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Retaining wall question and contractor recommendation

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Joined: Jan 5 2004

Hello. I live in a Terra Linda Eichler were my neighbor's house to the rear sits about 10 feet higher than mine. His back yard is kept out of mine by a three tiered retaining wall in my back yard. All of the tiers (with the top being the most extreme) are on the move and are leaning over towards my yard. My questions are two:

One: Has anyone out there had any positive experiences with contractors who can asses and replace the retaining walls if necessary? I so, would you please send me an email outside of this forum with any recommendations. I hate to just open the yellow pages and start calling.

Two: Has anyone had any experiences with this issue? I'm wondering who is responsible for keeping my neighbor's yard out of mine? Me? Him? Shared?

Thanks. Any input is appreciated.

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Joined: Jan 4 2004

I am a G.C. familiar with geo and soils issues such as yours. Unfortunately, I can only offer advise, being that you are a little far from where my operation is set up. First of all, the most likely reasons that your retaining wall is terraced are:
1. All municipalities have a pre-dertermined limit as to the height of retaining walls that do not require engineering (usually 3-4 feet to the footing). Building above 3 feet typically requires engineering and a getechnical survey (depending on how many lawsuits occur in an area beacuse of damage resulting from wall failure). Because engineering a wall will add thousands to the cost of the job, many owners attempt to circumvent engineering by terracing the property; however; many building departments are now taking the position that even if the wall is under the limit, if there is a "surplus"- that is a hill above the wall; engineering is stiil required, so be careful to feel this out with your local building department (they may have a website with this info or you can call them and they will tell you the limitations and requirements.
2. If your walls were engineered, the piers typically penetrate the ground 2.5 times the height of the wall (i.e. a 4 foot wall will have posts or I-beams that are 10 feet in the ground) So, to build a 10' wall would require a drill rig to punch really deep holes which can reaally get costly.

Also, if your retaining wall leans at all away from the hill that it is supporting, my engineer states that is wall faiure, even if it is still standing. Don't be discouraged, though, there are less expensive alternatives (such as a CMU wall, which can be covered with slate, natural stone, or floated with stampted concrete or stucco which can be colored or painted.

Finally, if you are considering "boot legging" the project (proceeding w/o permits, I must warn you that I have personally bailed out two home owners that tried to proceed with out permits, only to have a neighbor call the building police and they received a pretty red tag on the front door-free of charge. Not only were they encumbered with engineering, geotech, and surveys, there was also a small penalty (I was able to mitigate the fine for them); which can be as much as 9X the permit fees that they avoided in the first place.

If you need any other info you can email direct renmancon@RCN.com
Good Luck!!!- Jon

renman

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Joined: Jan 5 2004

Jon,

Thanks for the advice... this is great information. I do not think much engineering or thought went into these walls... the posts on the bottom tier are set into concrete footings about two feet deep. I suspect by the end of the rainy season things will be in very bad shape.

I definitely will not be proceding without the required permits... somewhere in the mass of earth is a storm drain that runs along the property lines of all the houses on my block. I'd hate to cause any sort of disruption to that!

Any thoughts on responsibility? If my neighbors rose garden ends up in my back yard is that my fault?... Just wondering where I stand when I strike up this conversation with my neighbor.

Thanks again!
Chris

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Joined: Jan 4 2004

In terms of liability, usually you are responsible for what is on your side of the property line; if there is growth extending from the adjacent property that has an adverse impact on your property, it can get a little fuzzy, and becomes more of a legal question. Generally most people are o.k. authoizing a neighbor to maintain overgrowth (or shared structures such as fences or retaining walls); but this is and area that can get particularly sticky, and it is best to approach the neighbor with your problem. I've seen this particular issue wind up in courtrooms, so play nice, and I personally would not expect any help, just appoval to proceed on your own. If any one else has experienced property line improvement issues in which the cost was shared by both parties please post your experiences, I'm curious about what other peoples' experiences have been on this issue.

renman

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