How Much Does Installing A Retaining Wall Cost? (2022)

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A retaining wall holds back an embankment of soil from an adjacent lower area. Retaining walls control erosion and create flat areas for use. Masonry, wood and stone are the most popular retaining walls because of their cost-effectiveness, availability and ease of installation.

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On average, building a retaining wall costs $23 per square foot. For the more budget-conscious, retaining wall prices average at $19 per square foot. On the upper end, retaining wall costs are around $50 per square foot.

Average Retaining Wall Cost

Retaining Wall Cost Per Square Foot

As with other building materials such as pavers or roofing, square footage is a convenient way to compare the cost of different types of retaining wall materials. The length of the retaining wall multiplied by its height helps you calculate its total square footage.

The height of the retaining wall is a major factor in determining the total cost of the retaining wall. Higher retaining walls become exponentially more costly, especially after they surpass permit and inspection limits.

For example, a retaining wall that is 50 feet long and two feet high is vastly different from another retaining wall that is 20 feet long but five feet high. Though both walls are 100 square feet, the first wall is so low that nearly any type of material can be used, even ordinary pressure-treated lumber. The second wall requires more robust materials such as large retaining wall blocks and may even require design plans reviewed by a structural engineer.

Retaining Wall Cost by Material Type

The type of materials used for the retaining wall is a two-tier factor in the overall cost of the retaining wall.

(Video) How much does a Retaining wall COST?

First, there is the cost of the materials alone. This cost is dependent on location, season, market variations and local building conventions. Natural stone is commonly found in the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest and the Northeast of the United States, so it is less expensive in those areas.

Second, the type of materials determines other factors such as the method of building, the need for deeper footers, labor force and more. Stone rockeries require cranes, which may entail crane rental and even costs to control traffic. Railroad ties, often permeated with toxic creosote, may require special permitting in some areas or may not even be allowed.

In some areas of the Midwest and Southwest, natural stone is not as common, so it must be shipped long distances. Not only that but there are fewer contractors and laborers who are familiar with the product in those areas.

Block Retaining Walls

Retaining block walls will cost $16 per square foot for the average professional installation. That’s $1,600 for a 100 square foot retaining wall—basic, with no extras and under four feet.

On the upper end of the scale, for larger 16-inch decorative blocks and for extras like cap pavers and wall curves, expect to pay up to $30 per square foot. Averaged out, retaining wall blocks cost about $23 per square foot.

Wood Retaining Walls

For wood retaining walls, you can expect to pay between $16 and $28 per square foot for a professionally installed wall. Taking on the job by yourself can bring the cost down to as low as $10 per square foot. On the whole, wood retaining walls cost about $19 per square foot.

Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Depending on the type of stone used and the distance from the property to the supplier or quarry, natural stone retaining walls can cost from $25 to $75 per square foot. On the average, natural stone retaining walls cost about $50 per square foot.

Retaining Wall Block Costs

Retaining wall block has become one of the most popular types of materials to build retaining walls. With its front lip and tipped back profile, it is one of the few materials designed expressly for retaining walls.

Retaining wall block will not degrade, nor does it require much in the way of maintenance other than occasional cleaning. Also, the masonry materials in retaining wall block are inexpensive to source and to produce. The greatest cost of retaining wall block is shipping since it is so heavy.

Larger size decorative retaining wall blocks are more expensive than smaller blocks. Large blocks are capable of holding back more soil and can be built higher. Not only that, their faces can be textured for decorative purposes.

The cost of the retaining wall block forms the majority of the total cost of the retaining wall. Decorative 17-inch block costs about $570 per pallet, which covers nearly 35 square feet of wall face: about $12 per block.

On the lower end of pricing, plain gray concrete retaining wall block, also 17 inches, can cost about four times less than decorative block: as little as $3.40 per block.

Retaining Wall Labor Cost

Along with the cost of materials, the second half of the pricing equation—and sometimes the most important half—is the cost of labor to build the retaining wall.

(Video) How to do Retaining Wall Bids, Estimates and Proposals

Generally, contractors will provide you with a quote that includes labor. Labor to build a retaining wall costs from $50 to $75 per hour. If the project requires consultation with a structural engineer, hourly charges range from $100 to $200 per hour.

Labor costs for building retaining walls vary according to the type of wall, season and the current demand for labor.

Masonry retaining block and wood retaining walls can employ some unskilled and semi-skilled workers for hauling gravel, digging out footers and carrying blocks. Wood retaining wall projects, too, are often driven by skilled workers who can oversee less skilled, inexpensive laborers.

Setting rockery walls that are safe and aesthetically pleasing is an art form as much as it is a trade, and this is best left in the hands of skilled, higher-paid workers.

When to Install a Retaining Wall

Install a retaining wall when a slope is encroaching on your property and you need to carve out space for a patio, pool, addition or any other area that requires flat level ground.

Soil slopes that exceed 35 degrees can become unstable and dangerous and need to be retained. This depends on the type of soil that you have.

Retaining walls can be built at nearly any time of the year, in nearly any climatic condition. If the ground is frozen, it can be difficult to dig to reach below the frost line.

Bottom Line

The type of retaining wall that you choose depends as much on your needs as on your budget. If you need to replace a retaining wall that is in danger of falling down or if you have a slope dangerously encroaching on your property, building a functional, safe retaining wall of any type is critical.

But if you are undertaking an elective home improvement project, you may want to make a decision based on the appearance of the wall and on your budget. Walls that are low enough can even be built by do-it-yourselfers.

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(Video) 2022 Retaining Wall Costs and Tips

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Wood and masonry retaining wall block are the two cheapest materials to use for building retaining walls.

With wood, 100 square feet of rail ties or six-by-six pressure-treated wood can cost as little as $1,000 to $1,200 on a do-it-yourself basis, up to $2,200 to $4,600 for a higher wall professionally installed.

You can install 100 square feet of small concrete block by yourself for $1,000 to $2,300. Larger decorative blocks professionally installed will cost $2,200 to $4,000.

What’s the easiest retaining wall to build?

On a do-it-yourself basis, the easiest type of retaining wall to build is one made of retaining wall blocks that stays below 36 to 48 inches—the height that triggers the need for permits and inspections in many municipalities. If the blocks are dry-fit, they only need to be stacked on top of each other with no mortar.

How long do retaining walls last?

While it depends on the type and quality of the retaining wall—along with the condition of the soil, water drainage and maintenance—retaining walls constructed of masonry materials can last from 50 to 100 years. Retaining walls made of wood can be expected to last up to 40 years.

(Video) How to charge for Landscaping, Retaining walls, Patios and Outdoor Construction

How large does a retaining wall’s footer need to be?

For stability and safety, retaining walls need to rest on a stable footing, usually concrete. A rule of thumb for sizing retaining wall footers is that the footer should be twice as wide as the wall’s width (as measured front to back). Additionally, the concrete footer itself should rest on 6 inches of gravel set below the frost line.

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(Video) Retaining Walls and Engineering


How Much Does Installing A Retaining Wall Cost? ›

The average cost to build a retaining wall is $20 to $50 per square foot or $40 to $300 per linear foot. Installing a 50' long retaining wall costs $4,000 to $10,000 on average. Retaining wall labor costs $10 to $30 per square foot and material prices are $5 to $20 per square foot on average.

What is the cheapest retaining wall to build? ›

Wood and masonry retaining wall block are the two cheapest materials to use for building retaining walls. With wood, 100 square feet of rail ties or six-by-six pressure-treated wood can cost as little as $1,000 to $1,200 on a do-it-yourself basis, up to $2,200 to $4,600 for a higher wall professionally installed.

How much does it cost to put a wall up? ›

Whether you want to divide a room into two or put a wall in your open plan for privacy, putting up a wall will cost you $980 to $2,900, with most homeowners paying $1,900 on average.
National Average CostMinimum CostMaximum Cost
Feb 10, 2022

What is the best material for a retaining wall? ›

Retaining walls can be made from wood, bricks, natural stones or concrete blocks. For DIYers, it's best to use concrete retaining wall blocks, which can be interlocking and are heavy enough to stay in place without cement or other adhesive. Interlocking blocks fit together and add extra security to the wall.

Does a 2 foot retaining wall need drainage? ›

If your retaining wall needs a drainage pipe, make sure the pipe has slots on all sides, not just one. A drainage pipe might be needed if: The retaining wall is at least four feet high or taller. Clay or other poor draining soils are behind the wall.

Do you need planning permission to put up a stud wall? ›

Generally, you do not need building regulations approval to construct a non-load-bearing stud partition wall. If you are creating a wall that will support the building, you'll likely need approval.

How hard is it to put up a wall? ›

Building a nonbearing interior wall is relatively easy, requiring just basic carpentry skills and tools. Depending on the nature of your existing floor, walls, and ceiling, you may have to peel away some surface materials to provide for secure attachment at the top, bottom, and ends of the new wall.

How do you build a freestanding wall outside? ›

How to Build an Outdoor Privacy Wall | The Home Depot - YouTube

What type of retaining wall lasts the longest? ›

Concrete and Masonry Retaining Walls

Poured concrete is the strongest and most durable choice for retaining walls. It may also be carved and formed to look like mortared stone depending on your taste.

Do you need landscape fabric behind retaining wall? ›

You should use landscape fabric behind a retaining wall because the fabric supports the bricks, wood, or other materials that make the wall. Wet soil can push against a retaining wall, weakening it. By placing a strip of landscape fabric under the soil, the wall won't have as much pressure on it.

How long should a retaining wall last? ›

Stone retaining walls should last somewhere between 40 and 100 years or more. Wood retaining walls last around 40 years. Stone and concrete retaining walls last between 50 and 100 years. Brick retaining walls last at least 100 years.

How long does it take to build a retaining wall? ›

Plan on about three days to build a wall 4 feet tall by 15 feet long. Cost: $10 to $15 per square face foot installed, depending on your region—higher if extensive excavation, soil prep, and backfilling are needed.

How deep should the footing be for a retaining wall? ›

The general rule of thumb is to bury about one-eighth of the height of the wall. For example, if your wall will be three feet (36 inches) tall, the first course of blocks should start five inches below soil level. The gravel base should start three inches below this.

What is the maximum height of a retaining wall? ›

Ten feet is usually the max for how tall a retaining wall can be, although we recommend staying under that. For width, make sure the base of your retaining wall measures at least one-third of its overall height.

WHY DO retaining walls fail? ›

The main cause of retaining wall failure is poor drainage. Without proper drainage, hydrostatic pressure builds up behind the retaining wall. Saturated soil is substantially heavier than dry soil, and the retaining wall may not be designed to handle such a load.

What is the easiest retaining wall to build? ›

What is the easiest retaining wall to build? Short walls under three feet high and constructed of concrete blocks or masonry blocks are the easiest type of wall for DIYers to build. They are ideal landscape solutions for a front yard or raised flower bed.

Do I really need a retaining wall? ›


Retaining walls can prevent soil from falling down a slope onto your home. They can also prevent dirt from falling down a slope and out from under your house. Both of these situations are very serious, and a retaining wall may be the only thing between you and losing your home.

Do you need gravel behind retaining wall? ›

Gravel Backfill

Do you need drainage behind a retaining wall? Yes, which means you need backfill too. This backfill is the soil that's located in the first 12 inches of space right behind the retaining wall in order to have proper drainage, and it can be either gravel or crushed stone.

What goes behind a retaining wall? ›

Backfill refers to the dirt behind the wall. In order to provide proper drainage, at least 12 inches of granular backfill (gravel or a similar aggregate) should be installed directly behind the wall. Compacted native soil can be used to backfill the rest of the space behind the wall.

What kind of rock do you put behind a retaining wall? ›

Crushed or smooth stone, well graded, compactable aggregate, ranging in size from 0.25 in. to 1.5 in. (6 to 38 mm) is the ideal wall rock size.

How thick does a stud wall need to be? ›

How thick is a stud wall? Timber stud walls are usually just over 5 inches in thickness. This includes the combined thickness of your studs (either 70 or 100mm), two plasterboard sheets (each 12.5mm in thickness) and the skim plaster finishes.

How high can you build a stud wall? ›

The studs shall be 2x6 at 16 inches on center with a maximum height of 20 feet. The wall shall be sheathed with wood structural panels on the exterior and gypsum board or equivalent on the interior.

How can you tell if a wall is load-bearing? ›

From a basement or crawlspace, check to see if another wall or support structure is directly below a first-floor wall. If a wall has a beam, column or other wall directly below or following its same path, it's a load-bearing wall. Walls more than 6 inches thick are usually load-bearing walls.

How do you build a non structural wall? ›

How to Build a Non-Load-Bearing Wall - YouTube

How wide is a standard wall? ›

Average Wall Width of Interior Walls

Most interior walls are constructed with 2-by-4 framing, and each 2-by-4 has a nominal width of 3 1/2 inches. Drywall typically covers both sides, and it's usually 1/2 inch thick, which makes the wall 4 1/2 inches thick.

What is a pony wall in construction? ›

A pony wall is nothing more than a short wall, and the term is often used interchangeably with “knee wall” or “cripple wall.” Pony walls, like regular walls, have top and bottom plates, that is, the horizontal members that the vertical studs fasten to.

How do you build a straight retaining wall? ›

How To Build a Retaining Wall - YouTube

How do I make my retaining wall straight? ›

If you want a straight wall that lasts a lifetime without shifting and moving, you'll want to put down a layer of packed gravel base (or concrete) before adding your first row of blocks. This step is NOT optional. It's essential. This is the foundation for your wall.

Are poured concrete retaining walls better than block? ›

Poured concrete walls are hard to beat when it comes to their strength. They are super durable and offer a higher amount of flexural and compressive strength than block walls. It is imperative to construct a strong structure that offers as much water resistance as possible. No matter how bad the climate gets.

How do you anchor a retaining wall? ›

The Anchorplex™ Retaining Wall System - YouTube

Is a concrete retaining wall cheaper than wood? ›

Concrete retaining walls are generally more expensive than timber retaining walls which is something that you will need to keep in mind when you are setting your budget but a well built concrete retaining wall will last for 60 years or more, so it should never need replacing.

Do I need drainage behind my retaining wall? ›

Retaining Wall Update - Do You NEED a Drainage Pipe? - YouTube

Do retaining walls need weep holes? ›

Retaining walls with a height greater than a few feet should also have weep holes that are regularly spaced in the vertical direction, forming a grid pattern. Another method for relieving hydrostatic pressure is to install a drainage pipe behind the wall.

Does a retaining wall need waterproofing? ›

As a result of the high likelihood of flooding in a retention wall, it is an essential use of an extensive waterproof membrane to protect it by shielding from the conditions prevailing down there.

Does homeowners insurance cover retaining wall collapse? ›

Because retaining walls are frequently considered a detached structure, damage to them can be covered under your homeowners policy under the right conditions. When damage is the result of a “covered loss” — or an insured event — like lightning, wind, fire or a vehicle striking the wall, coverage may be possible.

Are concrete blocks good for retaining wall? ›

Concrete blocks can be used by laying them side by side, again with mesh ties holding the two sections together, or by laying them flat to give either a 225mm wide wall, or long ways to give a 450mm wide wall. There are also proprietary products for building strong walls and one of these is the hollow concrete block.

What is the easiest retaining wall to build? ›

What is the easiest retaining wall to build? Short walls under three feet high and constructed of concrete blocks or masonry blocks are the easiest type of wall for DIYers to build. They are ideal landscape solutions for a front yard or raised flower bed.

What is the cheapest way to build a wall? ›

The cheapest types of retaining walls are wood and concrete blocks, followed by concrete and stones or bricks. Each material has benefits and drawbacks, including strength, longevity, and attractiveness. For those who are planning on building their own retaining wall, it is vital to plan and research.

Is a concrete retaining wall cheaper than blocks? ›

Poured Concrete and Block Wall Foundation Costs

Usually, the cost of construction varies from place to place. But as a matter of fact, poured walls cost about 20% less than the block foundation walls.

Are gabion walls cheap? ›

Depending on the type of fill material, gabion walls are one of the cheapest retaining walls you can build, ranging from $5 to $40 per square foot installed.

Do retaining walls need building regulations? ›

Independent, freestanding retaining walls may not require building regulation approval; however, any structures must be structurally sound and well maintained.

Do you need landscape fabric behind retaining wall? ›

You should use landscape fabric behind a retaining wall because the fabric supports the bricks, wood, or other materials that make the wall. Wet soil can push against a retaining wall, weakening it. By placing a strip of landscape fabric under the soil, the wall won't have as much pressure on it.

How thick should a retaining wall be? ›

It should be at least 215mm thick and bonded or made of two separate brick skins tied together. This should be enough in most cases with minimal water pressure or where the ground level difference is less than a metre.


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