5 stylish retaining wall ideas

Journalist · 6 September 2021
When it comes to garden makeovers, having a solid foundation to build upon is vital, and in many cases that can start with choosing the right retaining wall. Here are five ideas for inspiration.

Retaining walls do heavy work in a garden, designed to battle against gravity. They are used where extra support is needed between different levels of a yard, taking the weight of the land and to stop soil moving due to erosion.

Installing or replacing a retaining wall on your property can seem daunting at the beginning. If the wall is required for significant structural support, it can be a big, tricky job – and an expensive one – and people may prefer to call in professionals to ensure the work meets standards required by local councils. However, before you start planning your new wall, it could pay to investigate style options.

What types of retaining walls are there?

Here are five types of retaining walls:

As well as considering these types of retaining walls, you might like to find out some factors to consider.

1. Block retaining wall

level retaining wall
By Jen Petrie/Shutterstock.com

Retaining walls are used to hold soil in place to create different levels in the land and stop erosion on slopes. Block retaining walls are one of the easiest to build as each unit is small and light enough to be moved manually by one person. The blocks also lock into place helping to keep a professional and uniform look.

2. Timber retaining wall

timber retaining wall
By Kathie Nichols/Shutterstock.com

One of the most cost-effective materials to use for retaining walls is timber. These walls are usually made by laying long sleepers behind shorter cuts cemented deep into the ground. If you’re after a more rustic look, make sure the timber you use has been treated for termites.

3. Stone retaining wall

sandstone wall
Image: By Douglas Cliff/Shutterstock.com

The different shapes and sizes in a stone retaining wall can help to create a more organic look in your garden. These walls also allow water to run through the stones, helping to reduce the build-up of pressure behind the wall caused by wet soil, which may shorten the wall’s lifespan.

4. Boulder retaining wall

boulder wall
Image: By Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock.com

Strong, sturdy and built to last, a boulder retaining wall won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. You’ll need to bring in the heavy machinery to get the boulders moved and put into place – a job that should be left to the experts.

5. Rock and wire retaining wall

retaining wall
By Cre8 design/Shutterstock.com

Landscapers have been getting more creative with retaining wall designs in recent years. This rock and wire wall – called a gabion basket wall – lends a contemporary, industrial feel to a garden. Plants and hedges may help soften long sections of walls – just take care not to plant anything with large roots that could compromise the integrity of the wall. Also, check on the quality of the wire, to ensure it won’t rust.

What should you consider when thinking about constructing a retaining wall?

  • Check with your local authority to find out if you will require formal approval to build your retaining wall. Anything on the boundary line will also require consulting with your neighbours, particularly if access is an issue.
  • If you’re planning on building the retaining wall yourself, the height of the wall will be an important factor. Many local authorities will allow you to build your own if it’s under a certain height – this varies from council to council. If you want anything taller you may require a professional builder for safety reasons. You’ll need to check any height restrictions with your local council.
  • The last thing you want is your retaining wall to come tumbling down, potentially hurting someone in the process. If you’re unsure about any aspect of the design or construction process, engage the experts, such as a structural engineer or landscape architect.

Originally published in 2019 and updated in 2021 by Jacqueline Belesky.

Image source: By Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock.com

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