Is there a minimum distance needed between a retaining wall and a home?

I've seen many homes with a sloped back yard, such that there is a 6' high above ground retaining wall between the backyard and the rear of the home, usually with a distance of 3-5' between home and wall. I often wonder if the home could be built out back to basically incorporate the retaining wall as part of the building structure.

2 Answers 2


Are you talking about a retaining wall above the house's ground level, or below?

If above, you will need to provide enough clearance for any emergency exits but other than that I can't think of any limit. As for being built into the house, you could think of a walk-out basement as having a retaining wall on the uphill (non-walkout) side.

If you are talking about a wall below the house, you need to make sure you don't undermine the house's foundation. The distance you need to be away depends partly on the soil so if you are wanting to get close to the house (say, closer than 2 or 3 times the wall height) you would definitely want to talk to an engineer.

  • above ground, edited to reflect that. good point about walk-out basement, i'll look into that. some homes i see have side access which could be used as emergency exit
    – dabi
    Oct 20, 2015 at 5:01

A retaining wall in your back yard is unlikely to have any waterproofing. This is essential for a wall to be incorporated into a house. An existing wall also may not meet local building standards.

If the wall meets (or can be made to meet) your local housing standard, then as @Henry Jackson has pointed out, the wall would effectively be a basement wall. I can't see any issue therefore (other than any local planning permission as to whether you're allowed to extend your house or not).

  • While you are right in that you'd expect a DPC, you could find a solution (for example tanking) that would allow the wall to be incorporated without needing to be rebuilt.
    – John
    Oct 20, 2015 at 19:05
  • @John - You are of course correct. I'll edit the answer to reflect that. Many thanks.
    – AndyT
    Oct 21, 2015 at 8:04

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