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Can You Build a Retaining Wall Next to A Privacy Fence? (It Depends….)

retaining wall next to privacy fence?

Retaining walls are erected to hold back the soil and maintain the original ground level difference.

Some types of fences can be easily built on or next to retaining walls.

The resultant combination is sometimes referred to as an integrated retaining wall.

Most retaining walls fall in the range of 1 to 3 feet tall. 3 feet high is the farthest you could go in most residential areas.

Anything taller than that may require additional permits, plans, and engineering. It is important to never mistake kickboards with retaining walls.

Kickboards are designed to protect your pickets from getting into contact with the ground, but they are not meant to hold back the soil, and they are not strong enough for that kind of job.

With That Said, Can You Build A Retaining Wall Next To A Privacy Fence?

It can depend on several factors, including the kind of fence you intend to erect.

First off, what does the local municipality say?

This can be a grey area – different municipalities have different laws regarding the placement of the retaining wall on or next to the fence wall.

If they permit in your area, the distance you are allowed off the wall may vary as well.

So, the first thing you should check is your local municipality code regarding your front yard’s setback.

Even the height of the wall and fence itself may be limited.

An example is when you have a front side yard setback of 25 feet off the property line but no walls/fences within the 25 feet can exceed the height of 3 feet. Every town and city will typically set different restrictions.

With that being said, setting back a wall a few feet away from the fence would be almost perfect. You can proceed to plant shrubs between or anything that can cascade on top of the retaining wall and also buffer the fence’s height.

Also, you need to consider how your power company employees will read the utility meters.

So, Yes, You Can Build A Retaining Wall Next To The Fence If:

1. It’s a living fence

Why not if it’s a living fence?

Live fences often consist of both production wood and living trees.

Either some plants in the fence are left to outgrow others, e.g. cypress or tree plants of a different species can be added to the living fence and left to grow as they want.

Either way, living fences are a non-issue if you are thinking of the retaining fence at the same time.

Firstly, they don’t pose a major distraction like the permanent concrete fences although this makes them a bit less of a true security fence.

Still, they offer the least bothersome option to put close to a retaining wall especially if you consider the fact that you can easily cut down the plants and replace them with another kind of fence if necessary.

By the way, a simple hedge won’t distract your attractive architecture the same way a solid fence would.

And if you think a living fence would make it easier for intruders to squeeze through shrubs, you can choose the thorniest plant you could get in your local supplier’s yard.

2. It’s a chain-link fence

Chain link fence?

No big deal. Chain link fences are very much like living fences – they are easy to install, won’t ruin the architectural appeal of your property, and can be gotten rid of quite fast and easy compared to brick and concrete walls.

Also, they won’t pose problems when installed close to a retaining wall.

The biggest setback with this kind of fence is the minimal privacy it provides because all those prying eyes can see through it.

Intruders may also find it easier to climb over it than cut through especially if it isn’t tall enough. Unless you add a barbed element or electric fence on the topmost edge, intruders will always find it easier to scale over it.

We can go on and on to mention palisade fences, cor-ten steel fences, high-security fences, or any other non-permanent option, but remember that all these options that aren’t all-solid would be perfectly okay for installation close to your retaining wall.

You May Not Add A Retaining Wall Next To A Fence In Some Situations:

1. How high is the retaining wall?

The height of the retaining wall can have a say on whether it would be appropriate to erect it close to a fence or not.

Think about it – it is never beautiful to build a towering retaining wall behind a tiny fence no matter how far or close they are to each other.

Both structures (the fence and the retaining wall) may serve their purposes perfectly even when the wall is many times taller than the fence.

In that case, the presence of the retaining wall alone would be enough to cater to your security and privacy needs as intruders would find it hard to scale it and peek in your front yard.

So, if the retaining wall is going to be taller than your fence, say, your fence is 3 feet tall and the retaining wall is higher than that, then you will be compelled to do away with one of these two structures.

If the retaining wall is going to be shorter than the fence, then you can go ahead with the installation process in consideration of other factors.

2. What type of retaining wall?

There are two types of retaining walls – wooden and concrete walls.

If you are thinking wooden type, then you may erect it next to the fence of any kind.

Wooden retaining walls normally come in pressure-treated units duly certified for ground installation/contact.

They also require metallic or wooden posts every 3 to 4 feet for additional support. If your property is almost flat, wooden retaining can be good for the job and can be paired with almost all types of fences.

Things get a little complicated with concrete retaining walls because they will be permanent.

Extensive preparation of the land is required as well.

Concrete retaining walls may not be necessary if the property is too sloppy – just add the security/privacy fence and forget everything unless necessary.

The Case with Building a Fence Right On Top of the Retaining Wall

What if you opt to build a retaining wall and erect the fence on top instead? There are a few things worth knowing:

1. Install 3 feet (or 0.9 meters) Behind the Block

Putting the railing or fence at least 3 feet (or 0.9 m) or more behind your retaining wall is preferable.

This configuration applies the least overturning forces on the wall’s back.

The design can take advantage of the resistance offered by the soil mass placed between the post footing and the wall to reduce the effect of forces from your fence.

2. Install Slightly Behind the Block

It is not uncommon for homeowners to install the railing or fence directly behind their block.

Fences can be installed closer to the retaining wall than 3 ft., but a competent design professional needs to be involved to make sure that the topmost section of the wall can stand up to the extreme forces from the enormous fence on top.

As your fence approaches the wall, the extra strength from the ever-important geogrid reinforcement is needed to stand up to the overall overturning forces applied at the railing or fence post footing.

Most of the time, gravity walls (or walls designed with no geogrid) can’t be installed once the fence line is within 3 ft. (or 0.9 meters) from the rear of the block.

Why?

this has something to do with the obvious fact that there’s no extra resistance provided by the geogrid reinforcement layers, there’s only the wall’s weight which typically isn’t sufficient to resist the two forces – the force exerted by the fence and the one produced by soil pressure.

3. Installed Inside the Block

Installing your railing or fence within the block is the most challenging approach.

You will need an engineer to analyze the wall.

This installation requires that all the cores around every post or a few top courses of the block be grouted solid in such a way that they can add sufficient stability to your wall’s top.

Conclusion

Retaining walls are erected to hold back the soil and maintain the original ground level difference. Some types of fences can be easily built on or retaining walls.

Can you build a retaining wall next to a privacy fence? It can depend on several factors, including the kind of fence you intend to erect. Different municipalities have different laws regarding the placement of the retaining wall on or next to the fence wall. If they permit in your area, the distance you are allowed off the wall may vary as well.

If your fence consists of live plants, you may proceed with adding retaining wall next to it. The same is true with a chain link wall.

The height of the retaining wall can have a say on whether it would be appropriate to erect it close to a fence or not.

Think about it – it is never beautiful to build a towering retaining wall behind a tiny fence no matter how far or close they are to each other.