4 Limestone Retaining Wall Pros And Cons

limestone retaining wall in backyard with steps

Retaining walls are a great addition to a backyard for many reasons. They can be great for aesthetics, literally holding back the earth and even spotlight other features such as a swimming pool. Furthermore, there are many types of retaining walls to choose from. Some material types include powder-coated steel, corten steel and boulder retaining walls. In certain parts of the country, you will have the option of using limestone retaining wall blocks. 

Limestone Retaining Wall Styles

In Texas in particular, it’s common to use the limestone bedrock which is naturally occurring in much of the state.  The blocks are cut to size, and stacked like sticks of butter, leading to their nickname butter blocks. The picture above shows the buttek block limestone retaining wall.

Also these blocks are cut to smaller dimensions which are commonly used for stacked limestone veneer on houses and shorter retaining walls.  The smaller blocks are called ‘chop block’ because they are chopped to size using a guillotine. The picture below reflects the chop block limestone retaining wall.

chop block limestone retaining wall amongst mulch next to a backyard patio

Limestone Retaining Wall Pros

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Color Options
  • Versatility
limestone retaining wall and fences side by side

Limestone retaining walls can be a cost effective solution to create a beautiful natural stone retaining wall.  The Texas limestone comes in multiple shades of color. These usually are in the ranges of buff and browns, but sometimes you can find gray. Additionally, these blocks can be used for more than just retaining walls.  You can also use them to build fences (see picture above), and to create benches (see picture below) on your property. This versatility is very helpful when trying to maintain a common theme amongst fixtures in your backyard.

limestone retaining wall used as a bench for sitting next to orange and green plants

How To Build A Limestone Retaining Wall

To build any retaining wall, you first need to consider the footing.  In many cases, when designing a limestone retaining wall you will still need to pour a concrete footing to give the wall a solid base. You will need an engineer to design the retaining wall for you unless you are only building a 2’ or shorter retaining wall.  There are some cases where an engineer will allow you to build a limestone retaining wall without a poured concrete footing. Instead, they may let you use a compacted base of crushed stone.  Whatever your engineer designs, it’s important to follow the instructions to the letter.  

diagram showing how a limestone retaining wall is built

Once your wall is a few blocks high, usually you’ll need to use geogrid in the wall. Geogrid helps hold the soil behind the wall in place. It uses the soil to support the wall itself. With limestone retaining wall blocks you will have a drill and pin diagram provided by the engineer. That diagram will show you how to attach the geogrid to the wall blocks to create this detail.

How To Source Limestone Blocks

So where do you get limestone blocks for your retaining wall? Well, if you are in Texas, the answer is easy. You can simply ask the mason who will be building your retaining wall to buy them and have them delivered to your backyard. Or, you can go to just about any masonry supply house or stone yard and find them, or they can order them for you. 

If you don’t live in Texas, getting limestone for your retaining wall can be more challenging. However, you can still order Texas limestone for use in your retaining wall project.  It obviously will cost more than if your were in Texas due to paying for shipping. Companies like Whiz-Q-Stone in Fort Worth will gladly truck stone anywhere in the country.

Author’s Limestone Retaining Wall Anecdote

As a landscape designer, I thoroughly enjoyed having the freedom to use Limestone blocks for inexpensive retaining walls when designing projects in Texas.  In other parts of the country it would be more common to use products like Versa-Lok to build inexpensive retaining walls.  These precast concrete wall systems work great, but they aren’t natural stone.  The beauty of using natural stone is one of the main reasons you may want to consider a limestone retaining wall for your retaining wall project.