Guideline No. 45 – Retaining Walls

An Exterior Alteration Application is required for all retaining walls. Retaining walls and rock walls require thought and planning just like any other building project. Soil properties, wall height, wall type or function, drainage discharge loads, adjacent grading, etc. must be taken into consideration.

Exterior Alteration Application Requirements

The applications must include:

  • Diagrammed plot plan with the location of the retaining walls. Note: Applications without a diagrammed plot plan will not be accepted.
  • List of materials and colors and or a brochure or sample, if applicable.
  • Grading diagram.
  • Drainage diagram.
  • Completed cross-sectional drawing of wall to scale.
  • Elevation view from low grade side of wall drawn to scale.

Your application will most likely be approved if it meets the following criteria:

  1. Exposed height of the retaining wall does not exceed 36 inches.
  2. Materials compliment the character of the house.
  3. Long expanses of walls are broken up with insets or change of materials.
  4. Retaining walls do not block or affect an existing swale or drainage path in a manner to cause damming and small shallow pools/puddles.
  5. Site plans show water run-off (use arrows to indicate the flow of water).
  6. The location of the retaining wall cannot obstruct any swales or natural water run-off.
  7. No part of a retaining wall 36 inches or higher extends across the building restriction line (BRL), (typically 7.5 or more feet from the property line).

NOTE: Homeowners will be responsible for all safety concerns including any need for a railing on the retaining wall. Homeowners will coordinate with Howard County for all necessary permit requirements.