Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!
  • Students Click Here

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.

Students Click Here

Retaining Wall Height Concern???

Retaining Wall Height Concern???

Retaining Wall Height Concern???

Hello engineers,

It just happened that I stumbled into this forum and I need help with a retaining wall detail. I am trying to build a house and the structure engineer gave me a detail for a retaining wall around the garage and front of the house due to a sloped downward lot. The initial detail is 7' from the top of the footing to the top of the slab and now I realize that I needed 8' instead. The engineer allows me to go up as high as 8' max but I have a concern that this wall is bit too tall. Could some experts out there confirm if this retaining is safe to go up as 8' tall? Please see attached PDF for retaining wall detail.

Thank you everyone in advance for your time!

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???


The engineer allows me to go up as high as 8' max but I have a concern that this wall is bit too tall.

The detail is not attached, but that's ok. Check with the Engineer again, I'll tell you why. The force on the wall from the soil behind it tends to make the wall both slide and overturn. This force is proportional to the square of the height of the soil behind the wall. Going from 7' to 8' height increases this sliding/overturning force by 31% (82 / 72 - 1) x 100 = 31%

There can be other loads to, maybe equipment or a building sitting on soil just behind the wall (called a surcharge load). The detail drawing probably does not include this information, but it is critical.

Get the Engineer to review their calculations so that nothing is overlooked.

www.SlideRuleEra.net idea
www.VacuumTubeEra.net r2d2

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

This is no simple wall thing,especially if there is any slope upward from the top of that wall. Any engineer dealing with this job should do the design work for ANY change of his plan. If any change on the job from his plan is made, the engineer may have no responsibility if a failure occurs, etc.

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

That's weird that my attached PDF didn't work. Would you please take a look at the PDF again? The slab remains at 7ft from top of footing to top of slab but the wall/stem is now 8ft tall. I found this spreadsheet online that calculated retaining wall detail and was just curious on how the engineer achieved the calculation. Please see attachment. I was reading a lot online and in this forum mentioned that the surcharge load is about 250-300psf. However, I can only achieve 105psf to maintain a and a 4ft backfill on the low side to maintain a positive safety of margin. Please advise is this check is adequate for a 8ft wall/stem.

I will insert the spreadsheet on the next post as this doesn't allow me to insert to files in one reply :-/

Thank you so much for everyone input!

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

Is this a building basement? Also what is the slope of the ground going away from this wall? There may be a slo0e failure situation with the fill behind the wall as well s building weight. I'd get a geotech involved, since we really do not have a detailed knowledge of all possible problems that must be addressed here. If the engineer has done that, fine, but we can't critique without full info.

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

I'm attaching a sketch for better visualization. All the highlighted pink will be 8ft tall walls and in front of that will be filled with dirt to level it out. Currently, the lot is sloped down about 8% toward the back of the house and this required me to raise the front of the foundation taller to accommodate for the elevation. The back of the house will be short foundation wall (2-3ft) and pony wall it up to catch up the height of the front of the house.

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

In an area with no frost penetration...


RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

It's a very rough sketch, but I don't think it's as much of a concern as others have suggested. There won't be a slope when the back fill is complete so that's not a consideration like "oldestguy" was worried about. Also, this may not really be a "cantilever wall". I suspect the house slab may provide restraint at the top of the wall. So, there is likely some conservatism in the assumption of a cantilever wall.

That being said, there is no doubt that you should still have your engineer review it. He / she is the one who knows the most about this project. We're just providing some EWAGs (educated wild ass guesses) based on the very limited information you have provided.

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

I agreed with JoshPlum that my cartoon isn't the best but do you need additional info? However, reading the threads do help broaden my view on how engineer community think about it. I find it more beneficial to have more input than just one but in reality not all designs are bullet proof. Some engineers may overlook something and it's always better to ask then shot myself in the foot.

I also forgot to mention the the soil guy said is good for 2000psf.

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???


Isn't that eWAGs, or with Apple, iWAGs.


RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

EDIT: Don't pay attention to this response. I looked at the wall section sketch incorrectly. I corrected my response farther down the thread after Hotod10 "woke me up."

It seems to me that you need to decide if the 8' high wall will act as a cantilevered wall or a top-supported wall. This decision should affect the location of the vertical reinforcing bars in the wall. As shown in your first CAD sketch, the steel is closer to the inside face of the wall which indicates a top-supported wall. However, the footing width looks like it is sized for a cantilevered wall.


RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

PEinc, the inside face of the wall, the side with the pressure against it, is the tension face of a cantilevered wall. If it was restrained at the top, you could possibly have tension on the outside face, requiring reinforcing in both faces.

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

Hi PEinc,

Thank you for responding to my thread. What I meant if I wanted to go 8' tall wall from the top of the footing to the top of the wall is still structural acceptable? My calculation on the spreadsheet said I need to backfill the low side at least 4' to not having the wall overturn if I wanted to a 8' wall. I think there need to be more rebars place at the bottom of the stem and wider footing is I go to a 8ft tall wall.

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

Even with the best backfill material (which phi = 30 degrees is not), I've never seen a ratio of footing width to wall height of less than 0.5 work. We almost never count on passive pressure from fill in front of a wall either, since there is rarely certainty of that material remaining in place. Fairly sure you need a wider footing.

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

Helping considerably is the many corners or jogs. I'd more look upon this as a house basement, but use those wide footings also at the outside garage wall as helping as a cantilevered wall. Then, more important, is those highest walls should have horizontal re-bars in the top sections, fully continuous, with the required laps and around the corners. Beyond the highest wall, I'd use a typical basement wall with no re bars except at the top in he front of the house only

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

HotRod10, I was wrong. I must have had a "brain fart" or dyslexia when looking at the CAD sketch. The stem's vertical bars shown are on the correct side of the wall for a cantilevered wall, but not for a top-restrained wall. Also, the CAD sketch shows a SOG at the top of the wall but not a connected floor slab. Therefore not top support. I guess the high side of the wall is inside the building and the low side is outside the building. So, based on the sketch, it is currently a cantilevered wall. I agree with you that the footing width looks questionable for the given wall height. My bad! It's been a long day.

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

Yeah PEinc, I figured it was something like that - you're used to looking at basement walls that have pressure from the outside. Our walls are next to highways, so there is no "normal" direction. I run into the same issue when someone posts a question about a frame system for a building - I keep wanting to put the biggest load on the top (where the bridge superstructure would be).

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

Quote (bcdinh)

I found this spreadsheet online... Please advise is this check is adequate for a 8ft wall/stem.
...always better to ask than shoot myself in the foot.

Ok, I have reviewed the Engineer's wall section drawing, your sketch, the "free" spreadsheet, and all of the posts on this thread to date. Have reached the following conclusions:

1) The spreadsheet seems to work reasonably well... but...

2) You are putting "garbage in" the spreadsheet and, not surprisingly, getting "garbage out".

Take your own advice, stop "shooting yourself in the foot". Talk to the Engineer who did the design.

www.SlideRuleEra.net idea
www.VacuumTubeEra.net r2d2

RE: Retaining Wall Height Concern???

As mentioned above, the forces increase with the square of the height, and also the moment arm
increases with height. So an 8 foot wall may not have a sufficient safety factor using the 7' wall design.
I didn't look at the drawing, but the footing width is "typically" around 60% of the height for a cantilever retaining wall.

Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members! Already a Member? Login


White Paper - Strategies to Secure Connected Cars with Firewalls
White-hat hackers have demonstrated gaining remote access to dashboard functions and transmissions of connected vehicles. That makes a firewall a vital component of a multilayered approach to vehicle security as well as overall vehicle safety and reliability. Learn strategies to secure with firewalls. Download Now
White Paper - Model Based Engineering for Wire Harness Manufacturing
As complexity rises, current harness manufacturing methods are struggling to keep pace due to manual data exchanges and the inability to capture tribal knowledge. A model-based wire harness manufacturing engineering flow automates data exchange and captures tribal knowledge through design rules to help harness manufacturers improve harness quality and boost efficiency. Download Now
White Paper - What is Generative Design and Why Do You Need It?
Engineers are being asked to produce more sophisticated designs under a perfect storm of complexity, cost, and change management pressures. Generative design empowers automotive design teams to navigate this storm by employing automation, data re-use and synchronization, and framing design in the context of a full vehicle platform. Download Now
eBook - Simulation-Driven Design with SOLIDWORKS
Simulation-driven design can reduce the time and cost of product development. In this engineering.com eBook, we’ll explore how SOLIDWORKS users can access simulation-driven design through the SOLIDWORKS Simulation suite of analysis tools. Download Now

Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close