25 Wonderful Retaining Wall Ideas
Here is a big secret- your retaining wall doesn’t have to be another boring structure. It can be aesthetically pleasing and also more functional than simply retaining soil. If done right, a retaining wall can serve as a focal point and create or expand an existing usable garden space.
So you are on the right page if you don’t want to build another boring or ugly retaining wall. We are about to share 25 wonderful garden retaining wall ideas. Some of these ideas will focus on the building material and design of the retaining wall. Others will focus on adding extra features, thus, utility to your retaining wall.
We must warn you. Many of these ideas can put a dent in your wallet. That’s why we have included at least five cheap retaining wall ideas. We have also included money-saving tips in some of the more expensive ones.
More importantly, none of these ideas will make the retaining wall less effective at doing its primary job of retaining soil or water. On the contrary, the resulting retaining wall will retain soil effectively while adding utility, aesthetics and financial value to your garden and entire property.
So let’s dive in.
Sleeper retaining wall
The easiest way to build a unique and aesthetically pleasing retaining wall is to choose a building material that is unique and aesthetically pleasing. Hopefully, you will agree that vertical sleepers fit that description perfectly. The only issue is height. You can’t build a tall retaining wall because of the length of the vertical sleepers.
To create a stable and strong retaining wall with vertical sleepers, about one-third of the total length of the vertical should be underground. You can also add variety by playing with the sizes/lengths of the vertical sleepers.
At the end of the project, you will have a classy and interesting sleeper retaining wall and a newly-created usable space. We will soon share some ideas on what you can do with the latter. However, the summary is that you can use it as a living or planting space.
King post retaining wall
Here is another way to create a unique and edgy retaining wall. If you don’t know what king posts are, they are steel posts, often galvanised or covered in concrete to reduce corrosion. They make an interesting-looking retaining wall and can last for decades.
When using king posts, ensure that one-third of each pole is embedded into the ground. In fact, this is a rule for creating a strong retaining wall with poles, piles and columns.
Use king posts that are encased in concrete, galvanised or painted with resin-based paint. This will reduce the risk of corrosion, which harms the ecosystem of a garden. Plants, water, soil, animals and even humans can be affected.
Wooden retaining wall
Wood is always a great choice of building material, especially when it comes to garden structures. It fits right in. Plus, a wooden retaining wall is more affordable than its concrete and natural stone counterparts. It can be even cheaper if you repurpose old or leftover wood supplies from another project.
However, do remember that wood can’t compete with natural stone or concrete when it comes to strength and durability. Whatever you do, ensure that the building material is strong enough to handle the weight of the retained soil and, thus, ensure a stable retaining wall.
Timber is the way to go. It has great aesthetics, strength and durability. Pressure-treated wood is also a good option, arguably a more durable one. Another option is to coat timber in wood preservatives. However, the last two options could introduce chemicals into your garden space, posing a risk to your garden’s ecosystem.
Finally, this retaining wall idea allows you to take the DIY approach. With just a little experience, the right guide and some tools, you can build a wooden retaining wall yourself.
Brick retaining wall
Brick is never out of style. It is also much more durable, heat-resistant and easier to maintain than concrete blocks. So, consider a brick retaining wall, especially if you want to build a fire pit in the area.
That reminds us – a fire pit is also a great garden retaining wall idea. You can build it using a retaining wall and make it a focal point for a hangout space. Brick is a perfect building material for this feature.
Above all, a brick retaining wall is an excellent option if you want something durable and naturalistic.
Natural stone retaining wall
What has an even more natural and classier aesthetics than bricks? Obviously, the answer is natural stone. Admittedly, this is an expensive option, but few building materials offer anything close to the same aesthetic, class and durability.
A natural stone retaining wall could be a great addition to your garden, or any garden for that matter. There’s a wide range of materials to choose from, such as limestone, granite, marble, basalt, flagstone, etc.
And if you are up for something a little more playful and edgy, try out the next two garden retaining wall ideas.
Patchwork and mosaic
This may not appeal to everyone, but a retaining wall with patchwork or mosaic design could be the star attraction of any garden. You can play with colours, patterns and textures to stunning effect. You can be intentional or random with the effect. The options are unlimited, and so is the appeal.
Irregular-shaped and -sized stones
In the last retaining wall idea, we suggested playing with the colour and pattern of the stones. This time around, we think you should play with the size and shape of the stones.
However, even though the principles behind this and the last retaining ideas are similar, the effects aren’t. You can argue that this idea has more class, maturity and universal appeal.
Rock and boulder retaining wall
Here are four reasons to consider building a retaining rock with rocks. It is naturalistic, durable, cost-effective and possesses good drainage qualities. What’s not to like? In fact, we could replace that third reason with “extremely cheap”, depending on your location.
Instead of simply stacking the rocks together, you can apply adhesives or mortar to improve stability.
Gabion basket retaining wall
Now this list of garden retaining wall ideas is getting even more interesting. A gabion basket retaining wall is as cool and edgy as they come. It is stylish, durable and has good drainage qualities.
The gabion baskets are made with galvanised wires. To build a retaining wall, you tie the baskets together to create a frame and then fill them with stones. You can also use bricks, concrete or wood as filling. However, for the best result, use angular rocks.
Retaining wall patio
You can do a lot with the usable space created by the retaining wall. In this garden retaining wall idea, we suggest installing a patio. Patios are an excellent place to hang out and enjoy quality time with your loved ones. As a friend said, “every garden deserves a patio or at least some kind of living area”.
However, if you already have a patio in your garden, you can use a retaining wall to expand or reinforce it. Then once the retaining wall patio is installed, take the all-important extra step of bringing in furniture, lighting and other features.
Retaining wall walkway or driveway
Here is another structure that you can use retaining walls to create, expand or reinforce. In a garden, a walkway is more likely than a driveway but you get the idea. The principle is the same. It is simple too.
All you have to do is build a retaining wall along the length and breadth of the walkway or driveway, just as you would have done with the retaining wall patio.
Low-block retaining wall
If you want to reduce installation cost and landscape steepness, a low-block retaining wall is a perfect answer. The installation requires relatively less material, time and technical expertise. Therefore, it is low-cost.
After installation, the structure reduces the occurrence of steep slopes, especially when combined with the next garden retaining wall idea.
Multi-Tiered retaining wall (AKA tiered or multi-level retaining wall)
The taller a retaining wall is, the less structurally stable it becomes. The threshold will vary depending on the retaining wall type, material and design. However, a shorter retaining wall is arguably more secure. This is where a multi-tiered retaining wall comes in.
When dealing with any situation that requires a tall retaining wall (such as a steep slope), it is better to use multiple layers of shorter walls. The resulting walls will be much more stable. The aesthetics will improve too. You will also have more tiers of reclaimed, usable space to work with.
A multi-tiered retaining wall is a win on many levels (pun intended). However, the installation will take up more money, time and expertise than a single-tier retaining wall. Finally, you need to separate each tier by at least twice the height of the lower wall.
Retaining wall plants
Cascading plants are the easiest way to integrate greenery into a retaining wall. And when you integrate greenery into a garden structure, it fits in even more with the rest of the garden.
Just sow the cascading plants behind or on the top of the retaining wall. Then train them to grow down the height of the retaining wall. You can also sow in planters hanging on the wall.
Cascading plants performing well in this role include trailing lobelias, creeping thyme, climbing strawberry and coral drift rose. However, there are a lot more options out there. Just remember to choose a plant that you can manage.
Retaining wall flower beds
You may have already thought about this garden retaining wall idea, especially when reading the last one. But here it is anyway. It is very easy and common to build flower beds with retaining walls. It is a great idea too. Just build a flower bed along the length of the retaining wall, then plant to your heart’s content.
Curved or irregular-shaped retaining wall
Who says you have to build a straight retaining wall? The point of this article is to explore exciting garden retaining wall ideas. An easy way to achieve this is by playing with the shape of the wall itself.
It will increase installation costs because the project will need more materials, time and technical know-how. However, the effect can be stunning and dramatic, even more so with our next idea.
A retaining wall that accentuates the natural shape of your garden
This particular garden retaining wall idea is brilliant because it could improve aesthetics while saving costs at the same time. Because it tries to highlight and accentuate the natural curves of the garden, there is less need for excavation. The resulting structure will also be unique.
Retaining wall stairs
You will need this to access the different tiers of space in a sloped garden. However, even if you don’t need them for accessibility reasons, stairs are still a great idea. You can install them for aesthetic reasons alone. So you may want to consider integrating stairs into your retaining wall.
Coloured and imprinted concrete offer good aesthetics at low costs. They are created by adding pigmentation or markings to the concrete, respectively. They both cost more than regular concrete. However, the additional cost is negligible compared to the improved aesthetics.
Precast concrete piles
This is another interesting way to build a concrete retaining wall. The process is similar to that of a king post or sleeper retaining wall. If you remember correctly, those are the first two garden retaining wall ideas on this list.
Like earlier, you must bury one-third of (the height) of each pile to ensure a solid structure. You can also install a concrete base to increase stability.
Cheap garden retaining wall ideas
Most of the retaining wall ideas on this list cost a lot of money. Good things cost money but you can still do a lot without emptying your bank account. So, here are 5 retaining wall ideas that are way more affordable than the first 20.
A minimalistic retaining wall
Who said simplicity and minimalism aren’t fascinating? You just need the right design and building materials. Options include timber, repurposed wood, brick, concrete, and recycled plastic.
At the very least, the project will be much more affordable. You can even decide to build the retaining wall yourself.
Painted retaining wall
Painting is another excellent, affordable and easy way to improve aesthetics. Just paint the retaining wall in any colour of your choice. However, pick a colour that will contrast and complement the rest of the garden.
You can also choose a paint type that will protect the building material. For example, resin-based paint can improve the aesthetics and lifespan of a steel retaining wall.
Retaining wall mural
You don’t even have to hire a professional to execute this idea. You can do it yourself and have the kids help out. In fact, you can turn it into a fun family project.
Murals are a pretty affordable way to improve the aesthetics of a retaining wall or any surface.
Retaining wall seats
If you want to build a living space in your garden without spending too much money, wall seats are the answer. The wall serves as the backrest, while a smaller platform extends forward to serve as the seat. Then you can cover the seat with a comfortable material like a pillow or cushion.
Finally, you can bring other furniture and features to turn the space into a full-blown sitting area.
Camouflaged retaining wall
Another way to get away with an ugly or boring retaining wall is to cover it up. Most people use plants but anything will work. If using plants, go with shrubs, flowers and other ornamental plants. Just arrange the objects in front of the retaining wall.
As stated in the introduction, a retaining wall doesn’t have to be just another functional and boring structure. As a matter of fact, you can build it for aesthetic value alone. So before you start building, consider the ideas discussed in this article and learn more about the types of retaining walls.
Above all, try to build a retaining wall that will complement the rest of your garden and the entire property.