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The Wallet's Guide to Retaining Wall Pricing: How Design Decisions Impact Cost

empty wallet

Whether you're looking to spruce up your landscape or make a statement in your lawn care, retaining walls are a great way to add dimension and character to your outdoor space. But as with any landscape design, the cost of a retaining wall depends on the type of materials used, the size, and the complexity of the design. In this guide, we'll explore the various elements that affect the cost of a retaining wall, so you can decide what's best for your budget.

Short Retaining Walls vs Tall Retaining Walls

When it comes to landscape design, retaining walls are a great way to add visual interest and protect your lawn from erosion. The cost of these walls, however, can vary significantly depending on their size and design.

Interestingly, shorter retaining walls can be considerably more expensive per square foot than taller walls. The primary reason lies in the construction process. The installation of the base, which is a necessary step for every wall, requires significant time and labor. Therefore, when building a short wall, the cost per square foot tends to be higher as the base installation makes up a larger portion of the overall project. In contrast, for taller walls, once the base is set, the subsequent blocks can be simply stacked on top at a much faster production rate, spreading the base cost over more square footage and effectively reducing the cost per square foot. This is an important factor to take into account when considering the size of your retaining wall.

Straight Retaining Walls vs Curved Serpentine Walls

retaining wall with steps and planters

Now that we've discussed the cost implications of wall height, let's turn our attention to another important design aspect that can influence the price of your retaining wall - the shape. In particular, we will compare straight retaining walls with those that feature a curved or serpentine design.

Straight retaining walls, as the name implies, feature a single uniform plane and are built using straight blocks. These are simple to construct and, as a result, tend to be more affordable than their more complex counterparts. On the other hand, curved and serpentine walls require significantly more time and effort to build since they need to be molded around curves or bends. As well, the installation of these walls also requires more blocks to bridge the gaps created by subtle curves in the design. This can lead to increased material costs and longer build times.

Especially if the wall is exposed on both sides, additional considerations come into play that can increase the cost. For a serpentine wall that winds and weaves around the landscape, each block needs to be carefully cut and placed to maintain the wall's curvature. This process requires skilled labor and precision. Not only does the complexity of the construction process affect the cost, but the aesthetic finish of the blocks also factors into the equation. If the wall is exposed on both sides, the blocks need to be finished on all sides, leading to increased material and labor costs. Moreover, the wall may require additional reinforcement to ensure its stability, which could also add to the overall cost. Hence, although a serpentine wall can add a visually dynamic element to your landscaping, the intricacies involved in its construction could make it a more expensive option compared to a straight wall.

Geo-Grid Walls vs Stacked Block Walls

geo-grid retaining wall construction

When it comes to designing a landscape, retaining walls are a key component for adding structure and beauty to the landscape. When deciding on a retaining wall for your outdoor space, two of the most popular options are geo-grid walls and stacked block walls.

The decision of whether a geo-grid is necessary and how many courses are needed for it is fundamentally an engineering consideration. Engineers assess the soil strength, surcharge loads, slope of the ground, and anticipated weather conditions to determine if a geo-grid is necessary.

Geo-grid walls, which incorporate a geosynthetic mesh for added stability, are typically used in larger scale projects or where the ground conditions are challenging. The mesh is layered between courses of the retaining wall, creating a firm bond between the wall and the backfill soil to resist lateral earth pressure.

Determining the number of courses required for the geogrid involves a deep understanding of the underlying soil conditions and the loads that the wall will need to bear. Generally, the deeper the wall, the more geogrid courses are required.

Engineers may also use industry-specific software to model the wall's design, which helps them visualize the wall's performance under various conditions and therefore determine the necessary number of geo-grid layers. Cutting-edge technology enables engineers to predict the performance of retaining walls under diverse scenarios, ensuring the safety and longevity of the structure.

Stacked block walls, on the other hand, are a more straightforward option. Often chosen for their aesthetic appeal and ease of installation, they are particularly suited for smaller scale projects and simple landscape enhancements. Unlike geo-grid walls, stacked block walls don't necessarily require additional reinforcement, which can make them a less expensive choice.

However, it's always crucial to consult with a professional engineer when designing and installing retaining walls. They can provide expert advice on the best approach for your specific project and ensure your wall is safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.

The Pitch of Slope Backfill and Down Pressure

retaining wall with high slope pressure

When it comes to retaining wall pricing, one of the most important design decisions to consider is the pitch of the slope backfill and down pressure. This is the angle of the wall's sides and the force of the soil behind the wall, respectively. The landscape design of your lawn care project can be significantly impacted by the pitch of the slope backfill and down pressure, as these can affect the stability of the wall and the overall aesthetic of the landscape. For example, if the pitch of the slope backfill is too steep, the wall may be more prone to tipping and require additional reinforcement. By carefully considering the pitch of the slope backfill and down pressure, you can ensure that your landscape design is both aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound based on your engineering.


The choice of a retaining wall for your landscape can be a daunting one, and the cost of the project can be a major factor in the decision-making process. Ultimately, the cost of a retaining wall is largely dependent on the design decisions you make. Factors such as material selection, size, and installation complexity all play a role in determining the final cost of the project. When it comes to landscape design, it's important to consider all the potential costs associated with the project, and the design decisions that will impact those costs. With the right information and a clear understanding of your needs, you can make the best decision possible for your lawn care and landscape design.

Having a well-designed retaining wall can be a great addition to any lawn or landscape. It can provide a sense of structure, while also creating a beautiful, functional space. However, there are many factors that can influence the cost of a retaining wall, from the type of wall, to the pitch of the slope backfill and down pressure. In this article, we have explored the different types of retaining walls and the various factors that can impact the cost of each.

We hope that this guide has provided you with a better understanding of how design decisions can affect the price of a retaining wall, and that it has helped you to make informed decisions about your landscape design. Ultimately, no matter what type of retaining wall you choose, the most important thing is that it meets your needs and fits within your budget. With the right design decisions, you can create a beautiful and functional landscape that you can enjoy for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is a retaining wall and why is it important? A1: A retaining wall is a structure designed to hold back soil or rock from a sloping area. Retaining walls are important for preventing soil erosion, redirecting drainage, and creating usable space in your landscape.

Q2: What is the pitch of slope backfill and down pressure? A5: The pitch of slope backfill and down pressure refer to the angle of the slope that the retaining wall is supporting. The steeper the slope, the greater the down pressure on the wall, which can increase the cost of construction.

Q3: What factors influence the cost of a retaining wall? A6: The cost of a retaining wall will be influenced by the size and complexity of the design, the materials used, the labor involved, and the pitch of the slope. Other factors such as drainage, soil type, and local labor costs can also influence the cost.

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