Retaining walls serve many purposes – they hold in soil, prevent erosion from rainfall and shifting land over time, add layers and dimensions to your landscape, and provide level surfaces above that you can use for a patio, firepit, or garden shed. They’re incredibly esthetically pleasing and add to your resale value.
The most common types of retaining walls are made from stone or poured concrete blocks, although wood options are also available.
|What you can expect|
|Range per square foot:||$23.58||$32.29|
|Range for this type of project:||$7,074||$9,688|
Retaining Wall Cost
Cost of residential-grade, dry-stack stone interlocking block will, averaging 1.25 blocks per SF of wall facing, up to 3' height. Rate is inclusive of local delivery, as well as standard excess for perfect installation and occasional repairs.
Retaining Wall Labor, Basic
Labor cost, under typical conditions, for complete installation. Preparation will begin with excavation up to 1' below grade, then gravel base will be set and compacted, and filter fabric installed between wall and soil. Interlocking dry-fit blocks will be stacked up to 8 courses high, including cap blocks. Estimate is for non-structural wall up to 3' above grade. Rate is inclusive of all aspects of the project, such as thorough planning, acquisition of equipment and material, preparation and protection of project site, and meticulous cleanup.
Retaining Wall Job Supplies
Requisite supplies for the job, including cutting and grinding materials, mortar, and reinforcement.
Retaining Wall Equipment Allowance
Daily rental of specialty equipment that maximizes the quality and efficiency of the work. These include a 115V wet masonry saw, 5-cubic-foot mortar box, and small plate compactor. Consumable equipment elements not included.
|cost to install a retaining wall|
|National Avg. Materials Cost per square foot||$14.42|
|National Avg. Cost (labor and materials) for 300 square foot||$8,246.34|
|National Cost Range (labor and materials) for 300 square foot||$6,960.25 - $9,532.44|
Think of a retaining wall as the landscaping version of a condo building – you can do much more with the same footprint if you build in layers than if you only use the ground level.
With a wide range of styles and finishing options available, you can personalize your retaining wall to suit the character and vibe of your property, whether that’s modern and slick or low-key and natural.
In addition to making your space more practical, retaining walls serve another functional purpose – ensuring that your land stays stable over time. This helps the area resist erosion and loss of material that could potentially impact the structures on your property, like your home or patio.
Retaining wall costs are quoted per square foot. More minor expenses included in the overall price include materials and labor. Generally, you can expect to pay $23.20 to $31.77 per square foot — but complex projects could cost more.
Take a look at this handy table for the average retaining wall installation costs per square foot:
|Square Feet||Average Cost||Lowest Cost||Highest Cost|
When estimating the total cost for your retaining wall installation, it’s essential to consider the materials you want because they’ll account for about half of the total cost. Specific sizes of retaining walls will require more robust materials, so while the visual appeal is essential, it’s not the only factor that will impact your cost. Below, we’ll walk through the most common materials so you can understand the average prices.
Cinder block is the most cost-effective option for shorter retaining walls, averaging $10 to $12 per square foot for material. Cinder blocks can be painted to provide a more attractive finish, so don’t be deterred if you think you’ll be stuck with a dull gray wall.
Interlocking concrete blocks are poured and reinforced to create retaining walls, and as long as they’re installed correctly, these sturdy blocks will last for decades. Rebar loops and hooks are cast into the blocks to add even more hardwearing durability. You’ll find interlocking concrete block walls for $20 to $30 per square foot.
Wood timbers blend perfectly with a more natural design, and if they’re treated before installation, they can weather well and last for many years before needing to be replaced.
Wood timbers can hold a surprising amount of weight and volume; depending on your location, lumber pricing costs between $15 and $25 per square foot.
Poured concrete differs from concrete blocks in that it’s formed and poured on-site rather than pre-cast and delivered in blocks.
Poured concrete takes more labor hours and specialized skills, making it the most expensive option. You can expect to pay between $30 and $40 per square foot for this, but it’s also excellent for durability and strength, so it’s worthwhile to consider for intricate or large spaces.
Aggregate and gabion are similar options, and both involve using stones to create a solid and durable retaining wall.
Aggregate uses smaller gravel combined with soil and compacted, creating a compressed retaining wall that blends well with a natural environment.
Gabion is similar but uses larger stones within a metal mesh to create the proper size and shape. Both aggregate and gabion cost between $20 to $25 per square foot.
While materials factor heavily into the cost of your retaining wall installation, there are a few other vital factors to consider so that you’re not surprised when you get quotes.
How deep the foundation needs to be and the type of material that needs to be excavated are important factors. Dense clay will take more time and cost more than peaty, light soil, and likely need backfill to create optimal drainage.
The available access to your build site is also something to consider. Excavating machinery is heavy and requires large areas to access and maneuver inside. Costs mount up quickly if your machine operators need to create access roads and temporary bridges.
Once the costs are considered, it’s time to consider your design and finishing options. Creating more intricate designs with curves, steps, and decorative options will increase costs, as you may need to pay a designer on top of the extra labor time.
Small retaining wall installations are relatively simple for an experienced DIY-er to tackle, but for the most part, this type of project is best left to the pros for a few compelling reasons.
If you have relevant construction experience, taking on the installation of a retaining wall on your property could be the right move. For people who are short on time or don’t feel like taking on a large project, consider calling in the pros to take care of most, if not all, of your retaining wall.
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