4 Best Inexpensive Retaining Wall Ideas

small inexpensive concrete retaining wall in backyard

Your sloping yard will not be able to be leveled using the traditional methods. You’ve come to the conclusion you need to build a retaining wall.  But what kind of retaining wall will you choose?  There are the obvious choices but what about budget?  What are some inexpensive retaining wall ideas?  In this article we will discuss some of the more cost effective methods of building retaining walls, what to watch out for in a contractor building them, and how to make them look their best.

4 Best Inexpensive Retaining Walls

Luckily, even if you want an inexpensive retaining wall, there are multiple options. In fact, there are four types of material that can affordably be used to construct a retaining wall. These include pressure treated wood, waste concrete, oversized precast concrete and modular precast concrete.

Pressure Treated Wood Inexpensive Retaining Wall Ideas

First, there’s one of the most common inexpensive retaining wall ideas, pressure treated wood.  These walls will either be built out of 6×6’s or 4×4’s and will be secured using spikes every 8 inches or so.  There are limitations to this type of wall. You need to be prepared to have a maximum wall height of 2’ or so. You may be able to exceed that, but don’t do it without having a structural engineer tell you exactly what to do. 

Pressure treated wood walls can easily fail if you don’t construct them properly, including crushed stone backfill and drainage.  Keep an eye on your contractor and make sure they are using enough spikes in each row.  It’s not uncommon for them to get tired of banging in the spikes, and spread them out more than they should be.  

Waste Concrete Inexpensive Retaining Wall Ideas

waste concrete inexpensive retaining wall ideas in large backyard

Next there’s the waste concrete block retaining walls.  These are made at concrete plants from old concrete, that is concrete that has sat on the truck too long and can no longer be used structurally in a house foundation or patio slab.  However, they make great retaining blocks. Just be aware, they are not beautiful. They’re often only used on industrial sites, temporary shoring of commercial construction areas, and other locations where aesthetic concerns are minimal.  

If you are not going to see the wall at all, waste concrete blocks can be an effective solution. These ugly yet sturdy walls may be the perfect inexpensive retaining wall idea for you.  Just make sure your contractor is building a footing pad of crushed stone prior to placing the waste concrete blocks.  These walls cannot be built very tall without risking over-topping.  Like all walls, once you get past the first couple of feet, it’s a good idea to consult an engineer, or ask the concrete plant for their standard engineering details on their concrete blocks.

Oversized Precast Concrete Inexpensive Retaining Wall Ideas

Next there are the oversized precast concrete blocks.  These are great for building large retaining walls. You’ll often see them used on highway projects, large commercial big box store parking lots, and mixed use developments.  They can also work well on your residential site if the project requires a large wall and you don’t want to pay for a poured concrete wall system.  One of the best companies in this space is Versa-Lok.

Oversized Precast Concrete Inexpensive Retaining Wall Ideas In Sloped And Circular Backyard

Versa-Lok makes a number of different block sizes and styles and can achieve tall walls using their in-house engineering details.  Like all manufactured wall systems, you must follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions and the instructions of their engineering team if you want a successful build.  These types of walls should not be attempted by a homeowner. In fact, you may need a crane to set each block depending on the size, location, and specific wall system you choose.

Modular Precast Concrete Inexpensive Retaining Wall Ideas

Next there’s modular precast concrete blocks.  These are made by companies like Ideal, Belgard, Techo-Bloc, Pavestone, and more.  There is a huge variation in cost within each manufacturer.  These are one of the most commonly used methods of building a retaining wall.  Make sure your contractor is using the proper engineering details if your wall is taller than 2’. 

There are requirements for geo-grid to prevent overtopping, as well as a batter requirement for how to set the blocks on one another.  Like all walls they need to be backfilled properly, and are generally backfilled as you build them. Precast concrete blocks make one of the best inexpensive retaining wall ideas.

Inexpensive Retaining Walls Summary

Now you are familiar with several inexpensive retaining wall ideas. Depending on your aesthetic preference, you can choose wood or concrete materials. It’s best to consult a retaining wall contractor rather than build it yourself. Retaining walls can be planned to accommodate any budget. If you don’t like these inexpensive retaining wall ideas and have access to large rocks, consider a boulder retaining wall.