Learn from These 3 Costly Mistakes Before You Build Your Retaining Wall

Have you ever tackled a project and wished someone had told you about the things to look out for? Well, we certainly have and that’s how we came up with this month’s blog! If you are thinking of building your own retaining wall DIY style then make sure you read this 😊

During our 13 years of manufacturing and installing concrete sleeper retaining walls we have learnt from our mistakes. When we reflected on the mistakes we made in the early years, the 3 listed below were the costliest and most common.


Council approval

Now all Council’s regulations vary from state to state but here in Brisbane, Queensland our local council states that “you do not need building approval for a retaining wall if it fulfils the following criteria:

  • there is no ‘surcharge loading’ over the ‘zone of influence’ for the wall (refer to definitions in the Building Regulation 2006 (Schedule 1 Section 3)
  • the total height of the wall and of the fill or cut retained by the wall is no more than one meter above the wall’s natural ground surface
  • the wall is no closer than 1.5 meters to a building or another retaining wall
  • it does not form part of the fencing for a pool”

So, if you don’t need council approval then great, you get to save some $$ but if you do need council approval then you have some tasks to do. If you need approval quickly we suggest using a private certifier as they take care of the entire process for you and are experts on the matter. If you go through the council directly you will have to fill out a tonne of paperwork and it can be tricky if you don’t know what you are doing.

Now you might be reading this and thinking I can’t be bothered getting council approval or I cannot afford it, but trust me, you can’t afford not to. If your local council finds out, you could be slapped with a fine and rectification costs if it isn’t built to standards. Do your research in the planning stage and you shouldn’t have any issues. If you do require building approval then be sure to budget for the costs involved.

If you’d like more information click this link to the Brisbane City Council’s guidelines on Batters and Earth Retaining Structures http://qbis.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Retaining-Walls-fences-Bris-City-Council1.pdf.


Underground services

Let’s visualise this scene together. We are in our backyard, the excavator we have hired to drill our post holes is drilling down 1.2m deep on our 5th post hole. Everything is going great until we hear a bang and is quickly followed by “Oh sh*% we just hit a sewerage pipe!”. Now, this scene is not pretty (see picture below, that is not mud) and isn’t a cheap or quick fix either!

To avoid damaging any underground services like water, electricity or gas it is best to contact Dial Before You Dig as they can provide the location of all underground services in the location of your project for a fee. By contacting them in the project planning stage (yep I said it again) you could save thousands of dollars in fixing any damaged pipes, cables etc.

To help further here is a link to the Home Owners’ Guide from Dial Before You Dig https://www.1100.com.au/images/pdfs/Home%20Owners%20Information%20June%202015.pdf.


 Access for machinery

In this scenario, there are 2 types of homes, 1 with side access that you can fit your dream (or your actual) boat down and the other that you can’t even swing a cat around in. If you are the latter, then it’s 99.9% possible you could have this problem when you decide to replace your retaining wall in the backyard. Don’t sweat, this is a common problem but you will have to outlay a little more money for machinery hire and labour. So maybe lure some mates in with the promise of beers in lieu of their labour and it won’t cost as much. Again, this is something you need to factor into your retaining wall budget in the planning stage.

So basically it all boils down to research, planning, and budgeting for everything you need to ensure smooth sailing!

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