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Retaining Wall Guard Requirement

e hilton

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Jul 2, 2014
Messages
1,912
Location
Virginia
If the wall is completely on the owner's property,
So the wall is completely on the property of the low-side owner, and it was put there because of his actions. He and his family and guests are not at risk, effectively he has a nice stone wall. However he is putting his neighbor at risk, therefore the low-side HO should be required to install a guard rail, or restore the slope. Or if the drop-off is a couple of feet inside his property line, then he should pay to install a decorative fence on the PL to serve as a warning to the neighbors pedestrians.
 

Sifu

Sawhorse
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Sep 3, 2011
Messages
1,676
In my AHJ, where this debate is occurring on the floors over my head, they are giving no thought to just how a guard is constructed on a retaining wall. Most of these are existing, but even the new ones would be problematic. Many are stacked block, all have disturbed fill behind them. Getting the guards to resist the required loads could prove problematic and expensive. When I asked the question I got some blank stares. I think they would be better served to develop a set of criteria for what they consider a walking surface (like pedestrian path!) and enforce it consistently. There may well be instances where it would be required, but there are definitely instances where they would not be required.
 

bill1952

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Aug 12, 2021
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294
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Clayton NY
I look at the photos tbz posted and can't imagine the expense and public outrage that requiring guards atop them would entail.

I hope supporters will show evidence in the form of injuries and deaths resulting from falls from retaining walls, not just a couple of documented incidents and anectdotal reports, to justify this.
 

jj1289

Sawhorse
Joined
Oct 22, 2009
Messages
100
Location
Connecticut
Yes a code change proposal is in the works for the 2024 I-Codes. CT midifies the code and adds the following language to the IRC;

(Add) R404.4.1 Guards. Retaining walls with a difference in finished grade from the top of the wall to the bottom of the wall that is greater than 4 feet (1219 mm) shall be provided with guards complying with Sections R312.1.2 and R312.1.3 when there is a walking surface, parking lot or driveway on the high side located closer than 2 feet (610 mm) to the retaining wall. For the purpose of this section, grass, planting beds or landscaped areas shall not be a walking surface.
 

Pcinspector1

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Oct 28, 2009
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Does anybody know why 4 feet is the magic number, is there scientific research that a 4 foot fall vs a 3 foot or 30 inch fall is different? Just curious:eek:
 

bill1952

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Aug 12, 2021
Messages
294
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Clayton NY
Does anybody know why 4 feet is the magic number, is there scientific research that a 4 foot fall vs a 3 foot or 30 inch fall is different? Just curious:eek:
Yeah. I've asked same many times Why 30". I'm guessing one code said 24", another 36", and all the experts said 48", so result was 30".
I also wonder where the 2' away came from for this case.

Isn't there a threshold of my 48" for some level of protection in OSHA?
 

tbz

Silver Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Messages
827
Location
PA/NJ - Borderlands
Yes a code change proposal is in the works for the 2024 I-Codes. CT midifies the code and adds the following language to the IRC;

(Add) R404.4.1 Guards. Retaining walls with a difference in finished grade from the top of the wall to the bottom of the wall that is greater than 4 feet (1219 mm) shall be provided with guards complying with Sections R312.1.2 and R312.1.3 when there is a walking surface, parking lot or driveway on the high side located closer than 2 feet (610 mm) to the retaining wall. For the purpose of this section, grass, planting beds or landscaped areas shall not be a walking surface.
My 3 cents, I think this is the wrong direction to require a guard, and should be directed at a barrier conforming to the requirements of the pool barrier requirements, set at a height of 36-inches, IMO is a much better direction than a guard.

My reasoning is that the overwhelming number of retaining walls built at private residences are dry laid block and none of them can support the loads of guards being attached to them, thus requiring a barrier which does not require the vastly higher load transfer would be much more in line with preforming the task, since many of them are being built with offset fence behind the walls already when installed.

This is going to add a drastic amount of cost to projects with no statistics to back the requirement, as there is no injury data out there showing the need, only assumption.

Of Note as currently written to be proposed would not require a guard be installed for the project listed in this O.P. There is no walking surface within 24 inches, only grass...

Again my 3 cents

Happy Thanksgiving everyone....
 

tbz

Silver Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Messages
827
Location
PA/NJ - Borderlands
In my AHJ, where this debate is occurring on the floors over my head, they are giving no thought to just how a guard is constructed on a retaining wall. Most of these are existing, but even the new ones would be problematic. Many are stacked block, all have disturbed fill behind them. Getting the guards to resist the required loads could prove problematic and expensive. When I asked the question I got some blank stares. I think they would be better served to develop a set of criteria for what they consider a walking surface (like pedestrian path!) and enforce it consistently. There may well be instances where it would be required, but there are definitely instances where they would not be required.
Sifu,

My point exactly and why I believe the barrier direction is a much more viable direction, also with the driveway part added in, what is the difference between a man-made block, wood tie, hand laid dry stone wall or poured Concrete to name a few and as thus, lets bring back the large acreage driveways into the question?

Again 50x100 lot thinking with total disregard for 1 acre and larger properties
 

tbz

Silver Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Messages
827
Location
PA/NJ - Borderlands
A never ending story subject to risk management concerns and property insurance coverage?
The simple answer is risk management might be micromanaged in CA, but in many other states not even on the radar.

Just think what the difference in results to last week's verdict in WI would be if in CA, please don't comment on the trial or results, my point is simply not everyone lives in a nanny state like CA, ADA.....
 

tbz

Silver Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Messages
827
Location
PA/NJ - Borderlands
So the wall is completely on the property of the low-side owner, and it was put there because of his actions. He and his family and guests are not at risk, effectively he has a nice stone wall. However he is putting his neighbor at risk, therefore the low-side HO should be required to install a guard rail, or restore the slope. Or if the drop-off is a couple of feet inside his property line, then he should pay to install a decorative fence on the PL to serve as a warning to the neighbors pedestrians.
E-H,

Again assuming an issue without information, and how do you get to your enforcement within the model IRC?

All the commentary and interps you will get from the ICC will contradict your opinion.

even if we try and go to the Intent of the code, the Intent of the IRC is to limit the requirements to the home and Structures t less than the IBC, and here is a question for you the model IRC in R404.4 notes retaining walls in excess of 48", the OP notes the retaining wall is 48" high, I guess you can find a spot along the edge of the base of the wall, but pushing dirt against it will kick that requirement because how do you get the 36" distance off the edge for 30" when a retaining wall is measured from the base for height.

Perceived hazards is a personal view, not a tape measurement requirement.

Don't get me wrong I too would strongly suggest installing a fence, even a 2-line split rail with some vegetation, but the question is how does one enforce a requirement that is not there for guards...
 

tbz

Silver Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Messages
827
Location
PA/NJ - Borderlands
CT made up the 2 feet I am sure...Just a place to start...
Steve I believe the BOCA 1993 or 1996 had the 24 inch distance for retaining walls.

I remember back when NJ was using the BOCA and 1&2 Fam CABO, many inspectors tried to pull in the 24 inch requirement for retaining walls for guards on to projects permitted under the CABO. Thus NO-GO, but A for effort....

So I would guess the 24 comes from the BOCA model codes from the 1990's, Glenn dust off those 90's from the shelf and maybe prove me wrong or closely right. As I get older the memory gets foggier...
 

Jeff8737

Registered User
Joined
Nov 22, 2021
Messages
4
Location
USA
So the wall is completely on the property of the low-side owner, and it was put there because of his actions. He and his family and guests are not at risk, effectively he has a nice stone wall. However he is putting his neighbor at risk, therefore the low-side HO should be required to install a guard rail, or restore the slope. Or if the drop-off is a couple of feet inside his property line, then he should pay to install a decorative fence on the PL to serve as a warning to the neighbors pedestrians.

@e hilton yes, that is exactly correct (side note: the wall is not nice, nor is it stone. It's a poorly constructed wooden wall) There was plenty of room to keep the slope for water drainage, and perhaps just cover it with rocks, and still accomplish what the owner desired (an RV pad). It was entirely unnecessary to create a 4 ft vertical drop at the lot line, thereby creating this danger of of a fall off my property onto his.
 

steveray

Sawhorse
Joined
Nov 25, 2009
Messages
8,802
Location
West of the river CT
Steve I believe the BOCA 1993 or 1996 had the 24 inch distance for retaining walls.

I remember back when NJ was using the BOCA and 1&2 Fam CABO, many inspectors tried to pull in the 24 inch requirement for retaining walls for guards on to projects permitted under the CABO. Thus NO-GO, but A for effort....

So I would guess the 24 comes from the BOCA model codes from the 1990's, Glenn dust off those 90's from the shelf and maybe prove me wrong or closely right. As I get older the memory gets foggier...
Yeah...this was at least sort of in BOCA and our group is discussing using the "barrier" language or "acceptable to the AHJ" as you/ we discussed in Pittsburgh about the rooftop stuff....
 
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