A retaining wall may look like a simple design, but a lot is going on beneath the surface. Without the knowledge and skills of a structural engineer, a retaining wall may be doomed to failure. Retaining wall failure could cause extensive property and utility damage, completely avoidable with effective retaining wall engineering.

The primary function of a retaining wall is to support the weight of the soil and rock behind the wall. Retaining walls must overcome the forces that result from changes in temperature, moisture levels and seismic activity.

Structural engineers consider a variety of factors when designing a retaining wall. These include the type of soil, the slope of the land, and the intended use.

Building Code Requirements

If the retaining wall is higher than three feet, the building codes in most US states require that you use retaining wall engineering and obtain a building permit. You may need a guardrail if there is a path on top of your retaining wall. US state building codes require the installation of fencing or handrails at an elevation of four, five or six feet.

A slope above the retaining wall also calls for a consultation with a licensed structural engineer for retaining walls. Similarly, several building code regulations pertain to terraced walls. You must follow the regulations in your municipal jurisdiction.


Car parks, concrete and even heavy snow loads above the wall will place an extra load on the retaining wall. Only a structural engineer for retaining walls has the training, experience and skills to calculate the additional load-bearing capacity required to bear the extra weight.

Retaining Walls that Last

A retaining wall engineer has the knowledge and expertise to design a wall that meets building codes and safety standards. An expert design can ensure that your retaining wall remains stable and secure for its intended lifespan. Call Xpress Engineering for quick and inexpensive engineering designs for retaining walls.