When do You Need Permits for Building a Retaining Wall in San Diego County

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Pencil on the notebook.

Though a retaining wall can add that special something to the looks of your backyard, its main role is to become a well engineered load bearing structure.

Factors That Influence Retaining Wall Choice:

  • Construction costs
  • Wall height requirements
  • Time taken by construction
  • Soil and ground water characteristics

Building codes are as well among selection factors. Wall height is an indicator of whether or not a permit is needed for construction. Construction codes are the way the city of San Diego ensures building safety.

When a Permit is Needed

In the San Diego County a building permit is required for the building of a retaining wall in the following scenarios:

  • The retaining wall is higher than 3 feet, measured from the top of the footing to top of the wall
  • The wall is supporting a surcharge or impounding flammable liquids

High walls and walls that need to support additional pressure and weight require careful design, drainage knowledge, skilled labor and adequate materials. Asking for professional advice and guidance will prove to be cost-effective in the long run. Please note that according to San Diego County regulations, even for retaining walls that do not require a permit, it is important that they are located completely on private property, footing included.

Sticking to the Plans and Inspections are Follow-ups to Permit Issuance

The retaining wall building permit can be obtained by contractors licensed in the State of California, your agent or yourself. Once the permit is issued, it is compulsory to build to the plans. For any change to the initial plans, consult with the city of San Diego review staff or with your field inspector.

During the course of construction, it is your responsibility to call for inspections at different stages:

  • footing inspection after blocks are laid and steel placed but before grouting
  • after backfilling
  • when the wall is finished

In order for your retaining wall project to be complete, it must pass final inspection. If your permit expires before final inspection (180 days pass after issuance) the project is in violation of San Diego city codes and you will need to reactivate the permit or apply for a new one.