Installing a retaining wall is a quick way to beautify a landscape or reclaim unusable property. With a variety of designs ranging from extremely basic — a few stones surrounding a small flower bed — to complex — multiple anchored walls with steps — homeowners can create visually appealing landscapes that are unique and inviting. With so many options, it is a good idea to review them before making a final decision.
Concrete blocks offer many retaining wall options, but it's best consult a professional to make sure you're meeting drainage and support requirements. Blocks come in multiple shapes and sizes for flexibility and design variety, require minor annual maintenance, and are eco-friendly. Concrete blocks are easy to install but difficult to remove and have height restrictions of four feet. They usually cost about one to three dollars per block plus, about one dollar per capstone.
Poured concrete provides homeowners with a consistent retaining wall design by using casts of different shapes and sizes. This requires specific skills, from setup of molds, to incorporating foundation and wall supports, to pouring and finishing the wall with optimal stability and durability. Regions with heavy rainfall may require additional maintenance as moisture causes damage to wall treatments. Costs average between $3.25 and $5.25 per square foot.
Brick retaining walls provide complementary designs and colors to homes and landscapes. Under normal weather conditions, their durability requires little maintenance, they rarely lose their color, and are non-combustible, which helps prevent fires from spreading. Bricks are eco-friendly and easily repurposed, but they come in a finite array of colors, which offers less flexibility when replacing damaged pieces. The average cost for bricks range from $1.96 to $2.88 per square foot.
Wood provides a natural-looking retaining wall that blends into the landscape. It comes in a variety of colors and designs, is easy to transport and install, and its durability makes it a popular DIY choice. Routine maintenance can extend its life; however, wood is prone to rot over time, so regions with excessive rain may see increased maintenance costs. Wood is also susceptible to termites. Costs start at $15 per square foot.
Boulder retaining walls are one of the oldest and most durable types of walls. They provide a natural, rustic look and are available in all sizes and colors. Boulders are easy to use but their size restricts flexibility in complex designs, like water flow control and wall height. They are better suited in larger landscape designs and require minimal maintenance. Costs range between $100 and $600 per ton. Transportation from non-local suppliers may increase the cost.
Gabion is an older method that utilizes wire cages filled with stone or rubble to create an easy-to-build retaining wall. Although not visually appealing to some, its durability can withstand most weather conditions. The wire cages are susceptible to rust if not properly maintained, but the modular design provides flexibility for replacements or upgrades. Gabion walls usually cost about $35 per cubic yard (27 cubic feet).
Timber gives retaining walls an unfinished wood look that is affordable and durable. Their bulky and rustic appearance brings an old-school feel to landscapes; they're also easy to install but have limited flexibility in design. Periodic maintenance will help extend the life of timbers, protecting against rot and termites. The cost of timber varies between $16 and $19 per square foot.
Like boulders, natural stone provides strong and durable retaining walls with a beautiful and rustic look. Because of their smaller size, stones offer homeowners more variety of color and texture, which increases design flexibility. It can be a tedious task to build a stone wall and drainage issues can occur after a few years, even with regular maintenance. Stone is on the upper end of costs at about $8 to $12 per square foot.
Limestone provides a timeless and classy look that is porous, yet durable. It comes in a variety of types, including sandblasted and polished, that can last for centuries with minimal maintenance. The fireproof and impact-resistant stone can withstand years of weather, but certain chemical solutions reduce its durability. Costs vary widely due to the different types available, but some weathered limestone can cost $515 per ton.
One of the most common retaining wall designs for slopes greater than 45 degrees is the interlocking retaining wall. With a variety of available color combinations, textures, and colors, this option provides durability with minimal maintenance and easy installation. Due to the complexity of the design, consider consulting an engineer to ensure your creation has enough stability for the surrounding soil and proper drainage. Costs for segmental walls range between $25 and $30 per square foot.