properly designed and constructed, they can pose a danger and may quickly fail.
Why a Structural Engineer is Needed for Retaining Wall Designs
With a properly designed retaining wall, you can maximize your property use and increase its value. A trained structural engineer can help you with the best retaining wall for your situation. The engineer may consider the lay of the land and the drainage when discussing the wall location and design.
The design of the retaining wall will consider many factors including soil properties, and the elevation and slope of the ground. The height and breadth of the wall holding the soil in place is another crucial consideration.
You generally need a permit if you plan to make changes and additions to your property. The retaining wall may require such a permit. Your local jurisdiction can help you with information on what is needed in your area.
In general, you’ll probably need a permit signed off by the local authority if your planned wall is more than four feet high. If the slope above the wall is 2:1, in the state of California, for instance, sign-off by an engineer is not optional. There may also be permit requirements related to the support of surcharges amongst other things.
If you plan to excavate or move the soil, an engineer will have to create a grading plan that shows how you’ve taken care of the drainage. Cities have different building codes and regulations. A structural engineer will make sure that you don’t fall foul of the law.
A Structural Engineer Will Design Retaining Walls to Last a Lifetime
Regardless of whether you need a permit or not, a structural engineer will ensure that you have a wall that is designed and built to last a lifetime. The engineer will make the following evaluations:
Best location – the engineer will take a holistic view of your property and ensure that the wall is optimally designed. He or she will consider the drainage, the amount of soil excavation, and the best placement for enhancing the property’s curb appeal
Design the wall height and shape – the engineer will design a retaining wall in a shape that contours the land and at the appropriate height. They will identify the slopes on either side of the wall and take into account extra weight loads caused by roads, patios, and pools, etc. They will also design the required retaining wall setback.
The design of your retaining wall may take account of water table conditions and concentrated top loads. Engineers have been trained to understand the lay of the land and the way that soil and water pressures can combine to create stresses on the wall. They have tables and formulas on which they base their designs. They also know how to take care of the drainage on the new landscapes.
Get the Best Out of Your Retaining Wall
Well-designed retaining walls will last for decades, requiring little or no maintenance. They free up space for lifestyle areas like patios and garden areas. Still, unless they are appropriately designed, they can produce drainage problems or in the worst cases, they may collapse.
Your retaining wall will face many stressors over the years. This is why a structural engineer is highly recommended for retaining walls.