Do You Need a Civil Engineer to Landscape Your Yard?

4 September 2015
 Categories: , Blog


Homeowners embarking on what they consider a simple landscaping project may be surprised to find that they are required to hire a civil engineer even for do-it-yourself jobs. Depending on the laws and zoning codes of your location, something as simple as putting up a privacy fence may require engineering services. 

What Projects May Require a Civil Engineer?

Projects that require surveying, ground testing, drainage assessments, material approval, and construction management require the services of a civil engineer. In addition, local government agencies may require engineering on some types of projects, such as these:

  • property border walls and fencing
  • retaining walls and slope terracing
  • pool and spa construction and installation
  • patios, decks, and gazebos
  • anything that requires moving or adding onto existing electrical or plumbing systems, such as adding lighting or an outdoor shower.

What Does a Civil Engineer Provide?

A civil engineer's main job is to ensure the structural integrity of a project as well as adherence to all applicable laws and regulations. Among other things, civil engineers 

  • research and determine the likelihood of environmental factors that may impact the structure, such as flooding, windstorms, and snow loads.
  • perform percolation tests to ensure proper drainage and core tests to determine if the ground can hold the weight of the structure.
  • survey property boundaries to prevent encroachment onto neighboring properties.
  • research codes and zoning and obtain all necessary building permits and permissions.

What Projects Don't Require Engineering?

Generally, projects such as building planting beds, laying paved walkways, planting trees and shrubs, and installing simple watering systems do not require the services of an engineer. If you are not adding a permanent structure or changing the grade of an area so that it affects water runoff, you can usually get by without an engineer. Low fencing that does not run along property lines, such as a fenced-in dog run or garden space, usually does not require permits or engineering. It's always wise to check with your local building authorities before undertaking any landscaping project to be certain.

How Much Does a Civil Engineer Cost?

Prices for civil engineering depend on your location and your project. Large projects, such as pool installations, are usually billed per job, whereas small projects may have each service billed individually or per hour. Cost also depends on local requirements for engineer involvement.

If you are planning a large landscaping project, it is best to check with your local zoning and building authorities as to whether you will need a civil engineer's services. Even for small projects, such as installing a utility shed on a concrete slab or putting up a privacy fence between your and your neighbor's yard, some municipalities may require such services. Costs vary by location and services provided. Contact a representative from a company like Morris-Depew Associates Inc for more information about civil engineering.