How To Choose Large Retaining Wall Blocks

Large retaining wall in backyard

Building a retaining wall on your property can be done a number of different ways.  Sometimes it makes sense to build a wall out of natural stone or poured concrete.  However, sometimes it make sense to use large retaining wall blocks. The first big benefit of using large retaing blocks is lower cost. The second, for some homeowners is the aesthetic is presents. What these blocks look like and how they interact with each other will help you decide which option is right for your retaining wall.  

Types Of Large Retaining Wall Blocks

First there’s the choice of what type of large retaining wall blocks to use.  In some parts of the country like much of Texas, you have access to limestone “butter blocks” which can be stacked to build retaining walls large and small.  These blocks are called butter blocks because they look like sticks of butter scaled up, approximately 2’ x 2’ x 5’ in size.  

butter block style large retaining wall blocks in hillside with trees behind and small green shrubs in front

Butter blocks are a great solution as they maintain the warmth of natural stone while providing a cost effective solution to large retaining walls.  However, in much of the country these are not available and other solutions must be found.

Versa-Lok Retaining Walls

One of the most common ways to build with large retaining wall blocks is to use precast systems like Versa-Lok Bronco Block.  These blocks go together like legos and can build tall walls without the use of geogrid tie back which is required in smaller block walls and other large block walls.  These blocks come in various sizes and the wall systems are pre-engineered so there’s very little work to do when selecting which wall block sizes are right for your application. 

The Versa-Lok wall systems are not inexpensive. Although, you can build a wall much faster than doing it yourself or hiring a retaining wall contractor. Therefore, you will have a labor reduction aspect of using a system like this.  However, the size of the blocks and the location of your wall may dictate the use of a crane. Therefore you must weigh the potential machine costs. This is an added cost factor when using a large block retaining wall system versus a smaller block retaining wall system.

Waste Concrete Retaining Walls

Another large block system to consider would be the use of waste concrete blocks for your retaining wall.  These are primarily used at industrial sites, farms and other places where the aesthetic aspect of a wall is not important.  These blocks are like butter blocks in that they are just big solid blocks, but unlike butter blocks, they are smooth concrete and there’s no disguising them.  

How Much Are Large Retaining Wall Blocks?

Large retaining wall blocks cost more than smaller or regular size blocks. Depending on specific size, you can pay between $75 to $125 per large retaining wall blocks. Prices vary by state and company by quite a bit. Consult a local supplier to you for the best possible price.

How Much Do Large Retaining Wall Blocks Weigh?

Large retaining wall blocks vary in weight mostly by the type of material that they’re made from. Generally speaking, large blocks can weigh anywhere from 500-1500 pounds each. These heavy weight blocks must be handled with extreme caution. If not, they can harm anyone or anything that they fall on.

Large Retaining Wall Blocks Summary

Whatever you do with your large retaining wall blocks and whichever type your project demands, creating a level area you always wanted will be worth the expense in almost all cases. The hard part is choosing exactly what to do and how to do it.  As with all retaining wall projects, always remember you need a structural engineer involved in some capacity. You may also need building permits. Make sure to find a qualified contractor. Look specifically for someone who knows what they are doing around large retaining wall blocks.  If they have never worked with them, make sure you understand there will be a learning curve. The project schedule will likely be affected by your contractor learning on the job.