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Legal Question for Retaining Wall Construction

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by 4 seasons lawn&land, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. 4 seasons lawn&land

    4 seasons lawn&land LawnSite Gold Member
    from NY
    Messages: 3,612

    I was wondering what the legal requirements were for building walls at any given height. I would think that at some point in wall height that you need certification or a degree of some sort.
  2. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,482

    most walls are to be engineered and stamped by a licensed engineer. build it exactly as engineer specifies, perform compaction tests (if specifed), use suitable backfill (as specified), and you're good to go.

    Don't do as specified and the wall fails - you're screwed.

    Either way, as far as liability goes, regardless if you did as specified, and the wall fails - you'll be named in the suit, simply because you had your hands in it.

    There is a wall near me in a brand new housing community. A big company that more or less does nothing but build walls - built the wall. Well, I forget the logistics, but if I'm not mistaken I think there was a main water line leak or rupture. Which in turn caused the wall to fail. Obviously, not the wall contractor's fault. Yet, the developer swindled the wall contractor to rebuild this massive wall at contractor's expense. And the wall contractor pretty much agreed to it. It's either spend $30k fighting it in court, and possibly losing and incurr more costs. Or spend $30k rebuilding the wall and be done with it.

    We're about to begin a wall gig this week. 10' tall, and we have other 10-footers we've done. However, this is the steepest slope we've ever done a 10-footer on. And we're not doing it at the toe of the slope.....we building it in the center! So yeah, I'm nervous :)

  3. 4 seasons lawn&land

    4 seasons lawn&land LawnSite Gold Member
    from NY
    Messages: 3,612

    really wow. Thats not what i expected.
  4. 4Russl5

    4Russl5 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 160

    Most people have no clue how to build structurally with natural stone. I went/continue to go to school at The Dry Stone Conservancy in Kentucky. You get certificates for each test you pass.....4' tall fence, 4' tall retaining wall, Corner, Check end, radius wall, stepped foundation and Fence, etc.... The Great Brittan Dry Stone Walling Association web site has PDF's you can download to learn more. Code out here is no engineer 'under 48" including foundation'. There are so many 6-8" thick piles of stone leaning against a slope out here called retaining walls that it is mind boggleing. Rockeries are the actual term people should be using, to their clients so they know what they are paying for.
    You get what you pay for as usual.

    Just a note.. our walls have 4-5" thick foundation stones, and then our base is 28" deep, through stones at 18" in height every 3', and finish around 12" deep at the top.

    Certification would probably be good for those claiming to build retaining walls in natural stone...
    I couldn't tell you anything about the concrete product blocks, but I think the above code covers them as well.
  5. 4 seasons lawn&land

    4 seasons lawn&land LawnSite Gold Member
    from NY
    Messages: 3,612

    Dry stone conservancy has a site too. I think the whole concept is really cool. I wish there was something like that in NY or that they would expand their practice across the country. Its still something I'd like to do anyway but I need more experience even for their basic certification... which is'nt very basic.

    But it didn't seem to be much of a "school". It seemed they are more of an organization to test you for certification and arrange for you to work on walls for the state with an expert so you can gain experience, and go for the next certification in which case you have to live out there. As far as them teaching I understood they didn't...???

    I also think it kind of defeats the purpose that you need 3 client refferences for basic retaining walls.

    What level have you made it to so far?
  6. 4Russl5

    4Russl5 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 160

    I am working on my 'Journeyman' certification. There are five tests for walls, then styles of coping. The main test is timed. You have to take down and rebuild 8'(or 7') of 4' tall fence in 8 hours which must include a new foundation, two through stones at 18" in height and coping. I did the "boot camp' and passed. Over half of the people failed. I took my assistant the next year and he passed, again over half failed. It is very humbling work. The goal is to be able to build and bill at a reasonable rate to your client while providing them with a product that lasts hundreds of years.
    There are many workshops around the country. I was just up in Ontario for the Canadian Dry Stone walling Asssociations Festival where they had 4 outstanding instructors, testing for certification with the GBDSWA, and the upper level people(me included) worked on a structure known as a 'Scottish Black house'.
    The Conservancy isn't perfect. But it is an opportunity to learn how to build properly with stone, applying dry stone masonry techniques, with a master builder, gain certification, and meet other people who love stone. I support them 100%.
    Dan Snow & Chuck Eblakar are your part of n.y./Vermont, and they teach workshops regularly. Check their websites.
    Building structurally with stone is complicated. Yet there are only five rules. Skip a rule and you have an ordinary pile of stones. Apply them consistently and you have structures that will last generations that are easy to maintain and assets.

    You can submit images of your work for review for testing back there but it is a hassle.
    We did it for our 'radius wall' test..... take images of both sides of the fence at EVERY COURSE, and above, until completion. It is a drag. Way easier to test in beautiful Shaker Village Kentucky with the Instructors present marking their sheets.

    Good luck on your path.

    Down load the pdf's from the GBDSWalling Associations site. It is the best source to build properly to. All the books are too generalized, good and helpful, but.....
  7. 4 seasons lawn&land

    4 seasons lawn&land LawnSite Gold Member
    from NY
    Messages: 3,612

    I have been waiting for the 2010 workshop schedule to come out. I also have to call and find out where the training courses will be. The site says there are training courses around the country "upon request". I guess they are seperate and more involved than the workshops, and paying.

    I dont think the site mentions the boot camp any longer. Do they still do that?
  8. 4 seasons lawn&land

    4 seasons lawn&land LawnSite Gold Member
    from NY
    Messages: 3,612

    scanning the GBDS site and had to post this pic

  9. 4Russl5

    4Russl5 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 160

    Your hooked!
    Check out the Stone Foundation also. They are great. Marenakos here in Wa. does a workshop called StoneFest, www.stonefest.org . I have helped out with it for the last 2 years.
    They do the 'boot camp' during the week they do the walling competition. You won't regret spending the time or money on learning. Just make sure you are in great shape, well hydrated and focused on your goals.
    Keep searching the web for workshops. Jared Flynn in vermont also teaches.
    Thanks for posting that rad wall.
  10. 4 seasons lawn&land

    4 seasons lawn&land LawnSite Gold Member
    from NY
    Messages: 3,612

    thanks for the info.

    These people teach through the conservancy and not independantly right?

    So you do the workshops, what are they like, as far as level/skill? Have you done any of the training courses?

    Its not easy to find these types of organizations and right now not too easy to find a job in it either.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2009

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