retaining wall materials

Retaining Wall Materials—Weighing The Pros And Cons

If you look through our gallery of hundreds of photos, you will see that retaining walls vary in creativity, design and use. The only limitations with retaining walls is the designer’s imagination and the property owner’s desires. And just as designs vary, retaining wall materials also vary. Each of these materials has pros and cons that you should be familiar with prior to building.  

Here are some of the basic qualities and uses of each of these retaining wall materials, to help determine what is best for you.

Concrete Blocks

Concrete blocks are very versatile. They vary in shape and size and can be used to make elegant curves. In fact, many are used to create a Spanish or midcentury style of architecture. They are also very durable (lasting up to 100 years) and require little maintenance. However, concrete blocks do have some limitations, particularly with their height and foundations. Generally, concrete block retaining walls are no higher than four feet, and they must have proper support and drainage. They may also be difficult and costly to remove.

Stone Veneer

Stone veneer is an aesthetically pleasing option with natural colors and shapes. Stone is beautiful and durable and should stand up to the test of time. There are also very few limitations on height and thickness. Bring your dreams, and stone veneer should make them happen. However, stone veneer usually requires the help of a professional for installation… And it may cost more than some other options. But remember: You get what you pay for.


Bricks are a very common building material, and a retaining wall made of bricks can easily complement most houses and outdoor landscapes. Bricks are durable and maintain their appearance in the elements. They are also relatively simple to install. However, care must be taken with the foundation installation… And replacing a damaged or cracked brick is not always an easy task.


Wood planks and/or timber are great materials for making a beautiful and organic looking retaining wall. Clearly, wood is a natural complement to the outdoors, and it is relatively easy to work with. Thick timber is stronger and more durable than wood planks, but either can make a great looking wall. However, wood tends to have a limited shelf life (it will rot over time)… And it is a favorite place for termites. Further, unless you are a master woodworker, you are generally limited in the shape of the wall you can create.

Poured Concrete

Poured concrete gives retaining walls a very modern and sleek appearance. It also allows for many different types of structures and shapes that are very unique. The walls are very durable, and installing drainage is relatively easy. However, building a retaining wall out of poured concrete requires professional skill and expert experience… And concrete is susceptible to cracking and staining.


Boulders have been used as walls for much of history. Even today, there are centuries-old boulder retaining walls still in existence. Yes, boulders provide a rustic and natural look to any yard or garden—and they live forever! Installation can be a simple DIY project. Just stack them on top of each other. However, boulders do not offer much flexibility with design or shape. You get what you get… And they are also not efficient at directing the flow of water and are quite heavy. But they will last a long time.


A gabion wall is another long-lasting retaining wall material. The design is a simple wire or steel rod cage that is filled with rock, rubble and even recycled materials. A gabion wall is very durable and will stay in place during heavy rains. They are easy to install and are very flexible. You can also build them relatively high. However, the wires are prone to rust and wear and tear.. And they simply aren’t that attractive.  

When you’re ready to start thinking about a retaining wall for your property, you will want to weigh all have pros and cons, along with different costs for the retaining wall materials and installation. All that being said, when you’re creating the yard of your dreams, there’s nothing quite like a retaining wall of your design to pull it all together. 


Our blocks can transform any outdoor space into a unique masterpiece… The options are truly LIMITLESS. For everything you need to plan, design and build the perfect retaining wall for your next project, contact us today: (919) 562-5005

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