An E2K Engineered designed custom retaining wall built in Calgary Alberta

How We Help: Custom Retaining Walls

Building a new custom retaining wall or replacing an old or failing retaining wall can seem like a daunting task for homeowners, whether it’s their first home or their tenth. No one wants to see their backyard turned into a construction site.

Although this is unavoidable, we can help speed up the process and have your backyard looking like new. And sporting a brand new custom retaining wall guaranteed to last.

A sienastone retaining wall designed by e2k engineering

What To Expect When Building A Retaining Wall

There are a few steps and City of Calgary permits you will need to get before you can start building. There are a few ways you can go about it, but we believe getting the engineer involved as soon as possible is the best course of action. We’ll make sure you have everything you need to get through permitting as quickly as possible. If you run into any issues, we will have your back and make the necessary revisions to get your project underway as soon as possible.

We can help you pick what kind of retaining wall blocks are best suited to your home and site conditions, put you in contact with one of our trusted Calgary custom retaining wall builders, and help you with the layout.

  1. Contact us through our request a quote page.
  2. Wait for us to get back to you. It should only be a few minutes!
  3. Enjoy a free consultation where we will ask you what you’re looking for in your new retaining wall and help you with block type, backfill, and other technical stuff
  4. We will provide pricing for a set of engineered retaining walls plans, which are necessary for permitting.
  5. If you find the pricing acceptable, we will produce the plans within a week and put you in contact with one or several of our most trusted retaining wall builders.
    • Feel free to take our plans to any Calgary retaining wall builders to get pricing. We just suggest our favourite builders because we know they’re great at what they do!
  6. Once you’ve got a builder lined up and the necessary permits have been obtained, we will communicate with the builder and iron out any issues that they may have
  7. Construction begins
  8. We will perform engineering inspections and materials testing during construction to ensure the wall is built to our specifications
  9. Once the wall is completed we will perform a final inspection and provide a retaining wall compliance letter as a final guarantee
An E2K Engineering designed custom retaining wall built in Calgary

Why Retaining Wall Blocks Matter

More goes into planning a retaining wall than just looks. Certain blocks are better suited to different tasks. Depending on the size of your wall and the wall’s proximity to any property lines, we may suggest a bigger retaining wall block, or a smaller one. We will lay out the pros and cons of each block, and give you a few to choose from, so you can pick one that not only matches the aesthetic you’re looking for but provides the necessary support to build a strong wall.

What Makes Up A Retaining Wall

Once you’ve got a copy of your construction drawings, you will see the easy to understand cross-section we provide with all of our designs. The cross-section will show every component of the wall from the block type, to the soil used for backfill, length of reinforcing geogrid and the type of material used for drainage. See below for a sample of what your retaining wall plans may look like.

Sample custom retaining wall plans to show customers what our plans look like

Interested in a Custom Retaining Wall?

I hope this article has answered some questions you may have had. If you need any more help or would like to request a quote, feel free to contact us and one of our professional engineers located in Calgary or Edmonton will help you out!

7 Common Compaction Testing Questions

As a Calgary based geotechnical engineering firm that also performs a significant amount of materials and soil testing, our scope of work commonly includes compaction testing.

At E2K Engineering, compaction testing is performed using industry-standard nuclear densometers by our team of qualified and professional technicians.

What is Compaction Testing?

In a nutshell, compaction testing is the comparison of the moisture and density of a specific soil being placed during construction to an optimum moisture and density for that soil, which was determined in a geotechnical lab.

Project documents usually specify what percentage of the maximum density is required during backfill and compaction.

Compaction Testing on Roadway

What is 98% Compaction?

98% compaction is simply the result of the comparison between field values and lab values for a specific soil. 98% compaction just means that the density of the material placed on site is 98% of the maximum density determined in the lab.

It’s important to note that each soil being used on-site needs its own maximum density test to be performed in the lab before compaction testing can begin. The lab test for determining the maximum density of soils is called a Proctor test.

How Do We Establish Compaction Requirements?

Depending on our role in a project, compaction requirements may be up to us, or they may be provided to us. Normally compaction requirements are determined based on what the backfill will be supporting, or what is nearby.

Generally, 98% is used for most projects and most applications. For road gravel and fill under slabs, the upper 6 – 12 inches (150 mm – 300 mm) is sometimes specified as 98% or 100%. Requirements are often relaxed in areas that do not require subgrade support, such as fields, gardens, and other open spaces. Called “landscape areas”, compaction requirements are sometimes relaxed to 95% here.

Why Are Compaction Specifications A Percentage?

In either of our geotechnical laboratories located in Calgary and Edmonton, optimum moisture and density levels are achieved in controlled conditions. There is not rapidly changing Alberta weather and the laboratory procedure is standardized to produce uniform and reliable results. This maximum density is called the Proctor density and is what would be referred to as 100% compaction.

Because we all understand that 100% is very difficult to achieve, design documents will request different compaction standards for the necessary structural integrity. You may see 95% compaction required in the sub-grade of a landscaped area, or 98% compaction required in the granular base course of a structural slab.

What Testing Methods Are Used For Compaction?

Traditionally, testing for compaction involved digging a hole and using balloon volumes to measure the displacement for density. A geotechnical engineer or technician would then take a sample and return to dry it inside a laboratory for moisture content. This process took a long time in determining compaction.

Technology has evolved. Geotechnical engineers and technicians are now able to utilize nuclear equipment to determine material density, moisture, and air void content.

At E2K we have a fleet of portable nuclear densometers capable of emitting radiation through compacted backfill. The densometer measures the amount of radiation that travels through the backfill, and provides density, air void content, and moisture contents to the operator. All within minutes.

Compaction Testing Near Footing

Where Do Compaction Testing Jurisdictions Apply?

Different specifications exist for projects in the areas where they are being built. City of Calgary and the City of Edmonton have their own technical specification manuals that apply to roads and utilities. Calgary and Edmonton also have the Alberta Building Code requirements to follow. These guidelines must be referenced in determining where moisture and density testing is required on each specific project.

Rural municipal jurisdictions often have their own specifications too. Rocky View County and Foothills County publish their construction technical specifications online for reference. Geotechnical professionals and architects review the guidelines as they are updated.

Alberta Infrastructure projects include roads and bridges. These projects have compaction testing requirements which are often a combination of general guidelines and special provisions. The combined specifications will stipulate frequencies and procedures for moisture and density testing during the construction phase.

Who Conducts Compaction Testing?

Projects usually require a Geotechnical Engineer of Record. The Geotechnical Engineer of Record, oversees testing, inspection, and construction practices that relate to soils and foundations. On projects that we are the Geotechnical Engineer of Record, we always use our own inhouse staff for all engineering inspections and materials testing.

Transportation and operation of a nuclear density gauge require training and certification. Geotechnical engineers and technicians must obtain their licensing through a registered engineering firm that employs a full-time Radiation Safety Officer (RSO). Geotechnical engineers must be registered with The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA).

Many projects will require compaction testing to be the responsibility of the contractor. In this case, the contractor would hire us to monitor their work and provide them with compaction results and recommendations. In this scenario, E2K works alongside the contractor to get the job done as quickly as possible while being within project specifications.

Thanks For Reading

I hope we were able to help. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us, or request a quote!