Should You Add A Fence To A Retaining Wall? [And How To Do So]

Have you just finished building a retaining wall or laying the plans for one? Are you questioning what should go above or on top of your wall? Maybe you are considering adding a fence to the landscape. You might be wondering how you will incorporate all these structures. We combed through all the necessary sources to break down if you should add a fence to your retaining wall and how exactly to get this job done.  

You can add a fence to a retaining wall. Adding a fence to a retaining wall contributes to safety and privacy when it comes to your landscape. Not every wall requires a fence, and some greatly benefit from having one. 

A fence can be incorporated into your retaining wall plans, but what are the steps to installing one? Read on as we break down how to add a fence to your retaining wall and give you insights into height recommendations. 

Iron Fence which protects an elevated garden lot. Should You Add A Fence To A Retaining Wall [And How To Do So]

Adding A Fence To A Retaining Wall

Fences can be added in front, behind, or on top of a retaining wall.  In most cases, retaining walls do not provide much security. Adding a fence allows you to enjoy the look of the wall and the safety provided by the fence. 

A beautiful close-up look at a residential cement block retaining wall with a wooden fence build behind as an aesthetically and safety upgrade option.

When adding a fence, you will need to figure out if your wall can support a fence. If your answer is yes, you need to decide where and what type of fence you would like to build. Once you get your mounting and support established, the remainder of the project should go smoothly. 

rock retaining wall with wire fence on top

Can your retaining wall not support an added fence? This can happen with walls that are too short or the material is not strong enough. In these cases, a fence can still be built; it just moves to at least three feet behind your blocks. Having a fence here can even hold off some pressure from the foundation of your retaining wall. 

Learn more on our blog post: Should A Retaining Wall Be Level?

How To Build A Fence On Top Of A Retaining Wall

You will see fences built on top of retaining walls often.  There are several ways to add a fence on top of your wall, including surface mounting, face mounting, embedding a fence, and using a post-in system. The method you choose may depend on how strong your retaining wall is, the material you used to build it, and how high your fence will be. 

House wood fence over concrete stone retaining wall in suburban neighborhood

Each building strategy holds different challenges. You should always involve professional builders and check in with building regulations in your area before starting your project. Let's take a closer look at these different methods. 

Surface Mounted

Surface-mounted fences are great for already poured concrete retaining walls.  In this method, you anchor the fence directly to the concrete using plates and anchor bolts. Make sure you mark your holes and drill out the concrete before you start laying your fence. 

Face Mounted

Another mounting option is to attach your fence to the sides of your retaining wall. With this option, you will utilize side mounting plates and anchor bolts. 

The video below shows you a great example of installing a fence to a retaining wall using the face-mounted method:

Embedded Fence

If you are building your retaining wall and fence simultaneously, you can use an embedding method. This involves using your poured concrete to mount your fence posts and keep them stable. This is one of the strongest methods to mount your posts.  

Post-in System 

Another way to install a fence without compromising the integrity of your retaining wall is this post-in system. The system involves using cantilevered anchoring slabs anchored underground, behind your wall. The system creates a counterweight and allows you to maximize space on your landscape. 

The video below breaks down how a post-in system is installed. 

There are many ways to build a fence within or among your retaining wall. It is a good idea to consult an engineer to ensure your fence will be built with high integrity and longevity in each case. 

How High Can A Fence Be On Top Of A Retaining Wall?

When figuring out the height of your fence, you need to consider the strength of your retaining wall. If you are building on top of your wall, it needs to be stable enough to support your fence. 

Long retaining wall and wood picket fence

You can play with the height of your fence, but the height should not exceed 6 feet 6 inches. This maximum height includes any guardrail or an openwork fence that is in your plans. These restrictions may change if you are enclosing a building, such as a school or a playground.  If you are questioning the legality of your fence height, it is always best to consult your building committee in your area. 

When Is A Fence Required On Top Of A Retaining Wall?

There are a handful of reasons to build a fence on top of your retaining wall. We have mentioned safety and privacy already. Other reasons you may want a fence on top of your wall are for a unique look to your landscape or added security, or an extra barrier for your property. Are there situations where having a fence on top of your retaining wall is a requirement?

Wall retaining blocks bricks inter locking concrete products in construction with fencing on field plateau.

When safety comes into question, you will be required to build a fence. If a walkway, seating area, or another part of the yard sits behind your retaining wall, it is a good idea to place a fence on top. This prevents people or animals from falling over or off onto the other side. Some international building codes state that you need a fence on any retaining wall over 30" high. 

New Garden Wood Fence with house siding and barkdust mulch with concrete retaining wall along exterior sidewalk

If you use your fence and retaining wall as a property barrier, go over your plans with your neighbors. You want to ensure what your building won't cause further issues for those around you. The thorough planning and permissions before building can save you trouble and stress in the future. 

Read more on our blog post: How Long Do Retaining Walls Last? [Inc. Wood Ones]

How Do You Build A Fence Over A Retaining Wall?

Do you have a retaining wall intersecting your property line? When you want to create some privacy or safety around your property using a fence, you will have to build this fence over the retaining wall. How can it be done?

In this situation, you would build your fence as normal until you get to the wall. At this point, you will need to install a large post starting at the base of your retaining wall that reaches far above the stones. With this new post in place, you can lay your next section of the fence over your retaining wall. 

This video gives you a great visual for a fence going over a retaining wall:

Read more on our blog post, How To Build A Retaining Wall On A Slope.

Can You Put A Retaining Wall Against A Fence?

You can build a retaining wall against a fence. This is done in some cases where a fence is already present. If there is soil pushing up against this fence, it can benefit the fence to protect its retaining wall. The retaining wall helps stop soil from adding pressure to your fence or spilling out into your yard. 

Wooden fence with ivy and a retaining wall

Adding a retaining wall against your fence has practical benefits and can create beautiful aesthetics to your landscape. You can use these walls to create raised beds for a garden or customize the blocks you are working with to create a unique landscape design. 

Concluding Thoughts

You can, and many people do, add a fence to their retaining walls. These fences can go over, in front of, or behind your retaining wall. Adding a fence can provide you with added safety, security, and privacy for your home. When you are adding a fence, you need to consider the integrity and strength of your wall if you are building on top of it. On the other hand, you can use a fence to further protect your retaining wall. We hope you found this article helpful when building a fence of your own. 

Do you need some advice on caring for your retaining wall? Have a look at our blog post, How To Stop Erosion Around A Retaining Wall.

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