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Retaining wall Cost

Retaining wall Cost

National average
$4,000 - $6,500
(building a 25 feet dry stack stone retaining wall with gravel backfill)
Low: $2,500 - $3,500

(railroad tie retaining wall with no footer)

High: $7,500 - $10,000

(curving, poured concrete, reinforced wall with stone caps)

Cost to build a retaining wall varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from retaining wall contractors in your city.

The average cost of building a retaining wall is $4,000 - $6,500​.

In this guide

Cost factors
Retaining walls vs landscaping wall
Site prep and cleaning
Types
Materials
Drainage
Labor
Enhancement and improvement costs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to build a retaining wall?​

If you live on a hilly property, or have different levels to your landscaping, a retaining wall 1 may be necessary to prevent soil erosion and to protect your landscaping. Retaining walls help hold back higher elevations of soil, while allowing for water drainage. They may be many lengths and heights, and may be made of a variety of materials.

The average homeowner spends around $40 per square foot on having a retaining wall installed. For a wall 4-feet high and 25 feet long, made of dry stacked concrete blocks, this makes the cost around $4,000 on average.

Cost factors

There is a lot of variation in the average cost of a retaining wall 1, and each project may have varying costs. The height and length of the wall is the largest determinant of costs, as both material and labor are generally priced by the square foot (the length of the wall times the height). Keep in mind that some of the wall’s height will be partially below ground, and this will need to be added into the overall costs. Whether your wall is straight or curves, whether it has stairs built into it or not, and how it meets the landscaping can all be factors that can influence the costs as well. So can the type of soil that you have, as heavy soils like clay will require different equipment and additional removal for drainage than naturally-draining soils like sand.

The different materials you may choose to build the wall with also vary in cost. Poured concrete costs around $16 to $20 per square foot, concrete blocks around $12 to $20 per square foot, and stone and brick around $10 to $25.

In addition, the amount of digging and leveling 2 that must be done, any backfill or gravel, as well as any other landscaping can contribute to the overall costs of the project. The style of the wall, as well as the way that it’s being constructed can also play a role in determining your final costs. This is why most builders will only give a very general estimate until they see the site and you’ve selected materials.

Retaining walls vs landscaping wall

There are actually several types of walls that you may see in a garden or landscaping. A retaining wall 1 is designed to hold back soil or earth, while providing drainage. Landscaping walls are also known as garden walls, and their purpose is purely decorative. They’re usually shorter, and are built to define an area, rather than to support it. Some landscaping walls may have other, functional purposes, but retaining walls are still completely different. For example, a garden wall may include seating, be a foundation for a fence or other structure, or may include lighting or decorative planters. However, unless the wall’s purpose is to separate levels and/or stop soil erosion, it will be a landscaping wall and not a retaining wall.

Typically, because a retaining wall requires so much more in terms of leveling 2, placement, weep holes, and drainage, it will cost more than a landscaping wall. It is possible, however, to build a simple retaining wall using railroad ties that costs less than a landscaping wall made of brick that has built in seating.

If similar materials are being used, however, and the length and height of the wall is equal, then retaining walls will cost more. A concrete block retaining wall will cost around $4,000 for a wall 4-feet high and 25 feet long, while a concrete block landscaping wall of the same size will cost closer to $2,000.

Site prep and cleaning

Retaining walls 1 require some degree of site preparation prior to building. While you see the majority of the wall above ground, it actually begins below this point. Site preparation begins with excavation, or digging a trench for drainage and for the wall to be built. The trench will need to be leveled, and will usually be compacted or tamped down to ensure that the wall will be stable.

Depending on the type of wall and the type of soil, it’s common to put down a layer of gravel into the trench below the bottom of the wall. This will facilitate proper draining. Sometimes a layer of sand is also used, or your soil may be modified.

You may also have weep holes installed every 6-8 feet, filter fabric laid against the soil the wall be built against, as well as a footing 3 and footing drain 4. These materials and methods will vary depending on the type of wall, size, and climate conditions, and may not be used in every instance.

Types

There are several different types of retaining walls 1 and methods of construction that go beyond the materials and appearance. Each one will have different attributes that may make it a better choice in some instances, and each will typically have a range of materials that are used with it.

Type of wallDescriptionMaterials

Sheet piling

($10-$20/sq.ft.)

Thin wall driven straight into the ground

Good for small spaces

Thin, corrugated material above ground

May be vinyl 5, wood, or steel

Gravity

($10-$30/sq.ft.)

Uses weight and mass of wall to hold soil

May need reinforcement for very tall walls

Any material

Anchored

($10-$30/sq.ft.)

A blend of two types

Typically reinforced or anchored paired with a gravity wall

Any material

Hybrid

($10-$30/sq.ft.)

A blend of two types

Typically reinforced or anchored paired with a gravity wall

Any material

Cantilevered

($20-$25/sq.ft.)

Reinforced wall with steel bars running through it

Has a slab foundation 6

Concrete or masonry

Counterfort

($20- $25/sq.ft.)
Cantilevered wall with additional “wings” on either sideConcrete or masonry

Reinforced

($20- $25/sq.ft.)

Another name for a cantilevered wall

Has a slab foundation and steel bars

Concrete or masonry

Rammed earth

($20- $25/sq.ft.)

Wall made of a blend of aggregate and soil

Compacted tightly into shape on site

Aggregate blend

Criblock

($20- $25/sq.ft.)

Gravity retaining wall made of reinforced concrete

Made in a grid pattern to allow water to escape

Concrete


Materials

Retaining walls 1 can be made out of a very wide range of materials. Some will be dictated by the type of wall, while others may be dictated by the height of the wall. In some instances the only differences may be cosmetic and personal, as they relate to your landscaping.

MaterialBest useCost
Vinyl 5

Thin walls

Sheet piling

$10-$15/sq.ft.
Railroad ties

Tiered walls

Walls under 4-feet in height

$10-$15/sq.ft.
Poured concrete

Curving walls

Walls under 4-feet in height

$20-$25/sq.ft.
AggregateRammed earth walls$20-$25/sq.ft.
Steel

Thin walls

Sheet piling

Anchored walls

$20-$25/sq.ft.
Concrete blocks

Decorative walls

Tiered walls

Walls over 4-feet in height

$20-$30/sq.ft.
Brick

Decorative walls

Tiered walls

Walls over 4-feet in height

$20-$30/sq.ft.
Stacked stone

Decorative walls

Tiered walls

Walls over 4-feet in height

$20-$30/sq.ft.


Drainage

One of the purposes of a retaining wall 1 is to facilitate drainage of water without causing soil erosion. For that reason, there are many ways that drainage may be built in to the design. In most cases, a combination of factors will be used.

First, the back of the wall will be backfilled with gravel approximately 1-foot back. Perforated drain pipes are installed every 6-8 feet, either inside the wall or at the bottom of the backfill. In some cases, weep holes will also be placed in the wall periodically to allow for water to naturally drain out. Some walls, such as a criblock wall are designed to allow for natural drainage. Many dry-fit or unmortared walls, such as stacked stone walls, drain naturally as well, because there is space between the stones. You may also require a drainage fabric against the soil. Each wall’s final drainage system will be designed based on the materials, wall type, and soil composition, and your wall may have more or fewer systems in place.

Labor

Many landscapers will also build retaining walls 1. However, if you plan on having the wall be more than 4-feet in height or you have special concerns about the weight of the area being held, you will need to involve a structural engineer in the project.

In most cases, the retaining wall will be built by first excavating a trench, followed by backfilling the area behind where the wall will be with gravel, and leveling 2 the ground for the wall installation. Drainage will begin to be put in at this stage, depending on what type of wall you have. In many cases, if the wall is a dry stack, masonry, block, brick, or railroad tie, building will commence at this point. Layered walls will be built one section at a time, with reinforcement as needed past a specific height.

Poured concrete walls will have a frame built first, while anchored walls will require a slab foundation poured, then the wall built and anchored in the right areas.

These variations are why it’s always best to work with a licensed and experienced builder who understands the particulars of the design.

Most landscapers who work on retaining walls price by the square foot, with costs starting at $20 per square foot for labor for basic walls and going as high as $40 per square foot for labor for reinforced walls. A stacked stone wall with no anchoring or reinforcing, measuring 100 square feet will therefore cost around $40 per foot or $4,000.

Enhancement and improvement costs

Topper stones

Many retaining walls 1 have topper stones to help give the wall a finished appearance. The toppers may be of a slightly different shape or size than the rest of the material used in the wall to differentiate. They are usually also sold by the foot with costs starting at $10.

Stairway

Many people will include a stairway in their retaining wall. These may be poured concrete, wood, or stone and may match the wall or contrast it. Costs for this will vary tremendously depending on the material, the height, and the placement in the wall. Expect to add a minimum of $400 to the design.

Additional considerations and costs

  • In most areas, you will need a permit to build a retaining wall 1. Visit your local town or city hall to learn more.
  • Some small retaining walls made of railroad tiles, concrete blocks, or dry stack stone can be done DIY. Make sure not to build higher than 4-feet above ground, as taller walls require additional support and the need for a structural engineer to survey the area, and remember that at least ⅓ of the wall’s total height remains below ground.
  • Soil nailing, which is a form of drilling bars into the soil, combined with mesh, soil strengthening, or using chemicals to help stabilize the soil, and mechanical stabilization through compaction or adding of aggregates and grout 7 to the soil are all alternatives to retaining walls. If you simply need to prevent erosion, and don’t want a visible wall, one of these options may work for you. Speak to your landscaper to see if they may be options for you.
  • Any wall taller than 4-feet in height will require not only a building permit, but also a plan from a licensed structural engineer.
  • Always get a minimum of 3 quotes so you can compare costs and approaches.
  • Your costs may vary depending on your area. Soil types, construction fees, permits, and other factors can change by region, state, and town, so always get an accurate quote to determine your exact costs.
  • Always call 811 to check for underground utilities prior to any excavation. Failure to do so could mean disrupting sewer or water lines, as well as underground electrical cables. Calling first will get someone to come out and mark the location of all underground utilities so you can be sure to dig around them as needed.
  • Retaining wall builders are required to be licensed in most states. Always follow up to ensure their license is current.
  • Always ask to see pictures of other retaining walls the builder has constructed, as well as for at least 3 references you can follow up with.
  • If you live in an earthquake zone, your costs will be higher, due to the need for additional engineering required for increased structural integrity.
  • There are many factors that go into the construction of a successful retaining wall. Always take the time to decide what will best suit your needs, including size, material, and durability so the wall lasts the longest amount of time.

FAQ

  • How much does it cost to build a retaining wall?

Retaining wall 1 costs are generally around $40 per square foot installed.

  • Do you need a permit to build a retaining wall?

In most areas, a permit is required to build a retaining wall.

  • How deep do footings need to be for a retaining wall?

The general rule is ⅓ of the total height of the wall.

  • How long do retaining walls last?

Retaining walls can last from 40 to 100 or more years depending on material and how they’re maintained.

  • How much does it cost to pour a concrete retaining wall?

It costs around $40-$50 per square foot depending on design, height, and number of curves

  • How much does a stone retaining wall cost?

The average cost is around $40 per square foot.

  • How much does a fieldstone wall cost?

The average cost is around $40 per square foot for dry stack stone.

  • How much is a block wall per square foot?

Block walls cost between $40 to $50 per square foot.

  • How much is a block wall per linear foot?

Most walls are priced per square foot, which is linear feet times height, and a block wall costs between $40 and $50 per square foot.

  • Do I need a concrete footing for a retaining wall?

Some styles of retaining walls do require a concrete footing, but not all. Talk to your builder about your needs.

  • How high can you build a retaining wall?

Anything over 4 feet in height does require a structural engineer to survey the land and give you a final answer.

  • How long do wood retaining walls last?

Well maintained, wood retaining walls last roughly 40 years.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
glossary term picture Retaining Wall 1 Retaining wall: A structure used to support vertical slopes of earth or to hold back water
2 Leveling: The process of evening out the ground's surface, making it either flat or sloped.
glossary term picture Footing 3 Footing: A support for the foundation of a house that also helps prevent settling. It is typically made of concrete reinforced with rebar, but can also be made of masonry or brick. It is usually built under a heavier part of the house like a wall or column, to distribute the weight of the house over a larger area.
4 Footing drain: A method of protection against water entering the basement. It runs along the footer - the structure below the basement's floor that supports a house's foundation, collecting excess water and running it through pipe into a sump or away from the house.
glossary term picture Vinyl 5 Vinyl: A synthetic plastic made from ethylene and chlorine. Vinyl has many applications in the construction industry and it is widely used in sidings, window frames, roofing and gutters, among others
glossary term picture Slab Foundation 6 Slab foundation: A layer of concrete, poured over a prepared surface of soil or gravel, that supports a house or other building structure
glossary term picture Grout 7 Grout: A fluid form of cement used to seal the joints between tiles. It also makes the surface stronger because it bonds the tiles together

Cost to build a retaining wall varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Stacked stone retaining wall with purple flowers at a residential home

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Anaheim, CA
+21%
Athens, GA
-9%
Augusta, GA
-13%
Bellingham, WA
-6%
Bronx, NY
+32%
Campbell, CA
+33%
Cedarburg, WI
+20%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Clinton, TN
+51%
Colorado Springs, CO
-3%
Concord, CA
+30%
Conroe, TX
+21%
Cumming, GA
+2%
Dagsboro, DE
-23%
Denver, CO
+1%
Draper, UT
-6%
El Paso, TX
-28%
Evanston, IL
+42%
Fairfield, OH
-3%
Fort Dodge, IA
-14%
Fort Mill, SC
-13%
Fountain, CO
-4%
Galena, IL
-5%
Grovetown, GA
-11%
Hercules, CA
+30%
Jacksonville, FL
-1%
Lexington, KY
+1%
Long Beach, CA
+16%
Marietta, GA
+10%
Menlo Park, CA
+44%
Milpitas, CA
+33%
Modesto, CA
-12%
Monroe, NY
-4%
Naples, FL
-3%
Neosho, MO
-28%
Oxnard, CA
-1%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Portland, OR
+11%
Reading, PA
+4%
Rochester, MN
+1%
Rockton, IL
+12%
San Bernardino, CA
-1%
Seabrook, TX
+31%
Smyrna, GA
+10%
Temple, GA
-10%
Vero Beach, FL
-13%
Washington, DC
+23%
Weed, CA
-35%
Labor cost in your zip code
Last modified:   See change history
Methodology and sources