Back 40 Landscaping

Education Center

What Is A Retaining Wall?

August 27, 2021

Drive through any neighbourhood and you will see a variety of different retaining walls. You will see walls made out of many different materials like wood or concrete, standing walls, and walls that have fallen over. Some walls can drastically add to the look of a property, or instantly lessen the beauty of a landscape. The main purpose of a retaining wall is to retain the soil, however some walls are a focal point for homeowners that are looking to spruce up their yard.


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Retaining wall definition

The simple definition of a retaining wall is that it is a structure that holds, or retains soil behind it. Retaining walls are designed to restrain soil to a slope that it would not naturally keep to (typically a steep, almost vertical, or vertical slope). Areas that retaining walls are used in are areas where the landscape needs to be shaped severely, and engineered for a more specific purpose, like hillside farming, or roadway overpasses.



Sizes of retaining walls

Retaining walls can be built to suit whatever homeowners need and are looking for. Sizes range from small landscaped walls that surround a garden, pond, or elevated patio, to enormous soil-retaining projects.



There are many types of materials that can be used to build a retaining wall. These vary from concrete blocks, poured concrete, treated timbers, rocks and boulders. All of these materials can retain soil, but some will have a shorter lifespan than others. (Read  retaining walls wood vs. Allan block). Other than wood, concrete walls typically have a variety of colors and shapes that homeowners can choose from, allowing the wall to either blend in with the surrounding area, or act as a focal point to the space.


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Unfortunately, sometimes a property needs a retaining wall replaced, or put in to protect the soil in your yard, even though homeowners most likely want to spend their money on something more exciting! A small retaining wall can start at $5,000 and can go up to $100,000+ depending on what material is used, whether a wall needs to be engineered, and the length and height of the wall. For an in depth look at cost read How much does a Allan Block concrete retaining wall cost?


Pros of a retaining wall

When built correctly:

  • They prevent soil from eroding and coming into your yard
  • Keep surrounding structures safe from elements that could damage them
  • Prevent flooding in your landscape
  • Great decorative feature for any yard

Cons of a retaining wall

  • The wall can fail causing damage to property
  • Can be costly to redo the wall, causing a headache and possibly financial strain
  • If you have a wood retaining wall the lifespan of the wall is 10+ years, meaning eventually it will need to be replaced


Keep in mind that these cons are a possibility if the wall is not built correctly.


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Who needs a retaining wall?

If you have a dirt erosion problem in your landscape, and dirt is spilling over into your yard, you may need a retaining wall to act as a barrier to the soil.

If you have a failed wall that needs to be replaced.

If you have drainage problems in your landscape, retaining walls can help with drainage issues.

If you are wanting to add a low maintenance landscape addition that can be the focal point of your yard.

If you would like to have a raised patio or garden.


Retaining walls can help homeowners fix issues like soil erosion, and turn a regular backyard into an aesthetically pleasing space. If you are looking to have a wall put in on your property, make sure you know what type of wall you need, and what look you are going for, so that you can reap the benefits a well-built retaining wall gives you!






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Abbotsford, BC

Owners: Sam and Natasha Maerz

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