Land Development Services

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Regular hours for calls and emails are 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 9:15 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Friday.

TTY 711

12055 Government Center Pkwy
Fairfax, VA 22035

Bill Hicks,

Retaining Walls

retaining wall

This information is the most common for how to obtain the necessary permits for your project and is not representative of all the conditions you may encounter.

Permits and Fees

You will be required to obtain a retaining wall building permit for the construction of a wall retaining more than 3 feet of earth. Fees vary depending on the scope of your project; use the online fee estimator to help determine your costs.

Permit Process

Follow the steps below to obtain the necessary approvals and permits for your project. Vienna and Clifton residents require additional approval from their respective towns. You may obtain the status of your permit application or obtain the status of your plan review, if applicable, at any time online.

  • Step 1) Permit Application

    Permit Application

    Obtain permits online using FIDO. If you are a first-time user, you must first follow the prompts to create an account. Once you are logged into FIDO, apply for a retaining wall building permit. Additional steps are required for your ePlan upload process. Once the application is complete, you will be invited by email to upload your required documents to ProjectDox for submission to the county.

  • Step 2) County Review

    County Review

    County staff from the Permit Application Center, Health Department (if on well or septic), Building Plan Review and Zoning will review your package for completeness and compliance with the building code and county ordinances. You will be notified of any deficiencies. Plan corrections, resubmission fees and additional supporting documents may be required.

    Residential Fast Track

    Residential Fast Track allows customers with retaining walls less than 4 feet to apply for a permit and obtain a review from county staff within 24 hours of plan acceptance.

  • Step 3) Permit Issuance

    Permit Issuance

    Once all county reviews are approved and outstanding fees have been paid, you can access your approved plans in ProjectDox and permit in FIDO. The permit must be printed and posted at the job site, and the approved plans must be printed in full-size and available to the inspector.



You are required to obtain inspections from the county for your project. The county must be notified when the stages of construction are reached that require an inspection; see the table below. Ladders, scaffolds and other equipment necessary to access construction must be provided to the inspector. Schedule, cancel or modify an inspection online or the Fairfax County smartphone app.

Building Plans

When applying for a permit the plans must meet or show the following, if applicable:

  • Minimum scale of ¼ inch = 1 foot; fully dimensioned.
  • Minimum sheet size: 11 x 17 inches.
  • Code year and local design criteria used for the design.
  • Name, address and occupation of the designer.
  • If prepared by a Virginia registered design professional, show the electronic signature, seal and date.
  • Specifications for construction materials, backfill materials and compaction requirements.
  • Cross-sections and structural details.
  • The ground slope at the top and toe.
  • Method of drainage behind wall.
  • Electronically signed and sealed copies of the design calculations demonstrating a factor of safety of 1.5 for the following: sliding, overturning and global stability (for global stability, reduce to 1.25 for laboratory-determined soil parameters).
  • Soil parameters as listed below.
    • Bearing capacity (2,000 psf maximum assumable).
    • Lateral earth pressure (60 pcf minimum assumable).
    • Friction value (0.35 maximum assumable).
  • A soils report is required for walls more than 6 feet in height.
  • Global stability analysis for the conditions listed below. If a global stability analysis is required, the analysis will be reviewed by the county geotechnical engineer as part of the building plan review process.
    • Walls with back slope steeper than 4:1 and on unstable soils.
    • Walls with back slope steeper than 2:1 and a height over 6 feet.
    • Walls over 8 feet in height.
  • All walls 10 feet and greater in height must meet the requirements of the Special Inspections Program.

Using a unique material or product?

You must reference its evaluation report from a nationally recognized listing agency, such as ICC-ES, certifying it meets the requirements of the building code. This is required for products such as pre-made sunrooms, EIFS, adjustable columns and plastic composites.

Site-Related Plans

To determine your project’s impact on your property, one of the site-related plan types listed below must be submitted. To learn more, see our Site-Related Plans publication or contact the Permit Application Center.

    A conservation plan is much like a house location plat, but also shows erosion and sediment control measures. You can use one when your project disturbs 5,000 square feet or less and drainage improvements and water quality controls are not required. If you do not meet these conditions, you must submit a grading plan.
    A grading plan is a drawing of your site which shows topography, new construction and improvements and is required when your project disturbs more than 2,500 square feet, blocks existing drainage patterns or soil is to be cut or filled more than 18 inches.
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