Commercial Retaining Walls

Non-Residential Process

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Approvals or Permits Issued Submittal Requirements Additional Information Expected Processing Time for Development Projects Fees Next Steps

This process is for commercial retaining walls or retaining wall systems providing cumulative vertical relief greater than five feet in height within a horizontal separation distance of 50 feet or less. These systems include but are not limited to cast-in-place walls, soil nailing, modular retaining wall system, H-beam retaining wall system, boulder retaining walls, and gabions. They shall be designed under the responsible charge of a registered design professional per the North Carolina Building Code, Section 1807.2.

Retaining wall locations are required to be identified early in the Site Permit Review and Retaining Wall (RW) package with station numbers submitted for free-standing walls not part of the building structure. A site plan must be provided with the submittal of RW's to identify the locations.

Once the retaining walls have been permitted through the site review process, all subsequent building plan submittals must include an RW package marked "FOR REFERENCE ONLY" indicating that permits for the retaining walls were previously issued under separate transaction numbers. This serves as a notice to the building official that the retaining walls have already been permitted.

Approvals or Permits Issued

  • Building Permit
  • Zoning Permit
  • Electrical Permit, if lights are on the wall

Submittal Requirements

Type Description
Required for Submittal
  • Completed City of Raleigh Permit Application (located at the top of the Forms Directory in the “Most Popular Selections” box).
  • One electronic copy of signed and sealed drawings by a North Carolina registered design professional in responsible charge is required at site plan submittal with completed applications that indicate the square footage and cost for the retaining wall(s).
  • Building Code Summary Form
  • Supplemental Form:
  • A Statement of Special Inspection (SSI) in accordance with Section 1704.1.1 must be plotted on the sealed drawings at the time of submittal.
  • Submittal of the completed Statement of Special Inspection (SSI) in pdf format must be emailed to: at the time of the site or mass grading submittal. The subject line of the email should read exactly as: "Retaining Wall, SSI, Address, Transaction # & Permit #" providing the complete address as assigned by the City GIS Division and the transaction number assigned when the Right-of-Way package is accepted by the Planning and Development Customer Service Center.
  • If retained soils support a building, the non-residential retaining wall will be considered part of the building foundation and additional permits will not be required.
Required for Some Projects
  • If the non-residential retaining wall is in a historic district, an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness must accompany the sealed drawing at the time of submittal.
  • An Encroachment Agreement is required if the non-residential retaining wall is to be located in the City of Raleigh Right-of-Way.

Additional Information

  • Building permit: Retaining walls less than five feet tall are not required to have a building permit. However, retaining wall systems less than five feet in cumulative vertical relief and adjacent to a structure located closer than the vertical relief shall be designed under the responsible charge of a registered design professional and shall require a building permit and inspection.
  • Zoning Permit: A zoning permit will be required in most instances where a building permit is not required for a retaining wall. The zoning permit is required for retaining walls which are not apart of retaining wall systems described above and are less than five feet in height.
  • 2018 NCBC Section 1807.2: Requires that retaining walls shall be designed in accordance with Sections 1807.2.1 through 1807.2.3:
  • Section 1807.2.1 General. Retaining walls shall be designed to ensure stability against overturning, sliding, excessive foundation pressure, and water uplift. Where a keyway is extended below the wall base with the intent to engage passive pressure and enhance sliding stability, lateral soil pressures on both sides of the keyway shall be considered in the analysis.
  • Section 1807.2.2 Design lateral soil loads. Retaining walls shall be designed for the lateral soil loads set forth in Section 1610.
  • If the retaining wall is not attached to a new non-residential building, a next-day permit will be issued with the Work Type as "Other" and the Census Code shall be "601 Miscellaneous". An engineer's certification will be required during the final inspection.
  • The reviewer shall add the following comment under the comment section of the Detail Review screen, "Design details and Engineering letter certifying the retaining wall is required prior to the final inspection approval and the issuance of the Certificate of Compliance."
  • Plans are routed as "Other" to Building, CSC, Zoning, Site Accessibility, Stormwater, Transportation, Urban Forestry, and Electrical if needed.
  • If site fill soils are retained by the non-residential retaining wall, the building permit or zoning permit should be obtained at the time of grading permit issuance.
  • If the retaining wall is located adjacent to a walking or driving surface, guards installed in accordance with the provisions of 2018 NCBC Section 1015 will be required.
  • Section 1807.2.3 Safety Factor. Retaining walls shall be designed to resist the lateral action of soil to produce sliding and overturning with a minimum safety factor of 1.5 in each case. The load combination of Section 1605 shall not apply to this requirement. Instead, the design shall be based on 0.7 times nominal earthquake loads, 1.0 times other nominal loads, and investigation with one or more of the variable loads set to zero. The safety factor against lateral sliding shall be taken as the available soil resistance at the base of the retaining wall foundation divided by the net lateral force applied to the retaining wall. Exception: Where earthquake loads are included, the minimum safety factor for retaining wall sliding and overturning shall be 1.1.
  • The building permit or zoning permit address will be validated to the parcel address. When there is more than one retaining wall on the parcel, the unique identifier for each wall will be defined in the authorized work.

Expected Processing Time for Development Projects

Please see our development review turnaround times.

  • Clients will be contacted by email to be informed that their plans are ready for pick up. Plan review comments can be viewed through the Permit and Development Portal


Next Steps

When the retaining wall construction has been completed, a final building inspection will be required. A certification letter (engineering inspection report) stating that the retaining wall has been inspected and approved by the Special Inspector must be presented to the City of Raleigh Inspector at the time of the inspection. The certification letter shall be signed, sealed, and dated by the registered design professional who has been acting as the Special Inspector.

The certificate letter shall at minimum consist of the following: (1) Statement that the Special Inspector has visited the site; (2) Statement detailing the conditions the Special Inspector has observed on the site; (3) Description of permit drawings or documentation the Special Inspector has reviewed in reaching her/his conclusions; (4) Statement that the foundation support system is adequate for the intended site conditions; (5) Statement pertaining to the measurement of the quality of construction materials for conformance with permit drawings and specifications; (6) Determination of similarity of actual soil conditions to those anticipated in design; (7) Statement pertaining to the examination of backfill materials and any drainage systems for compliance with permit drawings and specifications; (8) Statement of final conclusions and recommendations.

A paper copy of the certification letter shall be provided to the City of Raleigh Inspector at the final inspection. It must also be e-mailed to with exact words in the e-mail subject line: "Retaining Wall, SSI, Address, Transaction # & Permit #".





Lead Department:
Planning and Development
Service Categories:
Permits - Commercial