4 Main Types of Retaining Wall Materials: A Comprehensive Guide

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In Tacoma, retaining walls play a critical role in landscaping, serving various important purposes like stopping soil erosion, expanding outdoor area, among others. Choosing the right material is key to achieving a successful project. This comprehensive guide delves into the various materials for retaining walls and their advantages, offering detailed advice to help you make a well-informed choice.<\/span>

Types of Retaining Wall Materials


Retaining walls built of wooden timbers add a natural charm to any landscape, perfect for smaller projects such as garden terraces, flower beds, or boundary walls. Wood is an inexpensive material suitable for retaining walls; however, pressure-treated wood must always be used to ensure a long life span and resistance against decay.

Advantages of Wood Retaining Walls

  • Natural Aesthetics: Wooden retaining walls blend seamlessly with natural surroundings, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.
  • Versatility: Wood is highly adaptable and can be used to create both straight and curved walls to fit various design requirements.
  • Cost-Effective: Wooden materials are generally more affordable compared to alternatives like concrete or stone.
  • DIY-Friendly: Building a wooden retaining wall is a suitable project for DIY enthusiasts, saving on labor costs.

Maintenance of Wood Retaining Walls

Maintaining wooden retaining walls is beneficial to ensure their longevity. Regular tasks for different retaining walls include:

  • Sealing: Apply a sealant or stain to protect the wood from moisture and UV damage.
  • Inspection: Periodically inspect the wood for signs of decay, insect infestations, or structural issues.
  • Cleaning: Remove debris and vegetation to prevent moisture retention.


Masonry retaining walls are built using materials like bricks, natural stone, or concrete blocks. The versatility of masonry construction allows for a wide range of design options, making them suitable for various architectural styles. Masonry walls are highly durable and work well for both small garden walls and large structural projects, providing both structural integrity and aesthetic appeal.

Advantages of Masonry Retaining Walls

  • Design Versatility: Masonry materials come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, allowing for diverse design options.
  • Strength and Durability: Masonry walls provide robust support, making them suitable for retaining large soil masses.
  • Aesthetics: Masonry materials, such as natural stone or decorative concrete blocks, contribute to the visual appeal of the landscape.
  • Longevity: Properly constructed masonry walls have a long lifespan and require minimal maintenance.

Maintenance of Masonry Retaining Walls

Maintaining masonry the brick retaining walls is relatively straightforward and typically involves:

  • Cleaning: Remove dirt, moss, and algae to preserve the appearance of the wall.
  • Repointing: Periodically inspect and repair mortar joints if they show deterioration.
  • Inspection: Regularly check for signs of structural issues, such as cracks or leaning.

Poured Concrete

Poured concrete retaining walls offer a clean and modern look to your landscape. They are highly durable and can be customized with various finishes, building materials, and colors, allowing you to achieve a sleek and polished appearance in contemporary outdoor spaces.

Advantages of Poured Concrete Retaining Walls

  • Durability: Poured concrete walls are exceptionally strong and long-lasting, capable of withstanding substantial soil pressure.
  • Design Flexibility: You can achieve a variety of textures and finishes, including smooth, stamped, or exposed aggregate surfaces.
  • Low Maintenance: Poured concrete requires minimal upkeep beyond occasional cleaning.
  • Suitability for Various Applications: Poured concrete is adaptable to both small garden walls and large structural retaining walls.

Maintenance of Poured Concrete Retaining Walls

Maintaining poured concrete retaining walls is relatively low maintenance but may involve:

  • Cleaning: Periodic cleaning to remove dirt and stains.
  • Sealing: The application of a sealer can help protect the surface and enhance its appearance.
  • Inspection: Regular inspection for cracks, bulging, or signs of deterioration.

Interlocking Concrete Blocks

Interlocking concrete blocks are versatile, easy to install, and provide creative design possibilities. They are available in various sizes and shapes, making them suitable for various applications, from small garden walls and planters to larger retaining walls with reinforced concrete throughout.

Advantages of Interlocking Concrete Block Retaining Walls

  • Ease of Installation: Interlocking blocks fit together like puzzle pieces, simplifying the installation process.
  • Versatility: They are suitable for various applications, from garden walls to larger structural retaining walls.
  • Cost-Effective: Interlocking concrete blocks are often more affordable than poured concrete or masonry.
  • DIY-Friendly: Many homeowners with basic DIY skills can undertake projects involving interlocking blocks.

Maintenance of Interlocking Concrete Block Retaining Walls

Maintaining interlocking concrete block retaining walls involves:

  • Cleaning: Remove dirt and debris from the blocks’ surfaces.
  • Inspection: Periodic checks for movement or settlement, especially in taller walls.
  • Re-leveling: If settling has occurred, blocks may need to be re-leveled to maintain wall integrity.

Can You DIY a Retaining Wall?

Many homeowners contemplate embarking on retaining wall projects as do-it-yourself (DIY) endeavors. While DIY types of retaining walls are often on a smaller scale and use materials like interlocking concrete blocks, it’s important to assess your skills and the scope of the project. DIY projects can be cost-effective and rewarding, but for larger or more complex designs, it’s advisable to seek an experienced hardscaper to ensure structural integrity and compliance with local regulations.

How Do You Maintain a Retaining Wall?

Proper maintenance helps to ensure the longevity and functionality of your retaining wall, regardless of the chosen material. Maintenance tasks may include inspecting for damage, cleaning, and addressing drainage issues. The frequency of maintenance depends on the wall materials being used and the local climate. Regular upkeep will help your retaining wall stay in optimal condition for years.

Additional Types of Retaining Wall Materials

In addition to the four primary materials discussed, there are several other options worth considering for your retaining wall project. Let’s explore some of these alternatives:

Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Natural stone retaining walls seamlessly blend aesthetics with durability. They offer timeless beauty and can enhance the overall look of your landscape. Different types of natural stone brick walls, such as limestone, sandstone, and granite, provide various colors and textures to choose from.

Gabion Retaining Walls

Gabion retaining walls are concrete walls constructed using wire cages filled with rocks. They provide a modern and industrial look to your landscape. The rocks used can vary in size and color, allowing for customization.

Decide Which Retaining Wall Material Is Right For You?

Selecting the right material for your retaining wall is a pivotal decision that influences both the functionality and aesthetics of your landscape. Whether you opt for wood, masonry, poured concrete, or interlocking concrete blocks, each material has its unique characteristics and suitability for different applications. Consider your project’s specific requirements, budget, and design preferences when making your choice.

For expert guidance and assistance in creating the perfect retaining wall for your landscape, contact SMB Retaining Walls in Tacoma, WA, at 253-544-3066. Our skilled hardscaping team is ready to turn your retaining wall vision into a stunning reality.

FAQs – Types of Retaining Wall Materials

What is the best retaining wall material for my project?

The best retaining wall material depends on your specific project requirements. Wood is cost-effective and a natural option, while interlocking blocks is practical and provides more durability. Poured concrete provides a sleek and modern look.

Can I use concrete block walls for smaller projects?

Concrete block walls are versatile and can be used for various applications, from small garden walls to more substantial structural support. They offer an affordable and DIY-friendly solution.

How can I create curves in my retaining wall design?

Curved retaining walls can be achieved by using materials like masonry, poured concrete, or interlocking concrete blocks. 

How can retaining walls help control erosion in outdoor spaces?

Retaining walls provide effective erosion control measures by preventing soil from washing away during heavy rains or storms. Proper design and material selection ensure the wall can manage soil pressure and protect against erosion.

Can I undertake DIY retaining wall projects with these materials?

DIY retaining wall projects are possible, particularly with materials like interlocking concrete blocks or wood. However, the feasibility depends on your skills, the scale of the project, and local regulations. Consider an experienced hardscape company for larger or more complex projects.