Retaining wall and patioMaximum Height of Retaining Wall Without Permit is a question in many homeowners’ minds. Figuring out how tall a construction on your house should be isn’t easy.

Do you need to construct a wall but do not know whether or not you are allowed?

For your convenience, we did all the legwork to bring you some answers to your question and other important information you should have about retaining walls keep reading.

What Is the Maximum Height of Retaining Wall Without Permit?

Do not construct your wall taller than three to four feet as a general rule of thumb. Building higher than four feet calls for city permission and highly-priced engineering in most locations.

Of course, guidelines are different depending on where you are and what kind of land the wall is being constructed on. For instance, say you live in Phoenix, Arizona, and need to build a wall; you need a building permit for any wall taller than three feet.

As we begin, we will discuss all there is to know about walls and whether or not you need a permit to construct one. Regardless of where you stay, it’s far more critical to build a wall tall that is sufficient to save you from flooding while additionally staying inside your town’s guidelines. With that said, let’s dive right into this article!

What Is a Retaining Wall?

According to widespread engineering practice, a retaining wall is designed to withstand lateral earth and fluid pressures, such as any surcharge.

Types of Retaining Walls

These walls are famous in residential and industrial landscaping. Besides stopping soil erosion, preserving partitions add significantly to the overall look of your property. The four most commonly used kinds of walls built in construction are:

– Cantilevered Retaining Wall

A Cantilevered Retaining Wall is the most common type of wall, utilized in most instances of medium to considerably tall heights.

Typically, they may be built of concrete, with the stem (the wall) anchored to a concrete footing beneath, used to withstand the soil weight and save your wall from tipping over and damaging property or plants. These partitions are bolstered with metallic rebar to get as much strength as possible.

– Gravity Retaining Wall

These walls rely on their mass to withstand the strain from any surcharge from behind and are ideal for relatively small landscaping walls. Gravity walls are the most basic, as they allow for the broadest quantity of range in materials that can be used.

– Sheet Piling Retaining Wall

These are walls that are commonly utilized in soft soil and tight spaces. A thin metallic, wooden, or vinyl wall is pushed 1/three above the floor and two to three below ground level into the soil. They have a vertically corrugated shape to offer extra reinforcement.

– Anchored Retaining Wall

The anchored walls are often used for structurally thinner walls or when a big load of surcharge is possible. This wall allows for many “fronts” of walls that an anchor supports.

These anchors are pushed deeper back into the soil and connected through cables or strips. You may use this approach together with any other alternatives as extra support.

Is It Essential To Get A Wall Building Permit?

If you’re thinking about having a retaining wall built on your home, you must apply for a permit.

As a standard rule, a permit is commonly required while remodeling your property if additions, alterations, or new construction is to be undertaken. Most importantly, while constructing a wall, decide if an engineering plan is wanted for the undertaking.

However, there are instances when homeowners can take motion without the system of acquiring a permit. Therefore, you have to look at it with relevant authorities to ensure you have everything you need before starting the project.

Either way, it’s always better to have an engineer involved to oversee the wall’s construction.

The precise kind of permit required for a retaining wall relies upon the scope and scale of the wall, the zoning rules, guidelines, and codes of the city you’re in the environmental impacts, and the kind of wall being constructed.

The codes and guidelines set up by your municipality will decide if the undertaking calls for a permit and what kind to file. Most towns have precise zoning legal guidelines based on the landscape, the size of the house, and property lines.

– Consultation

Consulting an authorized engineer will make sure your drawing plans for your wall comply with the codes of your area.

Specific to constructing a wall, there are numerous vital features landowners have to keep in mind, which will almost always need a registered permit:

  • If the full height of the wall exceeds four feet measured from the footing to the top of the wall
  • Whether there’s a back slope adjoining the wall
  • If surcharge load situations exist (buildings, roads, automobile loads, or sloped conditions)
  • If stable fences are connected or adjoining to the proposed wall


Does it Cost Money To Get A Permit?

For those desiring a permit for their wall, the total cost will only add to approximately $20-$60, depending on where you are, construction fees can differ. However, you should not need to spend more than a hundred dollars to get your retaining wall approved.

If your plans are beneath the permit-required height, you will not need to pay any expenses to the city before you get to work.

How Wide Should Your Retaining Wall Be?

According to expert Brian Walker of Wallace Design, a wall has to be half to one third the width of your wall. This is because if your wall is too tall for its base to handle, it can alter the foundations of the entire wall, collapsing in the course of terrible weather.

Furthermore, to take the example of a case where you need to construct a three-foot-tall wall, you’ll want to make it 12 inches wide at the very least.

How Deep Should The Base Be For A Retaining Wall?

When it involves the bottom of your wall, attempt to make its foundations around four to six inches deep; whether you use concrete, stone, or brick, make sure to bury half of the first layer of your wall into the ground. This measure will steady your retaining wall and save it from sliding or toppling over in a storm.

How Do I Choose The Retaining Wall To Build?

When choosing what type of retaining wall to build, remember what length and characteristic you want it to have. Typically, retaining walls are built to safeguard your property from soil erosion, runoff, and flooding.

Having a sturdy, well-constructed retaining wall could make a difference, especially if you live at the lowest of a steep hill or slope.

Of course, if you are not sure approximately where to construct your wall or what paperwork you’ll need to put in for it, it in no way hurts to consult an expert to talk about your options.

What Are The Best Materials For Building Retaining Walls?

You can use many kinds of substances to construct your boundary wall.

Typically, these walls are built of concrete. While concrete is the most common substance, there are many other ones people prefer for their walls, including:

  • railroad ties
  • handled timbers
  • wall stones
  • herbal stones
  • bricks
  • urban blocks

While wood is a less expensive option, it has the shortest lifespan due to its susceptibility to decompose.

To take their walls to the next level, people may also use stones, Howevrocks, and boulders to create an aesthetically alluring visual.

However, this comes with a slight increase in the budget and much more maintenance to prevent erosion. Masonry blocks offer a much more low-maintenance alternative and usually have lots of sizing and color options to choose from.

How Much Money Does It Cost To Build A Retaining Wall?

Typically, expect to spend somewhere between $3,000 and $8,000 on your wall. Depending on how high you want your wall to be and what substances you use, this can decide the very last price of your project.

To give you a better idea, let’s look at some estimates.

A run-of-the-mill cinder block wall will cost you between $10 and $12 with a rectangular foot, while concrete almost doubles this price tag.

Additionally, if you use labor, it’ll cost you an extra $25. If that’s a charge you want to avoid, try recruiting some friends for help instead.

When to Consult An Engineer

There are numerous elements to consider while figuring out what conditions you must hire an authorized engineer to construct the wall.

The first is the wall height, as most locales require a permit and layout plan from a licensed engineer if the wall is taller than four feet. Terraced partitions need the layout and allowing of an engineer as well.

Three layers of Retaining Wall


How high can a retaining wall be without drainage?

A retaining wall should ideally have drainage to prevent excessive pressure. However, the height without drainage depends on factors like soil conditions and wall design.

How tall can you build a dry stack retaining wall?

The height of a dry stack retaining wall depends on various factors like the material used, soil conditions, and design. Consult an engineer for specific guidance.

What is the basic retaining wall rule?

The basic rule for retaining walls is to ensure proper foundation, adequate drainage, appropriate material selection, and structural stability.


Whether you are just starting or have already done all the research and are ready to start building, it’s vital to learn about your area’s construction codes before kickoff. Remember:

  • You need permits for your retaining wall if the wall is taller than three to four feet.
  • If your wall is expected to be shorter than three to four feet, there’s no need to fret about a permit.
  • The width of your wall should be at least one-third of its total height.
  • Always check in with your city’s, town’s, or municipality’s requirements to ensure your wall specifications are not against area codes.

Equipped with all this knowledge, you can rest assured that you aren’t breaking any rules, and you won’t be getting a visit from authorities anytime soon!

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