With certain areas in South East Queensland having more slopes than flat land, retaining walls are very common in properties all over the region. What are the retaining wall rules you need to be aware of and how do you ensure you don’t accidentally (or intentionally) infringe on these guidelines? Let’s take a look at retaining wall regulations in the Queensland development code and what you should consider before your next project.
What is a retaining wall?
A retaining wall is a structure built to support an excavated or filled embankment and is a common feature in sloping blocks. Retaining walls are classified as a 10b building structure (non-inhabitable) and therefore need to meet these categorised requirements in the National Building Code.
Retaining walls can be a lone structure or can be built in a staggered formation. When done well, it not only has a functional purpose but can be a striking look for your property. Retaining walls can be used as a boundary to separate two different properties.
Do I need council approval to build a retaining wall in QLD?
If your retaining wall is less than 1m high, then you usually don’t require any approval from the council. However, it’s always worth talking to a town planner, someone from the local council or a lawyer about your specific plans to ensure that you don’t need any permits or approval for your project.
It’s also worth noting that beyond the council regulations, you may require neighbourhood planning approval or there may be other conditions to consider. For example, any home listed as a heritage property by the council has more restrictions than a house that isn’t.
You will need to lodge a development application for your retaining wall if:
- Exceeds 1 metre in total height above ground level
- the retaining wall is closer than 1.5 metres to a building structure. This includes, but isn’t limited to, your house, swimming pool, shed or carport.
- if the surcharge loading exceeds the zone of influence in your retaining wall. This means there is a possibility that the pressure and volume of the soil.
- in any way involves or interferes with a neighbouring property
You may need to seek development or building approval if you have an unusual property, particularly a site that’s sloping or offers more of a design challenge.
What are the retaining wall building regulations in QLD?
The key regulations that apply to most shires and suburbs in Brisbane include:
- The retaining wall can’t exceed a height of 1m without building approval
- The wall must meet the requirements of all relevant overlays
- A minimum front boundary clearance of 6m and 1.5m from the back. The minimum clearance from front, side and rear boundaries can vary from council to council so always double-check.
- Unless permitted to do otherwise, your retaining wall must be built clear of any easement or infrastructure (this is especially true if the infrastructure is council owned or privately owned by someone else).
Are there any exemptions to building retaining walls in QLD?
If your proposed retaining wall design fails to comply with the specifications outlined by your local council, the National Building Code and any other relevant requirements, you have two options. You can either make the necessary changes to meet standards or lodge an application to your local council to seek approval for your current design.
How flexible your council are willing to be will depend on what exemption you’re trying to get. In most cases, a minor exemption is much more likely to pass than a major one. Also, it never hurts if you have a legitimate reason for your request. Finally, we can’t stress that you should make an application before you start building rather than after. The latter approach will just annoy the very people you’re asking a favour from, which can’t help your cause.
What is the approval process for building a retaining wall in QLD?
Each council will have little variations on how applications are handled but a basic blueprint of what you need to do is as follows:
- Prepare site plans and design plans along with any required paperwork.
- Pay any required fee and submit an application
- Wait times can vary but usually takes a few weeks
- Don’t begin any construction until you know the result of the application.
Be a good neighbour
If your retaining wall is close to a common boundary, we highly recommend discussing the project with your neighbour. Failing to do so could lead to a dispute down the track and could even end up in court. Were that situation to happen, it would not help your case if it’s revealed you never mentioned the retaining wall to your now ticked-off neighbour.
How do I ensure my retaining wall is compliant with QLD regulations?
While it is possible to build a retaining wall yourself, we’d highly recommend hiring a professional unless you’ve got a high skill set. Professional contractors deal with issues like compliance and regulations day in and out and are less likely to accidentally breach any rules. Most builders will know the maximum height they can safely build a retaining wall without the need for a structural engineer.
For further reassurance, you can hire a private certifier or building inspector to examine your wall. If you’re building a new home, the retaining wall can be examined along with the inspection of the rest of your home.
How much will a building inspector cost to review my retaining wall?
The price of a building certifier or inspector varies from area to area and state to state. In Queensland, you expect a building inspector to cost between $200- $1,400, depending on your project.
Some of the factors that will play a role in the price of an inspection include:
- Your location
- Whether you’re in a metropolitan area or rural
- The size of your home
- The complexity of the inspection
- Whether or not any issues are found.
What are the consequences of not gaining approval to build a retaining wall?
Building a retaining wall that breaches regulations or draws complaints from neighbours could have a range of consequences. A homeowner with an infringing wall could face warnings, and fines and be required to make necessary changes so that the retaining wall is up to code.
In severe cases, the homeowner will be legally required to completely remove the offending retaining wall at their own expense. Depending on the situation, a retaining wall that doesn’t meet council requirements can become an expensive burden. It’s, therefore, better for your safety, sanity and wallet to follow regulations or obtain building approval if required.
Get free advice on building a retaining wall & the approval process from an experienced building broker
Building a new home is one of the biggest moments in your life. With this comes a mix of euphoria and hair-pulling stress. Buildi is here to help you throughout your entire journey. We provide a range of services that will get you the best builders and contractors on your side. We’ll also hold the professionals accountable and ensure they meet all the stipulations of the contract. Our team has saved our clients time, money and stress, so get in touch to find out how we can help you!