Metal Retaining Wall: Pros, Cons, Price and How To Build

Metal retaining wall holding back dirt and plants from concrete steps

There are numerous types of retaining walls out there to solve your grade change.  When seeking out a modern solution however, the playing field gets smaller and smaller.  Yes, a raw concrete wall, or rough hewn lumber board formed concrete wall is a sleek and modern solution.  But what if you don’t want to take up the space for a concrete wall, or the expense?  Maybe you want to be able to custom color your retaining wall using any paint color under the sun?  If this is the case a metal retaining wall is for you.

Metal Retaining Wall Advantages

We’ve written about metal retaining walls before, corten steel retaining walls in particular.  But you don’t have to use corten steel if you don’t want the rusted metal look.  You can always opt for painted or powder-coated steel instead.  Painted steel is not as durable as powder coating.  The powder coating process is more expensive, but it provides an extra barrier of protection for the wall itself.  It’s a good idea to ask your fabricator for the price difference between painting and powder coating so you can make an educated buying choice.

Metal Retaining Wall Disadvantages

Whenever you are working with painted or powder-coated steel, you have to consider what will happen when it gets scratched.  Just like your car, a steel retaining wall will rust when the protective paint coating is removed.  So you need to be cautious when working in and around your planting beds near the retaining wall.  For this reason alone you may want to reconsider a corten steel retaining wall to meet your needs.

Metal Retaining Wall Next To Walkway And Flower Bed

How To Get Started: Wall Color Decision

However, if you still want to go forward with a painted or powder-coated metal retaining wall, there are some great options you still need to choose.  One is what color do you make the wall itself?  Commonly people will use black or dark gray, but there really is no limit to the choice. You will probably want to avoid lighter colors like white and light gray just because they will show the smallest amount of dirt or pollen, but then again, maybe that’s exactly what your project needs. The beauty of a painted metal retaining wall is you can use whatever color suits your house, landscape, or whim.  

How To Build A Metal Retaining Wall

To fabricate your wall, you will need an experienced welder.  If you’re building a wall taller than 2’ you will want to hire a structural engineer.  The engineer will design the reinforcement system to be welded together as a part of the wall.  Usually metal retaining walls are prefabricated in a metal workers shop, then brought out to the construction site and placed.  Other times when the wall is taller or too large for prefabrication the welding will take place on site.

Metal Retaining Wall In Courtyard

How Much Does A Metal Retaining Wall Cost?

In some parts of the country, like Texas for example, there are so many experienced welders that the cost of a metal retaining wall can be less than many other options, such as a boulder retaining wall.  However, you are always at the mercy of commodity prices in addition to labor prices.  At times the price of the raw material, steel, can be exceedingly expensive and will push the price of the wall over that of most other wall types.

Metal Retaining Wall Alongside House And Driveway

Summary

If you like the look of a metal retaining wall and it works in your landscape design it’s worth looking into. Always get multiple prices for the wall system as pricing from one welder to another can vary greatly. These prices fluctuate depending on how busy the welders are and what kind of work they have in their backlog.