Most Common Retaining Wall Materials

Known for being versatile and functional, retaining walls add definition and aesthetic appeal to your property. They are a structural feature that supports and holds back a sloping patch of soil. When installed properly, it can serve as a barrier that prevents soil erosion.

In this article, we will discuss the types of retaining walls and some of the most commonly used retaining wall materials. Your choice of material will determine the project cost and the final look at your property.

Types of Retaining Walls

This type of hardscaping comes in a variety of designs. With their unique characteristics and applications, here are the most common types of retaining walls that you can install in your outdoor space:

  • Gravity Retaining Walls
  • Crib Retaining Walls
  • Reinforced Retaining Walls
  • Gabion Retaining Walls
  • Cantilever Retaining Walls
  • Counterfort Walls
  • Sheet Pile Retaining Walls

Common Retaining Wall Materials

Retaining walls are made from various materials and can range in height. There’s wood, poured concrete, brick, stone veneer, and more. With so many materials and options to choose from, it can be challenging to decide which is the best one. A professional landscaper can help you make the best decision depending on your budget and desired results.


This is one of the most popular retaining wall materials because it’s lightweight and inexpensive. Since wood can be cut and drilled easily, you can achieve custom designs that will make your outdoors stand out. It has a rustic and natural appearance and can be stained to match the color scheme of your landscape.

However, keep in mind that not all wood is the same quality. You need to be careful in selecting the type of wood for your retaining wall.

Pros of Wooden Retaining Walls

  • An attractive choice in natural yards and gardens
  • Easy to install and transport than concrete or stone
  • More cost-effective compared to other options
  • Blends into the landscape easily
  • Lightweight, which makes it easy to dismantle and reuse

Cons of Wooden Retaining Walls

  • Shorter lifespan compared to other materials
  • Susceptible to termites and wood rot
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Not recommended for areas within the heavy rainfall region

Poured Concrete

Poured or cast-in-situ concrete walls are the best for resisting the lateral pressure of the soil. It is constructed by pouring wet concrete directly into the forms on the site. The rigid wall is typically reinforced with a steel rebar frame to ensure strength and durability. Once the wet concrete has been set and cured for several days, the forms are removed. 

Known as a popular architectural option, they can be used for a variety of applications. It can be stamped, stained, or embossed to resemble other materials. If you want a modern-looking retaining wall, you can opt for poured concrete.

Pros of Poured Concrete Retaining Walls

  • Guaranteed strong and durable material
  • Has variety and can be shaped into any form and style
  • Can be used for taller retaining walls
  • Has a higher density than block concrete
  • Provides a consistent and sleek appearance

Cons of Poured Concrete Retaining Walls

  • Susceptible to cracks that can be difficult to patch
  • Requires structural support like steel rods and rebar to increase stability
  • Must be installed and built by a skilled professional
  • Not DIY and beginner-friendly

Natural Stone

Lastly, natural stone walls are made of materials like granite, limestone, or sandstone. The natural stone pieces can be placed on impacted soil or a layer of gravel. You have the option to create the retaining wall using small stone pieces or huge boulders. Just make sure to maintain them regularly, so the stones would remain tightly fitted together.

Pros of Natural Stone Retaining Walls

  • One of the oldest and the most reliable retaining wall materials
  • Can hold back a significant amount of weight
  • Uncut stones are inexpensive
  • Perfect for traditional rustic settings
  • Available in different textures and colors
  • Can last for years

Cons of Natural Stone Retaining Walls

  • Too heavy to assemble
  • Consumes time due to its weight
  • Pristine natural stones can be quite expensive

Schedule a Consultation Today

Retaining walls are great for adding visual interest and making your landscape more functional. If you need hardscaping and lawn care services, reach out to Midstate Landscaping. We offer snow removal, mulching, and complete landscaping in Carlisle, PA. Let’s help you create the outdoor oasis of your dreams!