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If you have a hilly property, have problems with drainage or soil erosion, or you have different levels to your landscaping, a retaining wall may be able to help. Retaining walls help hold back higher levels of soil elevation, while also facilitating drainage. They can be made of many different materials and can come in multiple lengths and heights.
The average cost to build a retaining wall is between $3,500 to $10,000, with the average homeowner paying about $5,463 for a concrete block retaining wall that is 25 feet long and 4 feet high, fully installed with reinforced concrete footing.
|Retaining WallI nstallation Costs|
|National average cost||$5,463|
Most retaining walls are priced by the square foot both for their labor and for the material. Your total cost per square foot can vary depending on the material that your wall is built from, and your property site. Keep in mind that if you build your wall higher than 4-feet, you will need a structural engineer to assist with the project, which will increase labor costs.
The average cost to build a retaining wall is around $50 per sq.ft. This includes both the materials and labor costs. Choosing a less expensive material can lower your total costs while choosing a more expensive material, a higher wall, or if you have special considerations with your landscaping and soil, your cost per square foot could be higher.
|10 x 3-feet (30 sq.ft.)||$1,500|
|15 x 3-feet (45 sq.ft.)||$2,250|
|25 x 3-feet (75 sq.ft.)||$3,750|
|25 x 4-feet (100 sq.ft.)||$5,000|
|40 x 4-feet (160 sq.ft.)||$8,000|
|60 x 4-feet (240 sq.ft.)||$12,000|
Retaining walls can be constructed in several ways. The method used on your property may be dictated by the material, or it may be dictated by your soil or any special needs of your landscaping. Your landscaper may recommend one method over another, and most can be finished with a variety of materials, so you can get the look that you want for the finished wall.
Below are the various types and their base cost to construct; finished costs may be higher depending on the materials you choose.
|Retaining Wall Type||Cost per Square Foot (Labor Included)|
|Sheet piling||$10 - $20|
|Gravity||$10 - $30|
|Anchored||$10 - $30|
|Hybrid||$10 - $30|
|Cantilevered||$20 - $25|
|Counterfort||$20 - $25|
|Reinforced||$20 - $25|
|Rammed earth||$20 - $25|
|Criblock||$25 - $30|
Sheet piling is a good technique for small spaces where you only have room for a thin wall. It can be made of vinyl, wood, or steel, and is constructed by driving a thin wall straight into the ground; a thin section of the wall is visible above ground as well. They cost between $10 and $20 per square foot to construct.
A gravity wall can be made of any material from stacked stone to concrete to railroad ties. It uses weight and mass to hold the soil back, and it’s best for short walls. If you need to go higher, this type of wall will need to be reinforced. They cost between $10 and $30 per square foot to construct.
An anchored wall can be made of any material. It’s a method of helping to support other types of walls, like gravity walls, and is technically a blend of two different wall types such as gravity and reinforced. They cost between $10 and $30 per square foot to construct.
A hybrid wall can also be made of any material. It’s another way to blend together two types of walls, such as a cantilevered wall and a gravity wall; it’s a method used when some types of walls may need more support, but only in certain areas. They cost between $10 and $30 per square foot to construct.
A cantilevered wall is made of some type of masonries like stone or block, or it can be made of concrete. This is a type of reinforced wall that has steel bars embedded in it to help it hold longer. These walls can be built taller than some other types, and they cost between $20 and $25 per square foot to construct.
A counterfort wall is essentially a cantilever wall that has “wings” or sections moving off in different directions on the sides. This is a good wall for pool areas or for framing sections of landscaping. They are also made of masonry or concrete that is reinforced with steel bars and cost between $20 and $25 per square foot.
A reinforced wall is just another name for a cantilevered wall. It’s also made of masonry or concrete, and usually starts with a concrete slab. It will have steel bars embedded and costs between $20 and $25 per square foot.
Rammed earth walls are the least decorative, using soil and an aggregate blend that are tightly compacted together to hold back the soil. They don’t use other materials such as blocks, stones, or concrete. They cost between $20 and $25 per square foot to construct.
A criblock is a type of gravity retaining wall that is built of reinforced concrete. It’s constructed into a grid pattern that allows the concrete to drain better than a solid wall. They cost between $25 and $30 per square foot to construct.
Retaining walls can be made out of an extensive 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.
The following materials and their related costs are the most commonly used and obtained. Keep in mind that you can combine them on occasion, to create more unique and substantial walls, such as when you may need more support in one area and reinforce with concrete or steel while using blocks or stacked stones in another place. Costs in the table do not include labor.
|Material||Cost per Square Foot (Labor Included)|
|Vinyl||$10 - $15|
|Railroad ties (wood)||$10 - $15|
|Poured concrete||$20 - $25|
|Aggregate (earth, gabion)||$20 - $25|
|Steel||$20 - $25|
|Concrete blocks (cinder blocks, interlocking)||$20 - $30|
|Brick (interlocking, segmental)||$20 - $30|
|Stacked stone (boulders, flat stone, stone veneer)||$20 - $75|
Vinyl is an inexpensive material that is good for sheet piling. It’s thin, so if you don’t have a lot of space, and need a wall material that will be functional, while not taking up a lot of room, this is a good material to use. It doesn’t have as many decorative options as other materials, however, and can’t be used with reinforced or very tall walls. It costs between $10 and $15 per square foot.
Railroad ties, or wood walls are a popular option for creating a natural and rustic appearance. The wood is stacked, sometimes in an offset pattern, to create the wall. The wood is thicker than vinyl, so it can be a more substantial wall and it’s a good option for creating a tiered wall. It cannot be used in walls over 4-feet in height. Wood for retaining walls costs between $10 and $15 per square foot.
Poured concrete can be shaped and stamped into many patterns. It can also be used to create curving walls, and unusually shaped walls. This is a good material for shorter walls, as it cannot work at heights above 4-feet, but it’s a good addition to pool and patio areas. It costs between $20 and $25 per square foot.
If you’re creating a rammed earth wall, you need to use a type of aggregate. This can be gravel, gabion, earth or soil, or any other small material that can be compressed. It’s usually a blend of some type of stone and soil to help it hold together better. If you want to use larger material, it’s best to keep to that and not mix in aggregate. It costs between $20 and $25 per square foot.
Steel is a good choice for sheet piling, as it can also be used to create thin walls. You can use corrugated sheets for an industrial look, or you can use steel to create some anchored and reinforced walls so you see a different material, while the steel is used inside. Steel walls cost between $20 and $25 per square foot.
Concrete blocks and cinder blocks can be used to create an interlocking or segmented wall that is either dry stacked or reinforced. This type of wall can be very attractive, with lots of options for decorative material - concrete blocks can come in many colors, textures, and shapes, so it’s possible to customize your wall. This is a good option for tiered walls as well, and walls over 4-feet in height and use this material as well. It costs between $20 and $25 per square foot.
Brick can also be used to create an interlocking or segmented wall, with a very classic appearance. Brick can be used as a dry stack, mortared, or reinforced, and can be used to create taller walls as well as tiered walls. Keep in mind that there are fewer options with brick than with some other materials for color, size, or shape. Brick costs $20 to $25 per square foot.
There are many ways to create a stacked stone wall including flat stones, boulders, stone veneer, and more. Stacked stone is very versatile and can be used to create tiered walls, decorative walls, and taller walls. It can be rustic or contemporary depending on the stone used, and it may be dry-stacked or reinforced. It can cost between $20 and $75 per square foot depending on the exact stone used.
Many landscapers will also build retaining walls. 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 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 their work by the square foot, which includes both the materials and the labor. Costs for labor begin at $20 per square foot for basic walls and can go as high as $75 per square foot for reinforced walls. A stacked stone wall with no anchoring or reinforcing measuring 25 feet long would cost around $5,000 total, or with labor making up $2,000 of the cost, and the rest going to material, delivery fees, and excavation.
There is a lot of variation in the average cost of a retaining wall, 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 $20 to $25 per square foot, concrete blocks around $20 to $30 per square foot, and brick around $20 to $30.
In addition, the amount of digging and leveling 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.
A retaining wall is designed to drain - it’s part of its purpose in stopping erosion. Any retaining wall built, no matter what style or material will have some drainage incorporated into its design, whether that includes using gravel and weep holes, drainage pipes, or simply a criblock design, which drains naturally without added help.
If your wall was not built to drain, it will need to be rebuilt in order to accommodate this. In some cases, you can excavate the entire area behind the wall, and add in gravel and other material at the base for drainage, but in many cases, this isn’t possible, and the wall will need to be completely rebuilt. If you are able to excavate, adding drainage can cost as much as $70 per linear foot - so the total length of the wall times $70 is the average cost to add the drainage. If you cannot excavate to add drainage, you will have to rebuild. In this case, you will have the costs of building the wall, as well as the costs of dismantling your existing wall. Those demolition costs can add another $20 - $30 per square foot to your total, making the cost of adding drainage to an existing site between $60 and $70 per square foot on average.
Retaining walls can age like any structure. Sometimes the material can fail over time, such as wood tie backs beginning to rot. Other times, the drainage system may clog causing the soil to become oversaturated, other times, the wall can fail from poor construction. When a wall fails, it can fall, which means that it will no longer be holding back the soil so erosion and blockages may occur.
Every retaining wall repair is going to have a different cost, simply because the exact issues can be tied to things like your soil, the quality of the wall and its construction, and what exactly the problem is. Simple repairs, such as patching the exterior of a concrete wall can cost as little as $150, while completely excavating to add drainage costs $70 per linear foot, and adding tie backs to solve foundational or structural issues can cost roughly $200 - $300 per tie back.
The most common issues include:
Excavate to rebuild the foundation
blocked or inadequate drainage
|Excavating to add gravel and unblock drains||$70/linear foot|
|Cracks and crumbling||Patching the exterior||$150-$300/per crack|
|Bowing or leaning walls||Add tiebacks to anchor the wall||$200-$300/tie back|
|Walls shifting at the top||Add tiebacks to reinforce the wall||$200-$300/tie back|
Keep in mind that some older walls will simply need to be rebuilt or replaced. For example, if you have old railroad ties that are rotting, these need to be replaced at the average cost of $40 per square foot to build the wall.
Replacing an existing retaining wall has the same cost to build as a new wall, but with added costs for demolition and regrading and preparing the site. Sometimes when an older wall needs to come down, there have been issues to the area, either because the wall was improperly built or because of its age. This can mean that the soil needs to be recompacted, or it may need new excavation for drains. In addition, the old wall material needs to be hauled away and disposed of. This all adds an additional cost of $20 - $30 per square foot to the building costs, so the total for replacement comes in close to $60 - $70 per square foot on average.
Wood and concrete block are two of the most common materials. Both can give you an attractive wall that can help facilitate drainage and stop erosion. But these are two very different materials that will look and function in different ways.
Wood walls cannot stack higher than 4-feet, as they generally can’t be reinforced. Wood is also susceptible to moisture, particularly since it is in constant contact with the ground, so it may not last as long. However, wood is very inexpensive at $10 - $15 per square foot, and it has a distinctive appearance that can’t be duplicated with other materials.
Block walls are more versatile. You can find blocks in a wide range of colors, sizes, and shapes so you can create curving walls or decorative walls. Blocks can also be used to create walls higher than 4-feet, as they’re easier to reinforce. They frequently last longer than wood walls, but can still develop cracks or moss growth over time. They’re also more expensive, costing $20 - $25 per square foot.
The main use of a retaining wall is to retain soil. They help prevent soil erosion that can come from hills; a retaining wall creates a sharp divide between two elevations and stops soil from running downhill.
They can also be used as a way to accent your property, create a border or divide, or to help in the landscaping of hilly terrains.
Retaining walls 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 and footing drain. These materials and methods will vary depending on the type of wall, size, and climate conditions, and may not be used in every instance.
Retaining walls have a lot of uses for many home and property owners. They help prevent erosion and help define spaces. For homes with septic tanks, it’s very common to build up the area where the leach field will be, then to use a retaining wall to create a sharp transition to the road or the rest of the property. It’s also a nice way to add dimension to a yard and to shape up hills and tiered landscaping.
Retaining walls need to be able to drain properly, or they can’t hold back the soil correctly. So, if they aren’t put in correctly, this can cause problems. Many require some maintenance and repairs over the years to keep them at their best; stacked stones need to be refitted from time to time, while concrete may need to be patched. This means that you can have additional costs beyond simply installing the wall as time goes on.
There are actually several types of walls that you may see in a garden or landscaping. A retaining wall 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, 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 dry stack stone retaining wall will cost around $5,000 for a wall 4-feet high and 25 feet long, while a dry stack stone landscaping wall of the same size will cost closer to $2,500.
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.
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.
Measure the length of where the wall will be and multiply it by the finished height. This is your square footage.
This does depend on the pro, but most include both their labor and the materials needed for the job.
Retaining wall 1 costs are generally around $40 per square foot installed.
In most areas, a permit is required to build a retaining wall.
The general rule is ⅓ of the total height of the wall.
Retaining walls can last from 40 to 100 or more years depending on material and how they’re maintained.
It costs around $40-$50 per square foot depending on design, height, and number of curves
The average cost is around $40 per square foot.
Block walls cost between $40 to $50 per square foot.
Some styles of retaining walls do require a concrete footing, but not all. Talk to your builder about your needs.
Anything over 4 feet in height does require a structural engineer to survey the land and give you a final answer.