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CLARIFICATION: Any issue regarding the function (pinning dirt in place) of the retaining wall is not at issue for this question.

A wooden retaining wall has been illegally built in an HOA to support an embankment, as it is not necessary and the original aesthetic must be maintained. An idea / possible remedy is to bury the retaining wall and restore the original embankment with dirt / sod. Otherwise, it is to be removed.

If the wooden retaining wall is buried indefinitely, what unanticipated problems could it cause?

I would not do this myself as I do not need the liability or the work: the HOA would agree to take on this responsibility.

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    Do not do this yourself. Have building department or court order HOA to do it. They have more nasty lawyers than you do.
    – crip659
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 17:20
  • Yes, a HOA fight, I hate them
    – Traveler
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 17:24
  • If it's left there, it will help stabilize the ground until the until the bank has consolidated.
    – Simon B
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 17:35
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    The wood will eventually rot, and whatever material is above or alongside it will fill the space left - so expect some unevenness in the ground level as that happens. The rotting wood might also attract termites to the area.
    – brhans
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 18:21
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    Not posting as an answer as this isn't the question you asked, but if it was constructed illegally on the HOA's property, why does the HOA not pursue whomever constructed it to make it right? If you are saying (and I think you are) that the HOA built it and is now being forced to fix it by the city/county/whatever, what remedy is the jurisdiction asking for?
    – spuck
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 19:12

3 Answers 3

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If the wooden retaining wall is buried indefinitely, what unanticipated problems could it cause?

Well, it's wood and wood rots eventually.

Good luck to whatever is on top of or next to the embankment once it collapses.


A wooden retaining wall has been illegally built in an HOA to support an embankment.

How? Who? Why wasn't this stopped before the project was completed?

Structural projects aren't executed for fun.

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There is a bundle of questions, and issues that come with this question. "Retaining wall" implies that it is performing a function of retaining something. Therefore removal could cause an action contrary to proper function or use of the effected area. ( taking it down could cause a landslide on to someones' driveway, for example) Assuming that the structure is not meeting with the HOA's approval or the County or other entity, it must be removed, However not before there is a plan in place that addresses what it will be replaced with and how that will be paid for. The greatest weight is to be sure the residents are safe and property is protected. Therefore, Can it be buried? Yes, but not a good idea. Just have it removed. Should it be removed at all? If a violation , yes. However not before a replacement is planned and ready to be acted on. Should you do this yourself? Simple...No.

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Q: If the wooden retaining wall is buried indefinitely, what unanticipated problems could it cause?

A: Decay will eventually consume the buried wood, so removal is an absolute requirement or it will almost certainly affect the finished grade above at some future point in time.

That said, if it is indeed a retaining wall and not just something decorative, it will need to be excavated and replaced with a suitable structure, which will likely require an engineer to provide the answer on what is suitable. Since we don't have any grade/soil information regarding the location it's hard to visualize what's going on here or what might even be a viable solution.

Now, you did mention "it is not necessary" concerning the wooden retaining wall... I can only assume your implication is that it is entirely decorative in nature. If this is indeed the case, you can probably remove it and simply regrade the embankment, but without that grade/slope and soil type information (at the minimum), this is simply an opinion based on speculation. One way you may find a suitable answer without an engineer or similar professional performing a site visit is if you have access to the original site plan of the area and the original plot plan for the lot/site shows that area did not originally have a retaining structure for the embankment, you would probably be safe in returning it to its original construction.

In the end, I would suggest that you contact a local contractor that does excavation work and have them come visit the site. This probably isn't something you want to do yourself anyway, and we really don't know your relationship to the issue, so getting a contractor involved is probably the best course of action as they can guide you with the specifics of what is needed to address this issue correctly.

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