Project Guide For Retaining Walls

This guide is intended to provide you an overview of the permitting process for retaining walls.  No permit is required for a retaining wall that measures less than 4 feet in height.

Looking for information on fences?  See the Project guide for fences.

Help Me Get Started . . .

Before you start your project, you need to know what regulations apply to your property and what factors may impact your project. You'll need to consider:

Historic Landmark Status

Any project that involves changes to the exterior of landmark structures or properties in historic landmark districts must be reviewed by Landmark Preservation staff before you begin. The appropriate zoning, building, curb cut, or revocable permits needed for the project will be issued only after design review has been completed and the project has been approved. To determine your property’s landmark status, use the DevelopDENVER tool to the right. Then, visit the design review web page for more information.

 


Zoning

Zoning establishes standards for things such as the size and location of structures and acceptable uses for your property. Before you begin construction, you need to be sure your project is in compliance with the Denver Zoning Code. Use the DevelopDENVER tool to the right to determine the zoning for your property. In the results, click on your zone district for descriptions and definitions; then, click on your neighborhood context for more information on zoning in your area. 



Parkways

Certain parkways and boulevards are specifically designated by ordinance to preserve their unique character. Each designated parkway has its own right-of-way width and regulations of setback distance of structures and signs. If you are unsure if you live along a designated parkway, use the DevelopDENVER tool to the right to determine your status.



Denver Forestry

If any portion of your project has the potential to impact the trunk, canopy or roots of the street trees around your property you must first contact  Denver Forestry by email or by phone at 720-913-0651  to evaluate your project.  Any removal, trimming or planting of trees within the public right of way must be permitted through the City Forester’s Office.  Damages to street trees may result in the issuance of administrative citations and/or fines.  Visit the Denver Forestry web page for additional information.



Building Code

Denver Building Code provides minimum standards for building in order to safeguard public safety, health and welfare. The permitting and inspection process ensures that all home projects meet these standards and that all dwellings are safe and habitable at the time of construction.



Location of Existing Sewer Lines

A plumbing contractor can help you locate the sewer lines on your property. If you plan to build a new structure over or within 2 feet of the existing sanitary sewer, you will need to replace the sanitary sewer with approved materials.

Contact the Department of Public Works at 303-446-3759 for more details.



Transportation

Transportation review and approval is needed whenever you are proposing any improvements within the Right-of-Way (ROW) such as changing the curb cut.  All projects performed in the City Right-of-Way must be performed in full compliance with the City Charter, Ordinances, permitting processes and all other applicable standards, specifications and requirements of the City and County of Denver.


Location of Utilities

When designing your project, you need to know where utilities are located. You cannot build over existing utilities. Contact the Utility Notification Center of Colorado to mark underground utilities for your project. Call 1-800-922-1987 or 811 before you dig.

 

  • Landmark Certificate of Appropriateness - required if you live in a Landmark District or in a designated landmark structure
  • Zoning Permit
  • #1R Construction Permit - required if retaining wall is located in the front setback  
  • Wastewater Sewer Use and Drainage Permit (SUDP)
  • Parkways Review - required if construction occurs along a parkway setback
  • Denver Forestry Review - required if your project will impact the canopy or roots of street trees
  • Major Encumbrance Permit (MEP) - required for retaining walls constructed within the Right-of-Way

For Landmark Certificate of Appropriateness:

If your property is historically designated or located in a historic district, you will need a design review of your project to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness.  Visit the Design Review web page for more information.


 

For Zoning Permit:

  • Site Plan showing the following:
    • Property lines and relation to streets and alleys
    • Height, location and materials of retaining wall
  • Grading plan if located in a primary street or side interior setback area  (original grade and finished grade)

 

For Building Permit:

#1R Construction Permit - completed by the Development Services staff (required if retaining wall is located in front setback)

 

For Wastewater Sewer Use and Drainage Permit (SUDP): 

  • Utility Site Plan that includes the following:
    • Location of structures in reference to property lines
    • Sewer locations
    • Pipe sizes
    • 2-way cleanouts
    • Material for all existing and proposed structures from point of connection to the structure to the main
    • Water line locations with sizes
    • All existing and proposed underground and storm water/sewage drainage.
  • Submit details of the retaining wall and include details of how the storm water will drain.

 

NOTE:  In Improvement Location Certificate can be used in place of the Site Plan in most cases.

 

Wastewater does require sewer replacement with approved material for any structure being built over or within 2' of the existing sewer line.

Wastewater does require that historic storm drainage be maintained and not directed to adjacent properties or across public sidewalks.

If property is in a floodplain, additional submittal requirements apply.

For application, guidelines and other specific information, see the following:

Sewer Use and Drainage Permits (SUDP)

 

For a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Project:

  • Homeowners Exam for specific trade if completing the work yourself 
    (See DIY Projects for requirements and more information.)
  • Identification (i.e. Driver's License)

Estimate Fees

Zoning and Building permit fees are based on valuation of the work to be completed including the labor and materials. 

NOTE:  When a Same Day Review is required for the #1R Permit, a  "walk through" submittal fee of 20% of the valuation of the work to be completed with a $100.00 minimum will be charged in addition to building permit fees.

 

For Wastewater, there is a $100 application fee plus appropriate fees.  The fees change yearly.

 

There are no fees for Landmark or Parkways review.

 

View the permit fee schedules to estimate the fees required for your project. 

 

Pay Fees

Fees can be paid in person at our office on the 2nd floor of the Wellington Webb Building or by mail:
Development Services
Wellington Webb Municipal Building
201 W. Colfax Ave., 2nd Floor
Denver, Colorado 80202
We accept Visa, MasterCard and Discover Card, cash and personal checks at our counter.

For Landmark Approval:

Submit a design review application to Landmark Preservation.  The approval typically takes one to three weeks.  More complex projects or projects requiring Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board approval will take longer.

NOTE:  Obtain Landmark approval first before proceeding with other permits.

 

For Zoning and Building Permit:

Same Day Review - Present all construction documents for building and zoning review to the Permit Srvice Counter.    Once review is complete and all approvals have been obtained, permits will be issued. 

 

For Parkways Review:

Plan Review - If Parkways review is required, submit all construction documents at the Permit Service Counter for review by City staff. Once review has been completed and all documents approved, permits will be issued. The review process can take up to 30 days depending upon the complexity of your project.


For Denver Forestry:

Contact Denver Forestry by email or by phone at 720-913-0651 if project will impact the canopy or roots of street trees.  Allow about 3 to 5 business working days for inspections and approval.


For Wastewater Sewer Use and Drainage Permit (SUDP):

Plan Review - Submit your plans in person or use e-Plan to submit your plans electronically for review by City staff. Once review has been completed and all documents approved, permits will be issued.


For Major Encumbrances Permit:

Contact Public Works Plans Review Services at 720-865-2782 or denver.row@denvergov.org to obtain the Major Encumbrance Permit (MEP).  Visit the Public Works Plans Review Services web page for additional information.

All approved construction set of documents, permits and inspector signature card are to be available on site upon request.

Typical inspections during construction of a retaining wall include the following:

  • Footing
  • Foundation Wall
  • Final Inspection
  • Denver Forestry

 

NOTE:  The inspections listed above may vary depending on the complexity of your project. 

Who Will Be Doing the Work?

Decide whether you plan to complete the project yourself or hire a licensed contractor to complete the job for you.

Do It Yourself

Do-It-YourselfYou may need to pass a Home owners exam  to demonstrate proficiency in specific trades in order to get a permit to do the work yourself. 

You will also need to meet a set of requirements established by the Denver Building Code and the Building Department Policy ADMIN 131.3 governing homeowner completed work.  This policy can be found on our Building Codes, Forms and Policies page. 

Contractor

Contractors Use the Contractor license search to see if your contractor has obtained a contractor's license from the City and County of Denver. 

 

To view other considerations, see our Doing the Work Yourself page.

Home Projects

Every project is different.  Depending upon the complexity of your project, the permit requirements and inspection process may vary from the information presented in this guide.  If you have any questions, please contact us.

DevelopDENVER

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