How Much Does a Retaining Wall Cost to Build in 2024

Have you ever wondered about the cost implications of building a retaining wall? As someone who’s been there, I know it can be quite puzzling. It’s why I’ve spent countless hours uncovering important details including types of walls and materials, labor costs, location factors, and so forth.

This guide will navigate through every detail about the cost of constructing a retaining wall in 2023 – let’s dive right into your landscape transformation journey!

Key Takeaways

  • Retaining walls are beneficial for increasing curb appeal, managing water flow, and creating flat level ground from uneven landscapes.
  • The cost of building a retaining wall can be influenced by factors such as the size and height of the wall, the type of material used, location and accessibility, drainage and soil type considerations, labor and permit costs, as well as site preparation and material delivery requirements.
  • Different types of materials for retaining walls have varying costs and lifespans. Concrete is durable with a lifespan of 50 to 100 years. Gabion and stone walls are cost-effective options with prices ranging from $10 to $35 per square foot. Brick walls offer durability and aesthetic appeal. Wood or timber walls are affordable but may require additional reinforcements in certain situations. Steel or I-beam walls provide support for structures on hillside properties.
  • Proper planning and research are essential when considering the cost of building a retaining wall in order to create functional landscapes within budget constraints.

Understanding Retaining Walls

To understand the cost of building a retaining wall, it’s crucial to first grasp the purpose and types of retaining walls available.

Why Should You Consider a Retaining Wall?

Increasing curb appeal and managing water flow are two primary reasons to consider a retaining wall. Not only does it add a beautiful aesthetic element to your landscape, but it also provides a functional solution for sloping grounds.

Retaining walls stabilize soil slopes, reducing the risk of landslides and soil erosion especially in regions with heavy rainfall or flood-prone areas. For homeowners living on hilly terrain or looking to expand usable yard space, these structures play an integral role by creating flat level ground from uneven landscapes.

Opting for retaining walls can help you protect property value while enhancing outdoor living spaces within your home’s boundaries.

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Types of Retaining Walls: Timber, Concrete, Stone, and More

Let’s dive into the different types of retaining walls you can choose from for your project.

  1. Timber Retaining Walls: They are quite popular due to their natural aesthetics. Just remember that although they might be visually appealing, wooden retaining walls have an expected lifespan of up to 40 years.
  2. Concrete Retaining Walls: These are known for their durability and strength. Plus, with masonry retaining walls lasting from 50 to 100 years, you’re making a long-term investment.
  3. Stone Retaining Walls: A classic choice that blends well with almost any landscape design. You can opt for natural stone or interlocking retaining wall blocks which result in faster construction compared to hand-stacked stone.
  4. Gabion Retaining Walls: You’ll find these on the list as one of the cheapest retaining wall materials along with vinyl and wood.
  5. Steel or I-Beam Walls: For those who prefer more modern designs, steel or I-beam walls could be your go-to options.
  6. Rammed Earth Walls: If you’re looking for an eco-friendly approach, rammed earth walls utilize local soil compacted into a solid structure offering both stability and sustainability.

Factors Affecting the Cost of Building a Retaining Wall

The cost of building a retaining wall can be influenced by several factors, including the size and height of the wall, the type of material used, the location and accessibility of the site, drainage and soil type considerations, labor and permit costs, as well as site preparation and material delivery requirements.

Size and Height of the Wall

The size and height of your retaining wall directly influence the total cost. Building a larger wall demands a more robust foundation, which in turn pushes up expenditure. If you plan to construct walls over four feet tall or those that need to bear significant weight, engaging a structural engineer becomes necessary.

Similarly, permits typically required for walls exceeding three or four feet will add an extra expense ranging from $50 to $450. Finally, remember that the easier it is to access your construction site, the lower your labor costs will likely be since difficult-to-reach areas often require more manual effort.

Type of Material Used

The type of material used plays a significant role in determining the cost of building a retaining wall. There are various options available, including vinyl, steel, natural stone, and concrete blocks.

If affordability is a priority, vinyl may be the best option as it typically costs around $5 per square foot. However, if you’re looking for a more high-end and durable choice, steel and natural stone can be quite expensive at around $100 per square foot.

When deciding on the material to use for your retaining wall, consider factors such as aesthetics, durability, and functionality to ensure you make the right choice for your project.

Location and Accessibility

The location and accessibility of your retaining wall project can greatly impact its cost. If the site is difficult to reach or located in a remote area, transportation costs for materials and equipment may increase.

Furthermore, if the terrain is hilly or requires extensive excavation work, additional labor and machinery will be needed, leading to higher expenses. It’s important to consider these factors when planning your retaining wall project to ensure that you have accounted for any potential challenges that may affect the overall cost.


Drainage and Soil Type

Proper drainage is crucial for a retaining wall to effectively prevent soil erosion. The type of drainage used in the design will play a key role in keeping water from accumulating behind the wall, which can lead to structural issues.

It’s important to choose the right drainage system based on factors like soil permeability and site conditions. Similarly, when considering building a retaining wall, the type of soil on your property should be taken into account.

Different types of soil require different approaches when it comes to choosing the right materials and construction techniques for your retaining wall. Understanding your soil type is essential for ensuring proper stability and long-term functionality of the structure.

Labor and Permit Costs

Labor costs play a significant role in the overall cost of building a retaining wall. The labor expenses can range from $50 to $75 per hour or $10 to $50 per square foot. However, it is important to note that walls over 4 feet tall or those that need to support a substantial amount of weight may require the expertise of a structural engineer, which would add additional costs.

Additionally, permits are typically required for retaining walls taller than 3 or 4 feet, with permit costs varying between $50 and $450. Factors such as site accessibility can also impact labor costs, as difficult-to-reach areas may require more manual labor.

Site Preparation and Material Delivery

To build a retaining wall, proper site preparation is crucial. This involves excavating and leveling the land to create a solid foundation for the wall. It may also include clearing any obstacles or debris in the area.

Keep in mind that site preparation can add to the overall cost of building your retaining wall. Additionally, material delivery fees should be considered when calculating the total expenses.

Both factors are essential to ensure a successful and efficient construction process.

Detailed Breakdown of Retaining Wall Costs by Type

In this section, we will provide a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with different types of retaining walls, including concrete, gabion and stone, brick, wood or timber, steel and I-beam, and rammed earth walls.

Concrete Retaining Walls

Concrete retaining walls are a popular choice for their durability and strength. They can be built up to 6 feet in height without the need for mortar, making them a cost-effective option.

Concrete retaining walls can last anywhere from 50 to 100 years, providing long-term erosion prevention and slope stabilization. When constructing a concrete retaining wall, it is important to ensure that the concrete footer rests on 6 inches of gravel set below the frost line.

This provides stability and prevents shifting over time. The average cost of building a concrete retaining wall varies depending on factors such as location, labor costs, permit fees, soil type, shipping fees, and material choices specific to the region.

Gabion and Stone Walls

Gabion and stone walls are popular choices for retaining walls due to their versatility and cost-effectiveness. Unlike other types of walls, gabion and stone walls can be built without the need for mortar, making them a more affordable option.

These walls can typically be constructed to a height of 3 to 6 feet without mortar. The cost of building a gabion or stone retaining wall can vary depending on factors such as materials, size, installation method, and local regulations.

However, compared to other materials like concrete or brick, gabion and stone walls are considered cheaper options with prices ranging from $10 to $35 per square foot. In addition to being budget-friendly, these types of retaining walls can also have a lifespan of up to 100 years if properly maintained.

Brick Walls

Brick walls are a popular choice for building retaining walls due to their durability and aesthetic appeal. One advantage of using bricks is that they can be stacked without the need for mortar, allowing for faster construction.

Interlocking retaining wall blocks made of brick also provide stability and prevent soil erosion effectively. The use of brick walls in landscaping projects adds a touch of elegance to any outdoor space while providing efficient slope stabilization and erosion control.

So if you’re looking to build a retaining wall that is both functional and visually pleasing, consider using brick as your material of choice.

Wood or Timber Walls

Wood or timber walls are a popular choice for retaining walls due to their natural aesthetic appeal and cost-effectiveness. These walls are typically constructed using pressure-treated lumber or hardwood, which provides durability and resistance against rot and insect damage.

Wood or timber walls can be easily customized to fit any landscape design, making them a versatile option for homeowners.

One of the key advantages of wood or timber walls is their affordability compared to other types of retaining walls. They require less labor and materials, resulting in lower installation costs.

Additionally, wood or timber walls have a shorter construction time, allowing you to complete your project sooner.

However, it’s important to note that wood or timber walls may not be suitable for all situations. They may not be as strong as other types of retaining walls and may require additional reinforcements if you’re dealing with heavy loads or steep slopes.

Regular maintenance is also necessary to ensure the longevity of these walls.

Steel and I-Beam Walls

Steel and I-Beam walls are a popular choice for retaining walls, especially when it comes to supporting structures like decks or pools on hillside properties. These types of walls can be more expensive compared to other materials, with costs ranging from $15 to $150 per square foot.

One type of steel retaining wall called Cor-Ten steel is known for its durability and unique rusted appearance, and it typically costs between $35 and $135 per square foot. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance option, Cor-Ten steel may be worth considering as it requires little upkeep and can withstand various weather conditions.

Rammed Earth Walls

Rammed earth walls are a sustainable and cost-effective option for retaining walls. These walls can be built up to 6 feet tall without the need for mortar, making them an efficient choice for erosion control and slope stabilization.

Their construction involves compacting layers of soil between temporary formwork, creating a solid and durable structure. Rammed earth walls not only provide functional benefits but also add aesthetic appeal to outdoor spaces.

With their eco-friendly nature and long-lasting durability, rammed earth walls offer an attractive solution for those seeking environmentally-conscious options for their retaining wall projects.

Additional Costs to Consider When Building a Retaining Wall

In addition to the base cost of building a retaining wall, there are several additional factors that can increase the overall cost. These include seasonality and time of year, additional services, upgrades, and customizations, as well as reinforcements and additional dirt fill.

By understanding these extra costs, you can better plan for your retaining wall project. Keep reading to learn more about these considerations!

Seasonality and Time of Year

The cost of building a retaining wall can be influenced by the seasonality and time of year. During winter months, digging may become more challenging if the ground is frozen, which could result in additional labor costs.

In addition, contractors tend to be busier during peak construction seasons, leading to potential higher rates for their services. Site preparation can also be affected by seasonality, as snow clearing or dealing with wet and muddy conditions may require extra work and expenses.

Furthermore, the availability of materials can fluctuate depending on the time of year, potentially impacting overall costs. However, building a retaining wall during the off-season or slower months might offer cost savings since some contractors may provide discounts or lower rates at that time.

Additional Services, Upgrades, and Customizations

When building a retaining wall, there are additional services, upgrades, and customizations that you may want to consider. These can add to the overall cost but can also enhance the functionality and aesthetics of your wall.

Some additional services include waterproofing to prevent water damage, reinforcements for added strength, and extra dirt fill for better stability. Upgrades like decorative blocks or cap pavers can give your wall a more stylish look.

Customizations such as wall curves or different types of materials can make your retaining wall unique. Keep in mind that these additional options may vary in price depending on the size and complexity of your project.

Reinforcements and Additional Dirt Fill

Reinforcements, such as steel rebar, may be necessary for taller retaining walls exceeding 4 feet. These reinforcements add extra strength and stability to the wall, ensuring it can withstand pressure from the soil behind it.

However, keep in mind that incorporating reinforcements will result in additional costs for materials and labor. Additionally, during the construction of a retaining wall, you may find that additional dirt fill is needed to properly support and level the structure.

This means acquiring more soil to fill any voids or gaps and ensure proper compaction. Keep in mind that these extra expenses are important considerations when calculating the overall cost of your retaining wall project.

DIY vs. Hiring a Professional: Costs and Considerations

When deciding whether to tackle a retaining wall project yourself or hire a professional, it’s important to consider the costs and factors involved. DIY retaining walls can be an affordable option as they can be made without the use of mortar, using materials like retaining wall blocks.

This can save you money on labor costs. Additionally, if you choose wood or masonry blocks as your materials, these tend to be the cheapest options for building retaining walls.

On the other hand, hiring a professional has its advantages too. They have the expertise and experience to ensure that your retaining wall is built correctly and meets all safety requirements.

Hiring a professional also means that you don’t have to worry about obtaining permits or dealing with any potential complications during construction.

Ultimately, when considering DIY vs. hiring a professional for your retaining wall project, weigh the cost savings against your own skills and comfort level with construction projects.

If you’re confident in your abilities and willing to put in the time and effort, tackling it yourself could be a cost-effective choice. However, if you prefer peace of mind knowing that experts are handling the job from start to finish, hiring a professional may be worth the investment.

Tips to Save Money on Your Retaining Wall Project

  • Get multiple quotes to compare prices.
  • Consider using recycled materials for cost savings.
  • Negotiate installation costs with contractors.
  • Opt for DIY if you have the skills and time.
  • Minimize labor costs by choosing an accessible construction site.
  • Research local regulations to avoid unnecessary expenses.
  • Plan your project during off – seasons for potential discounts.


In conclusion, understanding the cost of building a retaining wall is essential for anyone considering this project in 2023. Factors such as wall size, material type, location, and labor costs all play a significant role in determining the overall expense.

By carefully considering these factors and exploring different types of retaining walls, homeowners can make informed decisions to create beautiful and functional landscapes that enhance their properties while staying within budget.

With proper planning and research, building a retaining wall can be a worthwhile investment that adds value to your home for years to come.


1. How much does it cost to install a retaining wall in 2023?

The cost of building a retaining wall in 2023 can vary depending on factors such as the materials used, the height and length of the wall, and any additional features or customization. On average, homeowners can expect to spend between $5,000 and $15,000 for a basic retaining wall.

2. What factors affect the cost of building a retaining wall?

Several factors can impact the cost of building a retaining wall. These include the materials chosen (such as concrete or stone), the size and complexity of the project, site accessibility, labor costs in your area, and any additional features like drainage systems or decorative elements.

3. Are there any ongoing maintenance costs associated with retaining walls?

There may be some ongoing maintenance costs associated with retaining walls depending on their materials and condition. For example, wooden retaining walls may require staining or sealing periodically to protect against moisture damage. It’s also important to regularly inspect for cracks or signs of erosion that may indicate potential issues.

4. Can I save money by building a DIY retaining wall?

While it is possible to save money by building your own retaining wall as a DIY project, it is important to consider your skill level and experience with construction projects. Building a sturdy and structurally sound retaining wall requires proper knowledge of excavation techniques, drainage considerations, and appropriate compacting methods. Hiring professional contractors ensures quality workmanship but comes at an added cost for labor expenses.

5. How much does a retaining wall add value to a property?

A retaining wall can significantly increase the value of a property. In fact, studies show that building one can add up to 15 percent to a home’s overall value. This means that if your home is worth $300,000, adding a retaining wall could potentially boost its value by $45,000.

That’s quite impressive! Not only does it enhance curb appeal and improve the aesthetic appeal of your landscape, but it also provides functional benefits like erosion prevention and slope stabilization.

So not only are you investing in your property’s value, but you’re also making it more attractive and structurally sound for potential buyers or future use.

6. What is the most cost-effective type of retaining wall?

When considering the cost of building a retaining wall, it’s important to find the most cost-effective option. Vinyl, gabion, and wood retaining walls are typically the cheapest types available, with prices ranging from $10 to $35 per square foot.

These materials provide an affordable solution while still offering durability and functionality. By choosing one of these options, you can save money on your project without compromising on quality.

7. How long do retaining walls typically last?

Retaining walls are designed to withstand the test of time, and on average, they can last anywhere between 50 to 100 years. The lifespan of a retaining wall depends on various factors such as the type of material used, quality of construction, maintenance efforts, and external forces like soil erosion and water pressure.

For example, concrete retaining walls are known for their durability and can last up to 75 years or more with proper care. On the other hand, timber walls may have a shorter lifespan of around 20 to 40 years.

It’s essential to choose high-quality materials and regularly inspect your retaining wall for any signs of damage or wear to ensure its longevity.


– Retaining walls typically last between 50 to 100 years.

– Lifespan depends on factors like material quality, construction techniques, maintenance efforts, soil erosion, and water pressure.

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