If you are experiencing the issue of irregular ground around the exterior of your home, consider installing a retaining wall. A retaining wall is a landscaping structure that holds soil back on one side. They allow for a lower level of ground on the other side of the wall and can be your solution to varying ground levels on your property.
One of the most significant purposes is their capability to manage rainwater flow, prevent soil erosion and ultimately save a yard. However, they’re more than just problem-solvers. This isn’t the only reason that retaining walls are so often used in both commercial and residential landscaping.
Retaining walls have an architectural and artistic quality that can add definition and completely transform your property. By incorporating retaining walls into your flowerbeds and gardens, you can create a beautiful landscaping masterpiece. Depending on your desired style and budget, they can be made from various materials.
Before we dive too deeply into retaining wall inspiration, it’s important that you understand the four most common types, how much work they require and what situation each is best for.
Table of Contents
- Gravity Retaining Wall
- Sheet Piling Retaining Wall
- Cantilever Retaining Wall
- Anchored Retaining Wall
- Retaining Wall Materials by Price
- 1. Strong Fence
- 2. Natural Stone Boulders
- 3. Stacked Stone
- 4. Timber Stumps
- 5. Poured Concrete
- 6. Vertical Railway Sleepers
- 7. Timber Planks
- 8. Corrugated Iron and Wood
- 9. Recycled Tires
- 10. Log Retaining Wall
- 11. Welded Gabion Wall
- 12. Modern Concrete
- 13. Large-Scale Timber Log Wall
- 14. Treated Pine
- 15. Concrete Planters
- 16. Reinforced Timber
- 17. Garden Tire Wall
- 18. Retaining Wall Blocks
- 19. Recycle Brick Gabion Wall
- 20. Contemporary Concrete Planters
- 21. Tiered Hedge
- 22. Wooden Walls
- 23. Retaining Wall Benches
- 24. Weathered Steel
- 25. Artistic Wood
Gravity Retaining Wall
Beginning with the gravity retaining wall, this type is exactly as it sounds. The most basic option, it uses sheer weight and mass to hold the soil back. Choosing this type offers you plenty of variety when it comes to materials since it’s mostly about weight.
A few options available include pavers, bricks, stone, concrete and any other heavy materials. Because of the weight, they typically don’t require any additional reinforcement. You’ll only need to dig a small trench for the wall to sit into.
Sheet Piling Retaining Wall
A sheet piling retaining wall is simply a thin wall of vinyl, wood, steel, aluminum or fiberglass that is installed straight into the soil. You might opt for this type if space is an issue on your property as they can be placed in very tight areas.
Usually used in soft soils, sheet piling is generally driven 1/3 above ground and 2/3 below ground. However, this may change based on the environment. Additionally, if you’re choosing to construct a taller sheet pile wall, they will likely need a tie-back anchor for supplemental reinforcement.
Cantilever Retaining Wall
Cantilevered retaining walls are constructed using reinforced concrete. They are the most common kind of retaining structure. Their design works on the principle of leverage with a thin stem and employ the weight of the backfill soil to prevent any shifting.
The main benefit of this type of wall is that it typically uses less material than a more conventional gravity wall.
Anchored Retaining Wall
While most of the other types work best with short walls, a considerably high retaining wall can be built using this structure system. Wires or cable rods are mechanically driven deep into the ground on an angle.
At the end of the cable, anchors are then expanded either by use of injecting pressurized concrete or other mechanical methods. This particular retaining wall can be employed on any of the other types for additional support and is often used for physically thinner walls.
Retaining Wall Materials by Price
After you’ve decided on the type of retaining wall that will work best on your property, you’ll need to consider materials. Take a look at the environment where you’ll be installing the wall to choose what will complement it best.
At this stage, it’s important that you have a budget in mind because the pricing will vary. Massive retaining walls that utilize heavy materials like stone and brick are effective and look beautiful but can be costly.
However, if you’re on a tight budget, opting for a more inexpensive retaining wall material can look just as appealing as an expensive option. Here are some typical materials and where they land in regards to pricing:
- Concrete Blocks – This material is a very contemporary and refined option. They are relatively easy to install, low maintenance and can produce very durable, long-lasting retaining walls. Pricing for concrete blocks are generally very uniform and will run you around 1-3 dollars a block.
- Brick – Brick is a very popular and desired building material for homeowners since they can complement most traditional homes. Although they are a very sturdy and require little upkeep, they fall in the upper price range of materials. You can expect to pay an average of $14-$15 per square foot.
- Wood – Like brick, wood is very versatile and can pair well with most landscaping. The natural look will effortlessly blend into your overall design. Although wood has the shortest lifespan when compared to other materials, with proper maintenance your wall can last a good 20 years. Using wood offers a great DIY project since they are easy to install and are likely your most cost-effective option. Wood retaining wall pricing typically starts at $15 a square foot.
- Natural Stone – Stone is considered to be one of the more pristine building materials. It’s beautiful, looks great in any rustic setting and is a very strong, resilient resource. However, it’s considered to be the most expensive on the market and depending on the type of stone you use, will cost you $8-$12 a square foot. Also, because of the sheer weight, it can be a very labor-intensive endeavor so you might want to hire a professional.
- Timber – While wood is a term that refers to the element trees are made of, timber is any phase of the wood after it has been cut. If you choose thick timber pieces, they can be much heavier and stronger than basic wood planks. Although they are not as long-lasting as other resources, they are generally very affordable. Your cost of installation for a timber retaining wall will be between $16 and $19 per square foot.
- Limestone – Limestone pieces come in varying colors and shapes and can be adapted to your desired look. They are also fireproof, weather and impact resistant and easy to keep clean. Since there are so many variations on the market, their cost can be difficult to estimate. However, as an example, weathered limestone can cost up to $515 per ton.
If you’ve narrowed down the type of retaining wall and preferred materials that your project requires, you probably need a little inspiration. Even if you’re still unsure what route to go, we’ve collected 25 cheap retaining wall ideas to help motivate your next DIY.
1. Strong Fence
When it comes to your retaining wall construction, if budget is your main priority, a wooden fence like this one will likely be your best option. They can give a very uniform look to your landscaping and be simple to construct.
2. Natural Stone Boulders
These natural stone walls are timeless and, as an added bonus, offer exceptional drainage. Generally less expensive than concrete or brick, they can give your landscape a natural, classic look.
3. Stacked Stone
Surprisingly enough, stacked stone walls will cost you less to install than a timber material. They can be placed easily without any cement and are ideal for short or large walls.
4. Timber Stumps
These timber pieces will blend flawlessly into any landscape decor. They’re also very affordable and, with the right regular maintenance, can end up lasting you years.
5. Poured Concrete
While concrete blocks can be pricey, poured concrete is not. It’s essentially concrete mixed with gravel and pebbles. Since poured concrete has the ability to be crafted into any mold or shape, it can be adapted to your liking.
6. Vertical Railway Sleepers
Vertical railway sleepers are another affordable option for retaining wall materials. They’re also easily available and simple to install.
7. Timber Planks
Railway sleepers, treated pine and treated hardwood are some of the most common timber materials used for retaining walls. In this case, the timber planks were effortlessly affixed into the ground and provide plenty of support for the backfill.
8. Corrugated Iron and Wood
This retaining wall employs corrugated iron and timber into the construction. Blending the two materials allows some extra versatility while keeping costs low.
9. Recycled Tires
If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly option, consider sourcing used tires for your retaining well. This will cost you virtually nothing and you can fill the tires with flowers or plants for added beauty.
10. Log Retaining Wall
For a more rustic, woodsy look you can use full size wooden logs for your retaining wall. This material will look great and match well if you own a cabin in the woods!
11. Welded Gabion Wall
Gabions are basically cages that are built and filled with rocks. Retaining walls constructed using gabions are very popular due to their efficiency and low cost. They are also environmentally friendly and can be filled with various materials depending on your budget or style.
12. Modern Concrete
Like mentioned before, poured concrete is an affordable alternative to concrete blocks. You can create stunning retaining walls that complement a more modern, contemporary style.
13. Large-Scale Timber Log Wall
This is another example of a great use of timber logs for a retaining wall. They are incredibility adaptable and can be used in short or tall wall constructions. Timber logs like this can often be purchased wholesale for a great price.
14. Treated Pine
Treated pine is a very affordable material that looks great in most landscaping designs. This homeowner beautifully incorporated steps leading to their home into their pine retaining walls.
15. Concrete Planters
Concrete planters are an effective way to create a retaining wall that is a unique, visual accent in your yard. The major benefit of this design is that they can be constructed easily at an affordable cost.
16. Reinforced Timber
Another great implementation of timber retaining walls, this homeowner even took it a step further. They installed galvanized posts to add some additional stability. This will increase the life span of these retaining walls.
17. Garden Tire Wall
Utilizing used tires as a retaining wall material doesn’t have to be plain or ugly. This homeowner planted colorful plants and flowers among the tires to create a striking garden wall.
18. Retaining Wall Blocks
This example combines the timber look with the wooden log design. Blocks like this will be more expensive than regular timber, however they are still cheaper than brick or stone materials.
19. Recycle Brick Gabion Wall
You aren’t reserved to only using rock fill for gabion retaining walls. In this case, they used recycled brick and terracotta to achieve a very eclectic look.
20. Contemporary Concrete Planters
In this example, poured concrete doubles as a retaining wall and planter. There are endless design uses for this material.
21. Tiered Hedge
This tiered retaining wall uses the gabion construction and features hedges interspersed throughout. It’s a beautiful blend of lush greenery and modern design.
22. Wooden Walls
Though these wooden walls will require more time to construct than a timber fence, they are a more modern, contemporary option.
23. Retaining Wall Benches
These timber retaining walls were installed with benches for seating. This is an excellent, effective way to add some dimension to your garden.
24. Weathered Steel
Though less common, metal is another material that can be used for retaining walls. In this example, rusted steel is used to achieve a more edgy, weathered look.
25. Artistic Wood
This wooden retaining wall design is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. The placement of the wood blocks creates a very artistic seating arrangement.