If you’re someone who has uneven ground outside of your home that is prone to eroding, you’ve probably already thought of a few retaining wall ideas. A well-built retaining wall can help keep the soil on one side of the wall while allowing for a lower floor level on the opposite side. Traditionally, most retaining wall ideas used concrete, and this gave them a very industrial look. However, this has evolved over time, and it’s not usual to see a host of different materials take center stage when you’re thinking of retaining wall ideas.
Most retaining walls serve a very practical purpose, but this doesn’t mean they have to be plain and boring. If you’re considering putting up a retaining wall, you’ll want to weigh all of your options first. Doing so will ensure that you get a fantastic look with the retaining wall idea that suits your wants and needs the best. With this in mind, we invite you to take a look at our top retaining wall ideas for inspiration.
1. Wooden Fencing
A sturdy wooden fence is generally a very cost-effective retaining wall idea when it comes to building a brand new one or replacing the old. If your budget is a concern, you should consider this option. You will want to get timber fence panels that look neat and tidy while being cost-effective when you compare them to concrete. This option will lend a uniform look to your landscaping, and it can blend in wonderfully if you put a light coat of stain on it.
However, your fence construction has to be very robust and reinforced to support the weight of this retaining wall idea. Fences also usually have a shorter lifespan than concrete, especially if you’re talking about a wooden fence. So, you might have to replace it more frequently. If this doesn’t bother you, this retaining wall idea will give you a chic look and feel that can last for years.
Not only does flagstone work wonderfully for your walkway edging, but it also works for this retaining wall idea. You’ll end up with a sturdy wall of irregularly shaped and sized pieces. The natural flagstones used in this project give the wall a very durable and rugged look, and it’ll bring your retaining wall to the dominant focal point of the landscape. It will lack uniformity, and this is nice if you’re looking for a more earthy look.
However, in spite of this, it’ll still give your landscape a stylish and modern appeal. The color of the flagstone is a key factor for achieving all of these different looks and feels. The sheer size of your flagstone rocks is also very impressive. While you may believe that you can take on this retaining wall idea on your own, it’s best to contact a professional for help. The last thing you want to do is get hurt trying to maneuver these flagstone rocks into the correct position.
3. Integrate Steps
If you decide to incorporate steps into your retaining wall idea, this will give the illusion that the wall is in your yard as part of your overall design rather than necessity. Decorative steps allow you to seamlessly move from one level to another in your yard without having to deal with a steep drop, and they add visual interest to a space that would ordinarily be very bland and plain.
You will have to plan for this early with your retaining wall idea because the stairs must start higher than the wall itself and move downward. You can have the staircase lead to a path that wanders through your garden or the rest of your yard to keep people off the grass too. The stairs also join the two levels as one, and it’ll make the contrast between one level and the other seem less harsh.
4. Create a Patchwork Stone Design
There is no hard and fast rule that says your retaining wall idea has to use only one stone color, but a lot of people tend to get stuck on this aspect. If you select at least two different colors for your wall, you can create a fun patchwork pattern that looks warmer than straight grey stone. You can use more than one color to make a haphazard pattern too, and this will make your design aesthetic feel more comfortable and relaxed.
Also, you should try to incorporate slightly rounded edges on the bricks because this will help give anyone who sees it a warm and cozy impression. More angular blocks would have a very harsh look to them that can go well with a contemporary or industrial design style. Trying to match the style of your home to your retaining wall idea will give the whole landscape a feeling of continuity.
5. Multicolor Mosaic Pattern
To get a mosaic pattern with your retaining wall idea, you’ll get a host of natural stone pebbles in several colors, shapes, and sizes. If you can get pastel shades, they can convey a quirky and fun feeling without going overboard and being too bold. This is a great thing to consider for your landscape design if you want to bring a splash of color to the space but you don’t have the time to bring in bright flowers to make it more visually appealing.
If you have a large drop between levels, you can incorporate built-in steps to your retaining wall idea. These steps should feature the same stone colors, sizes, and shapes to give it a continuous look. It can also work to help blend the wall’s features into the surrounding landscape to create excellent continuity from point A to point B. You will want a professional to help you with this to ensure it turns out picture-perfect.
6.Gabion Wall Design
Gabion walls were once a very popular retaining wall idea on military bases or in civil engineering, but now their popularity is spreading out to homeowners who want to build edges or walls around their property. At their core, this wall is a wire cage that you fill with stones or brick. You’ll have to decide which size cage you want when you pick out the size of your chosen stones.
For example, if you get larger stones, you can get away with a looser weave on the wire. If you have smaller pebbles or stones, you’ll need a much tighter weave to contain them. They have a cool and edge look to them, and they can introduce an industrial style element to your landscape. This retaining wall idea is rather large compared to other options, so make sure you have a bigger space for it to stand out. It’ll make a smaller yard look and feel too cramped.
7. Tiered Wall
Instead of putting up one large wall, this retaining wall idea plays off the idea of having multiple shorter, tiered walls. Having it come up from a block terrace and using the same type of stones and design style throughout can give you an excellent continuity look and feel. You can stagger the retaining wall so it looks softer and more in tune with the surrounding landscape.
Also, having a tiered retaining wall idea gives you ample room along each tier to plant flowers, low shrubs, or grasses. Their root structure can help hold the soil in place right with the wall too. You can also fill in each level with solar lights, bright mulch, or decorative stone. Since this is a more complex and time-consuming project to take on, you’ll usually end up paying a contractor more to complete it. Also, you’ll need a hill for this to work and create a staggered wall.
8. Sandstone Wall
Sandstone is very popular in rock gardens because it has a very warm look to it due to the soft brown coloring, and this is exactly what makes it a great retaining wall idea. Stacking it in a consistent block pattern can help you create the perfect balance between history or heritage and modern design. It can give you an old-world luxury feel in your landscaping, but it doesn’t quite tip the scale at fussy or pretentious. However, there is a slightly higher price tag attached to sandstone.
If you want to create a large retaining wall idea, you will have to put a lot more into your budget to complete it. You’ll need to estimate how many bricks high you’ll need, then you’ll have to price out a frame structure to hold the sandstone in place. However, sandstone cna last for decades. So, if you don’t mind paying a little more upfront, this could be a solid investment to consider.
9. Concrete Cylinders
If you’re good at working with concrete, this retaining wall idea could be right up your alley. You can cleverly use cylindrical concrete palisades in this wall to give yourself a very industrial and modern look and feel that resonates out into your landscape. It works very well if you have a minimalist home with a contemporary design on them. You do have to make each cylinder one by one, so this can be a time-consuming process to take on by yourself.
You could also use this retaining wall idea with a more mainstream property, and the beauty lies in the simplicity. It’s a straightforward retaining wall that doesn’t need a key feature or focal point for it to look good. It works well as a plain background to your landscape, and the cylinders can be as tall, thick, and large as you like. They do get buried deep in the ground, and this makes them a solid wall that won’t budge with bad weather.
10. Tiered Hedges
Unlike a traditional stone retaining wall idea, this one has a slightly different take on it. It does use gabions in the design, so you will need a larger yard to pull it off. But, if you can, it creates a wall that blends seamlessly into your landscape. Between each tier of gabions, you’ll get neatly trimmed hedges. Boxwood is an excellent choice because you can easily shape them to match with the wall while providing a pop of green with texture.
So, you have to leave enough space between each gabion tier to grow a thick hedge. If you don’t keep it trimmed and pruned, it’ll look messy and unruly. Also, you can’t let the hedges grow too tall because they’ll ruin your design. Try to use very pale or dark pebbles in the gabion wall to have them contrast sharply with the hedge’s bright green coloring. Rock with a medium color wouldn’t provide as much contrast.
11. Low Block Wall
Anyone who doesn’t need a huge wall can take a look at this retaining wall idea. A lower wall opens up many more design possibilities and the materials that you could use to build your wall. One option is to create a low wall using breeze blocks. These are better known as concrete masonry units. As a bonus, you could lay them on your own without any professional-grade help, and they’re inexpensive to purchase. Since the industrial style is making a comeback, this wall fits right in.
You will need to measure the area to figure out how tall to make your breeze blocks. You can make them different lengths for this retaining wall idea, but shorter blocks will require you to take more time to create more blocks to get to the edge of the wall. You won’t have to worry about any embellishments or designs in the concrete. Instead, you let the wall’s simplicity think for itself.
12. Living Wall
To create this living wall, this retaining wall idea incorporates concrete slabs set in a brickwork pattern. Alone, this is already a very strong feature for this wall. However, one of the more interesting elements of this wall is the larger gaps you leave between the concrete. These gaps are where you fill in your plants to create a fun living wall. If you’re someone who loves greenery and plants, this is the perfect design for you.
Additionally, the greenery and plants soften up the look of the wall to help it blend in with your landscape better. You’ll have to have a professional come in and build this retaining wall idea. But, if you’re passionate about gardening, you can fill in the gaps all on your own with your favorite plants. As the plants grow and spread, they can take over the entire wall to create a solid green wall.
13. Stacks of Boulders
Given that most retaining wall ideas are only a few feet high, you could potentially pull this one off by yourself without having a professional come out and build it for you. This makes it one of the most affordable ideas on the whole list. You will have to source a lot of boulders for this project, but you can usually get these from garden centers. If there are construction crews working around you, ask and see if they have any boulders they’d give you.
You create this retaining wall idea by carefully stacking up rocks to your desired height. Try to fill in any gaps with the appropriate sized boulders. To make the wall more long-lasting and robust, get concrete or builders sand and put it between each boulder layer. Make sure there aren’t huge gaps or dead spaces, and try to make it as uniform at the top as possible.
14. Cladding the Wall
Installing stone veneer on your house is very popular, but it’s also a fun retaining wall idea. You can use a concrete wall and clad it to give the illusion that you have stacked natural stone. Cladding your retaining wall is a fantastic way to get the look you want at a fraction of the cost than you’d have if you used the real thing. You’ll quickly find that cladding comes in a huge range of styles, and you can match your cladding to fit whatever your design for the landscape happens to be.
If you’re someone who already has a concrete retaining wall around your property, you can boost your curb appeal and give them a fresh new look by adding cladding. It’s a cost-effective way for you to avoid tearing down your current retaining walls and putting new ones up.
15. Paint and Render
If you render your wall, you’ll get a very crisp and sleek look for your landscape design, and this is especially true if you paint it pure white. You’ll find this retaining wall idea used a lot in Spain and other Mediterranean countries, and it’s also popular in the southern area of the United States. A rendered retaining wall can lend a touch of the tropics to your yard and landscape design.
However, you shouldn’t let this discourage you from going bold and painting your wall another color. This retaining wall idea allows you to use more neutral tones to blend the wall into the landscape or bright to make it stand out. Remember that you will need to work to maintain any painted walls you have, including putting a new coat of paint on the wall every two years. This can help keep your wall looking neat and fresh.
16. Camouflage Walls
Maybe you’re someone who fell in love with a retaining wall idea years ago, had it installed, but you’re not as in love with the look now. You don’t want to have to tear it out and start from scratch because this can be very expensive. Instead, you can improve the look without actually doing much to the wall itself. Also, this technique can actually help draw attention away from the wall.
All you have to do is get large decorative plants like hostas or shrubs. Also, consider getting climbing plants and encouraging them to go up and over the wall to cover it. This retaining wall idea uses plants, vines, and shrubs to hide an older retaining wall. Plant them along the base of the wall. If you have gaps in the wall itself, you can stick smaller plants in these spaces too.
17. Create Flower Beds
If you bring your retaining wall idea to life, you’ll quickly realize that one side of the wall is much higher than the other one. Go to the highest level on the wall and fill it with rich garden soil. You can mix compost in too and amend the soil as needed until it’s the right environment for the plants you want to add. Go back to the highest level and fill it in with a huge range of showy flowers. This will create the illusion that this was a deliberate design choice rather than a necessary one.
This retaining wall idea uses brightly colored flowers to distract the eye from looking directly at the retaining wall itself. This allows you to freshen up the look and feel of your area without having to tear down your wall and put another one up. Adding trailing plants and vines is another nice choice because they can grow and drape down the side of the wall, and this can add a romantic look.
18. Lighted Walls
Even though you have a very real reason for coming up with a retaining wall idea, this doesn’t mean that it necessarily has to be unsightly. You could choose to set up a cement block wall in a very uniform but attractive pattern. Along the top of the wall, you can set up solar lights to draw attention once dusk comes along. However, keep in mind that they work best in an area that gets full sunlight for several hours a day to charge the lights.
When they light up your retaining wall idea, you’ll understand that they’re a very inexpensive way to add some interest and personality to your outdoor landscape. Installing a retaining wall is the perfect time to bring them out. They won’t need any maintenance to run, they cost nothing in electricity, and you can space them along the whole top of your retaining wall.
19. Traditional Brick Look
If you’re someone who is looking at retaining wall ideas but you’re also on a very strict budget, you don’t have to sacrifice aesthetics and quality for price. Many people forget about the durability and subtle charm of brick, but they can make a stunning retaining wall. Building your wall using standard brick will give you a very uniform, tidy, and traditional look. Also, brick costs considerably less than using natural stone, in both material and labor costs.
Brick is easy to work with when you use them in retaining wall ideas, and you can create gentle curves or straight lines along your landscape. If you’re very competent and a high-level DIY-type person, you can try to tackle this project on your own. If you’re successful, you’ll save a significant portion of your budget. You will need to put mortar or cement between each layer of brick to hold them into place.
20. Decorative Blocks
It’s possible to make a retaining wall idea look like something futuristic using simple concrete blocks. This particular design uses precise measurements with a repeating pattern to create an eye-catching look that is both visually-appealing and textured. The fact that this idea has such a repetitive design means that it makes a gorgeous backdrop for the rest of your landscape design.
You can use this retaining wall idea for both small and large yards without a problem, and it gives you spaces to add vine plants and climbers if you want to liven up areas of the wall. However, since this design is so complicated, you will most likely end up hiring a professional company to come in and do it for you. So, you have to budget for this when you add up your materials.
These 20 retaining wall ideas allow you to have fun when you build your retaining walls. You can take a look and see which one will work best in your yard and with your landscape design. What works wonderfully for some people may not work as well for others. So, take a look, make your choice, and build a retaining wall in your yard to prevent erosion while adding visual appeal and texture.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.