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How Much Does A Retaining Wall Cost To Build?

Typical Range: $3,201 - $8,387

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Retaining Wall Cost

The average cost of building a retaining wall is $5,371. Most homeowners find themselves spending between $3,201 and $8,387. The cost of retaining wall materials ranges from $3 to $40 per square foot. Wall block prices fall between $10 and $15 per square foot, while precase, poured concrete runs $20 to $25. Wood falls in the middle at $15 to $25 per square foot. The final cost depends not only on the material used, but also the size of the wall.

Retaining walls serve many purposes, from protecting areas of property from sliding soil to holding a foundation in place. They can also be used to add surface area to property boundaries or to simply preserve the ground that exists. And because retaining walls are often one of the most visible elements of a home's exterior landscape, most homeowners want them to be as beautiful as they are functional. Luckily, there are several types of materials available for use in construction, making it easy to get the job done for even the tightest budget.

On This Page

  1. Material Costs per Square Foot
    1. Cinder Block
    2. Poured Concrete
    3. Wood
    4. Stone Veneer
    5. Boulder
    6. Gabion
    7. Brick
    8. Metal
    9. Earth
  2. Types of Landscape Walls
    1. Railroad Tie
    2. Segmental/Interlocking
    3. Rammed Earth
    4. Criblock
  3. Labor Rates
  4. Repair Costs
  5. Replacing an Existing Wall
  6. Planning

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National Average
Typical Range
$3,201 - $8,387
Low End - High End
$1,200 - $13,100

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Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 1,764 HomeAdvisor members in .

Retaining Wall Material Costs

The customer has the most control during material selection. While having a beautifully finished wall is of paramount importance, it is integral to weigh function equally with form. For example, using wood for the structure may not be the best choice if extreme moisture is a factor, as termites and wood rot may sharply decrease its lifespan. A good contractor can help choose the material with the best combination of looks and functionality, ensuring an aesthetically pleasing final product that lasts for years.
MaterialAverage Price Per Square Foot
Cinder Block$10-$15
Poured Concrete$20-$25
Wood Timber$15-$25
Stone Veneer$11-$15
Corten Steel/Metal$3-$4

Cinder Block - $10-$15 per sq. ft.

This is a great option if you’re looking to build curves into your design without extending your budget. Cinder block is affordable, versatile and can be installed quickly and easily. It is extremely durable and low-maintenance, as it is not susceptible to elements like rot and fire. You can depend on this strong material where you need a retaining wall to bear a lot of pressure.
Consider that cinder block walls aren’t secured deep into the ground by footings. They are installed in trenches and, therefore, should not be built higher than 4 feet for stability purposes.
Modular concrete blocks are similar and provide many of the same benefits. The main difference is that modular blocks are designed in such a way that they interlock for easy, lego-like installation. The speed of installation beats that of many other materials. There are more style and color options, and homeowners can pay a little more to get close to the look of natural stone.
One of the most popular brands of modular concrete blocks is Versa-Lok. They use a pin and pin-hole interlocking system and have a broad range of styles available. With Versa-Lok, homeowners can achieve standard, weathered, cobbled, and mosaic. They are also fortified enough to build taller than with cinder blocks, at a similar material price.

Poured Concrete - $20-$25 per sq. ft.

Similar to cinder block, poured concrete is durable and resistant to deterioration. The pouring method makes for a solid piece of concrete which is stronger than cinder block, but much more expensive. The result of the process is a sleek, modern design.
This isn’t actually a popular material for residential projects. It is often chosen specifically because it is cohesive with the aesthetic of the home. Otherwise, homeowners find that the cost of installation is high and the poured material is vulnerable in severe weather conditions. A single crack may compromise the whole structure, calling for removal and replacement. Consider, also, that the footings of these retaining walls are large and can have an impact on planting conditions near the wall.
Consult with a Retaining Wall Expert Today

Wood Timber - $15-$25 per sq. ft.

Wooden retaining walls are a favorite for gardens because their natural appearance harmonizes with landscape surroundings. Wood materials are often cost-effective and easy to obtain, though there are several varieties which can raise your price point significantly.
The downside of using wood is that it is susceptible to rot and water damage. Drainage, waterproofing, and pest control solutions are key to the longevity of this material. With quality care, it can last beyond 20 years. As with cinder blocks, it is best not to build them taller than four feet.
One popular, low-cost option is the use of railroad ties, or cross ties. These are exactly what their name implies: second-hand planks of wood which were part of railroad systems and which can be reused in building projects. Building with railroad ties can be quite simple, and their durability makes them perfect for slopes. You may even be able to build these ties a foot or two higher than four feet, if your landscape designer approves.
Used railroad ties will have been chemically treated so it is important to find out which chemicals are present before you buy. If you’re not sure about buying used materials for your project, there are a number of companies which manufacture new planks for building with the same visual appeal.

Stone Veneer - $11-$15 per sq. ft.

This material is a wall covering made to imitate the look of natural stone. Stone veneer made from manufactured stone will run you less, in a range of $3-$12, where natural stone veneer will cost more, starting around $8 per square foot. On average, homeowners spend $11-$15 per square foot for stone veneers in general. There are many looks which can be accomplished with stone veneer, as the options for style and color are nearly endless. Veneers can look almost as natural as the real thing, and you can use strong, sturdy materials like concrete blocks or poured concrete for the core.
Aside from their aesthetic benefits, stone veneers are extremely durable and resistant to issues with pests and rot. They are low-maintenance and lightweight, making them much easier to install than full stone walls. In order to apply this material correctly, it is best to hire a landscape architect. Landscape architects typically charge $70-$150 per hour, or a percentage of your overall project budget.
Options for base:
  • Brick
  • Sheet metal
  • Wood
  • Concrete

Boulder/Rock - $8-$12 per sq. ft.

The lower cost per square foot of natural stone materials may be deceiving, as the labor rates associated with installing this material drive up your overall budget significantly. Natural stones like boulders and rocks are heavy and difficult to work with. Expect to pay a minimum of $25 per square foot for labor and materials. The hourly cost for building with dry stacking stones is $65/hr, compared to brick installation at only $15-$25/hr (see more on labor below).
Boulders and rocks are one of the greenest, most natural options. They aren’t the best material for controlling water, however. Many ways of constructing them allow for water to flow freely between stones.
  • Dry stone - Also known as dry stacking, this type of natural stone wall does not require mortar. Stones are stacked on top of one another in such a way that they are secure and will fix sloping or prevent slides. Space between stones makes water control difficult.
  • Limestone - This stone is light and creamy in color. It is lighter weight than many other stones, but is extremely strong and durable. Because it is a quarried stone, you can easily find it in uniform sizes. It is recommended to use stones of similar size for stability, and to only stack them up to three stones high.
  • Keystone - Keystone is a trusted brand which has been around for over 30 years. Their blocks involve a pin system, so they are easily stacked and very stable. They have many colors, designs, and build options, from blocks that can only be stacked up to two feet, to those designed for fifty-foot walls.
  • Sandstone - Sandstone comes in a great variety of colors and it isn’t difficult to find. It is composed of mostly sand and minerals. Though soft, this stone is durable and easy to work with. One of its only downsides is its vulnerability to moisture.

Gabion - $4-$40 per sq. ft.

This style is great in shifting environments, such as banks near the ocean. The structure can adapt and move with the soil as it shifts, rather than cracking or tumbling. This is because it is built using wire or wire mesh cages, which come at $30-$40 per cubic yard, and durable filler materials. Gabion retaining walls can be made with a variety of filler materials, from crushed concrete to stones or wood. Your cost will depend greatly on the type of filler you use. Otherwise, installation is relatively simple and affordable.

Brick - $14-$15 per sq. ft.

Brick is a reliable and long-lasting construction material. In a retaining wall, you can expect it to perform well and be very strong. It offers a great traditional aesthetic. Remember to factor in the costs of excess materials, like mortar, and extra man-hours. Building with brick demands expert and involved labor. Also, when designing your brick retaining wall, it is important to consider your options for drainage in order to ensure stability into the future.

Corten Steel/Metal - $3-$4 per sq. ft.

Metal, while it doesn’t typically call to mind a natural landscape, can make for a long-lasting and efficient retaining wall. Common materials include Corten Steel, steel and aluminum. These materials have many benefits, including their water resistance, their proven longevity, and their strength--though steel, of course, is much stronger than aluminum. Most of them can be found in both corrugated and plate form, for your taste and aesthetic.
  • Steel Plate - A plate of galvanized steel can run about $10 per panel, or $3 per square foot. Steel is not susceptible to pests and weather, and it will not rust. It is very low-maintenance, strong and, in galvanized form, lightweight. Also, with metal products, you aren’t limited by climate conditions.
  • Corten Steel (weathering steel) - About $2.50-$3 per sq. ft. Surface oxidizes to create a layer of rust, which defends the material from weather and erosion. Thin and “rustic.” Doesn’t require much maintenance and will last a long time.
  • Aluminum - Similar to steel at about $10 per panel. Commonly installed where water barrier is needed. Coated aluminum requires no maintenance and does not rust. Lighter weight than steel.

Earth/Chalk - $3-$27 per sq. ft.

Using earth or chalk materials is a natural and sustainable choice, but your cost can vary greatly depending on the style and material used. Typically, compressed earth blocks and “rammed earth” walls are made with chalk, earth, lime or gravel and are fortified with materials like clay and sand.
Compressed earth blocks are different from rammed earth walls in the way that concrete blocks are different from poured concrete. Rammed earth is created using a framework and forms a large slab that costs around $23-$27 per square foot. Compressed earth blocks are compressed individually and can come as low as $3-$7 per square foot, or $0.50-$1.00 per block.
Both forms are strong and low-maintenance. The material is inherently vulnerable to water damage, however, and must be waterproofed in order to ensure longevity. Homeowners can opt to include reinforcements, such as rebar, and a typical earthen retaining wall will include footings or a concrete slab for added stability. The most significant price factor involves labor.
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Cost to Install Types of Landscaping Walls

Building certain types of walls will be more cost-effective than others, overall. Blocks with interlocking or pin mechanisms take less time to form and fit together, while monolithic rammed earth slabs require more time and care.

Railroad Tie - $25 - $30 per sq. ft.

Installing railroad ties is often one of the easiest and most cost-effective choices. With material and labor, you are looking at $25-$30 per square foot. This is because they don’t demand much extra material or many tools. In fact, they are a common DIY project for homeowners.

Segmental/Interlocking – $15 - $30 per sq. ft.

Interlocking blocks are convenient for installation, saving time, equipment, and material costs. Material and labor averages $15-$30 per square foot. Some homeowners find that they are able to construct these walls all on their own, but it would still be wise to seek the guidance of a landscape architect.

Rammed Earth – $15 - $40 per sq. ft.

While the material estimate for rammed earth can be relatively low, labor rates can be significant. If you opt for the compressed earth blocks, the price for labor and materials will look more like that of concrete blocks at $15-$25 per square foot. With monolithic slabs of rammed earth, however, you could be looking at paying $30-$40 per square foot.


These types of retaining walls are constructed using concrete, timber or even plastic, The materials are arranged in such a way that they create cells, which are filled with stone for water passage. They do not require reinforcement, as they are a form of gravity wall which achieves stability through interlocking materials. The ease of installation, for Criblock materials, lowers labor costs.
Speak with a Contractor to Learn More

Labor Cost Estimate

Several different factors can drive up labor rates quickly. A wall of greater-than-average height can increase costs, and how easily the workers can access the project site will also impact the final labor quote. If a gate or fence must be taken apart or removed in order to bring materials to the site and perform the work, count on adding this time to the overall budget. In addition, labor may also be added if the dirt removed has to be disposed of somewhere other than the project property. Figure an average labor rate of $53 to $58 an hour, depending on your region.
MaterialAvg. Labor Cost Per Hour
Wood$15 - $75
Brick$60 - $90
Concrete Blocks$60 - $75
Dry Stacked Stone$60 - $80
Stone Veneer$30 - $75
Poured Concrete$60 - $80

Miscellaneous Costs

These prices include specific tools needed to perform certain work during construction or even additional materials to strengthen the wall itself. For example, soils with heavy clay content retain water much more than those low in clay. This extra water weight requires that some be constructed with additional materials, usually fabrics, that distribute the weight evenly to prevent failure. Reasonable miscellaneous costs run in the range of about a dollar per square foot.
Hire a Retaining Wall Installation Pro

Calculating Repair Costs

There are several issues common to retaining walls, and many of them are born of poor planning and construction. The estimate for repairing a wall is about $650, but you could pay as little as $150 and as much as $1,900. The faster you catch a problem, the lower your cost is likely to be. Keep an eye out for leaks, cracks and shifts.
A lack of soil testing can lead to detrimental missteps and extensive repairs. Footing that is too shallow and doesn’t reach below the frost line will be susceptible to changes in the soil. An underestimation of pressure, from wet soil or weight, will make it susceptible to tilting or even collapsing. Poor construction and cheap materials make for a weak and vulnerable structure that may need to be replaced entirely.
ProblemDamage to WallRepair
Poor ConstructionFailure
  • Excavate to add tiebacks
  • Rebuild
Too much weightLeans or falls
  • Thicken base or extend footings
  • Install anchors/tiebacks
Oversaturated SoilStresses
  • Create weep holes
  • Redirect water by regrading
  • Add drainage system
Poor foundation planningCracks or falls
  • Ticken base or extend footings
  • Regarde to lower height

Replacing an Existing Wall

Excavation and grading will play a large role in your cost if you need to completely replace the structure. If your current wall is made of poured concrete, for example, it is a lot more difficult to remove and will run you more in labor and equipment. The following are averages associated with each service necessary for replacement.
Concrete Demolition$4-$6/sq ft
Land Grading$0.50-$2/sq ft
Equipment$160 - $230
Materials$3-$40/sq ft
Labor$53-$58 per hour
Landscape Architect$70-$150 per hour
Drainage Installation$0.50/sq ft to $70/linear foot
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Pitfalls of Retaining Walls

Building a long-lasting retaining wall is vastly more complicated than simply piling up blocks and shoveling dirt. Moisture is its primary enemy, and if not properly mitigated, can lead to expensive failures. Cracks are also a common feature in walls that haven't been properly drained, due to the extra weight and temperature differences that come with moisture-soaked soils.
If it is going to be higher than average, professional help may be required. Some states require the use of an engineer during the design process if it exceeds a specific height. The overall height includes the portion that is buried in the dirt, known as the "key", which is vital to ensure the lower portion doesn't collapse and cause soil sliding. Be sure to check local building codes regarding vertical feet; if the intended wall requires hiring an engineer, count on your overall budget increasing.
Most projects don't deal with every factor that increases cost. On average, most only have two or three common factors which many contractors can easily work with.

Plan Well for Best Results

Retaining walls can be beautiful and capable, and if done well, will last for several decades. However, with so many factors during design and construction that can lead to a poor outcome, take the time necessary to decide the size that will best suit your need, as well as which acceptable materials will last the longest. Using professional contractors and engineers as needed will ensure the perfect end result and years of reliable use from the retaining wall.
Consult a Retaining Wall Pro Today
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