Your Ultimate Guide to Retaining Wall Designs

Your Ultimate Guide to Retaining Wall DesignsRetaining walls add a lot of value to a home or commercial space. They add beautiful texture that creates visual interest and a sense of balance with your landscaping’s soft greenery and flowers. And retaining walls offer a practical advantage too — they prevent soil erosion and direct rainwater flow safely away from your property.

Structural vs. Landscaping Walls

As you consider what you want in a retaining wall, remember there are essentially two main reasons to build a wall on your property:

For appearance

Hardscaping features can create stunning visual appeal. Masonry adds vibrancy, luxuriousness, and elegance to your landscaping. Many homeowners and business owners invest in walls to create a look that is attractive to guests.

For structural purposes

Some properties are prone to soil erosion due to issues with rainfall run-off or a sloping landscape. In these cases, a retaining wall protects the property from damage due to excess moisture, soil collapse, and landslides.

To help identify what you need, ask yourself:

  • Do I want a wall simply to add elegance to my landscaping?
  • Do I need a wall because my soil will erode if I don’t have a wall?
  • Does it matter if the retaining wall looks beautiful as well as holds soil in place? Or do I want something functional, even if it isn’t fancy?
  • What type of material do I want? Do I prefer stone? Brick? How about a decorative concrete retaining wall?

Designs for Structural Retaining Walls

After you’ve considered your needs and preferences, it’s time to think about design. There are four common types of retaining wall designs that may be fitting for your home or business.

1. Gravity Retaining Wall

The gravity retaining wall is a simple design that works by using its weight to prevent soil from moving.

Simple solution

Works well when a simple retaining wall is all you need

Variety of looks

Can accommodate the use of many materials, including brick, pavers, and dry-stacked (un-mortared) stone

Good for short walls

Short gravity walls (up to 10 feet in height) are usually massive enough to stand on their own. But tall gravity walls may need extra reinforcement such as a concrete footer to add stability.

2. Cantilevered Retaining Wall

A cantilevered wall is reinforced with steel bars running through its concrete or masonry. In addition, this type of wall is attached to a slab foundation that extends under the soil. This gives the wall, including the base underneath the soil, an L shape that aids in keeping the wall in place.

Added strength

Especially useful in situations where soil may be more likely to push against the wall, such as highly sloped properties

Good for tall walls

Holds up well at heights of up to 25 feet tall

Can be pre-made

Can be cast ahead of time in a factory or constructed on-site

Sheet Piling Retaining Wall

This simple style of retaining wall consists of a thin layer of steel, wood, or vinyl that is placed directly into the soil.

Good for small spaces

If space is an issue, a sheet piling wall is a good solution because it is thin rather than massive.

Only works in certain soils

These walls are effective in softer soils. The wall must be able to go one-third in the ground for every two-thirds above ground, which means the soil must be able to give to accept the wall’s depth.

May need anchoring

The taller and larger the sheet piling retaining wall is, the more likely it is to require an anchor to hold it in place.

Anchored Retaining Wall

This type of wall is exactly what it sounds like — it is anchored in the soil with cables to help keep it in place.

Can be used for many types of walls

Allows you some leeway to add extra strength to any type of retaining wall you choose to install

Handy for special situations

Especially helpful in situations where the wall is thin, or when you expect your wall to experience a higher amount of soil pressure that it’ll need to resist

The Right Materials to Polish Your Design

Once you settle on a retaining wall design, you can begin to consider the materials with which the wall will be built. There are several building blocks you can choose, including:


Concrete retaining walls are practical for both home and business properties. Concrete is non-toxic, easy to install, easy to care for, comes in a variety of color and decorative stamping motifs, and is durable. It works nicely with many styles of architecture.


This popular building material is versatile, classic in appearance, and durable. Because it is heavy, brick requires attention to detail to be installed properly. And it can cost more than other materials.


Wood offers a warm, natural feel that many people appreciate. It’s lightweight, easy to install, and blends well with landscaping features. But it is susceptible to moisture, rot, and pests. And because it is lightweight, it only works for short walls that resist light loads.

Retaining Walls Built to Last, Designed to Please

At R&M Concrete, our team of concrete pros love crafting concrete retaining walls that look attractive and perform superbly, so you enjoy the best of both worlds — beauty and strength — from your retaining walls. We’ll consult with you in person, assess your needs, and give you a beautiful, strong retaining wall design that you’re proud of.

Learn about our concrete retaining wall services for both homeowners and business owners. Contact us today to receive a free estimate and get started on ensuring your property performs at its best and retains its value over time.