Introduction to Retaining Wall

Retaining walls serve both functional and aesthetic purposes in outdoor spaces.These constructions are intended to keep soil in place and prevent erosion while also adding visual appeal and delineating different regions of your environment.  Whether you have a sloping yard or simply want to enhance the look of your outdoor space, a retaining wall can be a cost-effective and creative solution. In this article, we will explore 10 inexpensive retaining wall ideas that can transform your outdoor space without breaking the bank.

10 Inexpensive Retaining Wall Ideas

Benefits of Adding a Retaining Wall to Your Outdoor Space

Before we dive into the various retaining wall ideas, let’s take a moment to understand the benefits of incorporating one into your outdoor space.

Prevent Soil Erosion

First and foremost, retaining walls help prevent soil erosion, especially in areas with steep slopes. By stabilizing the soil, these walls protect against the damaging effects of rainwater runoff and help maintain the integrity of your landscape.

Create Different Levels and Terraces

Additionally, retaining walls can create different levels and terraces in your outdoor space, providing opportunities for gardening, seating areas, or even a small pond. These walls can also act as a focal point, adding visual interest and enhancing the overall aesthetics of your landscape. Whether you have a small backyard or a sprawling garden, a well-designed retaining wall can make a significant impact.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Retaining Wall Design

A few critical elements must be considered while choosing a retaining wall design.

To begin, determine the height and length of the wall based on the necessities of your outdoor space. If you have a big slope or need to hold back a huge volume of soil, a taller and more sturdy wall may be required.

Another key factor to consider is the material you intend to utilize for your retaining wall. The material will influence not only the overall appearance of the wall, but also its longevity and maintenance requirements. Concrete blocks, natural stone, wood, and interlocking blocks are all common materials for retaining walls. Each material has its own distinct properties, so select one that matches your aesthetic tastes and budget.

Types of Materials for Retaining Walls

Concrete Blocks

Because of their cost and durability, concrete blocks are a popular choice for retaining walls. They come in a variety of sizes and forms, allowing for a wide range of patterns. Concrete blocks are simple to install and need little upkeep, making them an attractive option for frugal homeowners.

Natural Stone

If you’re looking for a more rustic and natural look, natural stone retaining walls are an excellent choice. Stones such as limestone, fieldstone, and granite can create a timeless and elegant aesthetic. While natural stone may be more expensive than other materials, it offers unmatched beauty and durability.


Retaining walls made of wood provide warmth and beauty to any outdoor space. They are frequently employed in more casual and rustic settings. However, to assure the wall’s lifespan, use rot-resistant wood, such as cedar or pressure-treated lumber. To prevent against weathering, wood retaining walls require frequent care, such as staining or painting.

Interlocking Blocks

Interlocking blocks are a versatile and cost-effective option for retaining walls. These blocks are designed to fit together like puzzle pieces, creating a sturdy and visually appealing structure. Interlocking blocks are available in various colors and textures, allowing for endless design possibilities.

10 Inexpensive Retaining Wall Ideas for Your Outdoor Space

Now that we have explored different materials for retaining walls, let’s delve into 10 inexpensive retaining wall ideas that can transform your outdoor space.

Gabion Walls

Gabion walls are made by filling wire cages with rocks or other solid materials. This unique and modern design creates a visually striking retaining wall while keeping costs low.

Tire Retaining Walls

Old tires can be repurposed to create an eco-friendly and budget-friendly retaining wall. Stack the tires and fill them with soil to create a unique and sustainable wall.

Pallet Walls

Pallets can be transformed into stylish and functional retaining walls. Simply secure the pallets together and fill them with soil or use them as planters for a vertical garden.

Railroad Tie Walls

Railroad ties are a durable and affordable option for retaining walls. These large wooden beams can be stacked together to create a sturdy and rustic wall.

Concrete Bag Walls

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, consider using concrete bags to build your retaining wall. Simply stack the bags and wet them to create a solid structure.

Terraced Gardens

Create a series of terraces using retaining walls to maximize the use of your outdoor space. This design not only adds visual interest but also allows for easier gardening and landscaping.

Recycled Brick Walls

Salvaged or recycled bricks can be used to create a charming and cost-effective retaining wall. The weathered look of the bricks adds character to your outdoor space.

Stacked Stone Walls

Utilize natural stones or rocks from your property to build a stacked stone retaining wall. This organic and rustic design creates a seamless blend with the surrounding landscape.

Vertical Gardens

Instead of a traditional retaining wall, consider a vertical garden made of hanging planters or modular vertical panels. This innovative design adds a unique touch to your outdoor space while maximizing greenery.

Living Walls

Create a living retaining wall by planting groundcover plants, vines, or even espaliered fruit trees. This green and sustainable design not only adds beauty but also helps stabilize the soil.

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Tools Required

  • Shovel: A shovel is an essential tool for excavating the area where you’ll be installing the retaining wall footing. It’s important to choose a sturdy shovel with a comfortable grip.
  • Wheelbarrow or Concrete Mixer: Depending on the size of your project, you may need a wheelbarrow or concrete mixer to mix the concrete. A concrete mixer is ideal for larger projects, while a wheelbarrow can work for smaller jobs.
  • Trowel: A trowel is used for smoothing and leveling the surface of the concrete. You’ll need a trowel with a comfortable grip and a flat surface.
  • Hand Tamper or Compactor: A hand tamper or compactor is used to compress the soil at the bottom of the trench to create a solid and level base for the footing. You can choose a manual hand tamper or rent a mechanical compactor for larger projects.
  • Level: A level is used to ensure that the formwork and concrete are level and straight. You can use a traditional bubble level or a digital level for more accuracy.
  • Measuring Tape: You’ll need a measuring tape to measure the length, width, and depth of the trench to ensure that it’s the correct size for the footing.
  • Hammer: A hammer is used to secure the formwork in place by driving stakes into the ground. You’ll need a sturdy hammer with a comfortable grip.
  • Saw or Circular Saw: If you’re building your own formwork, you’ll need a saw or circular saw to cut the wooden boards to the correct size.
  • Rebar or Wire Mesh: Rebar or wire mesh is used to reinforce the concrete and add stability to the footing. You’ll need pliers to cut and shape the rebar or wire mesh as needed.
  • Backfill Soil: Once the concrete has cured and the formwork has been removed, you’ll need backfill soil to fill in the trench around the concrete footing.
  • Safety gear:While installing a retaining wall footing, it’s important to prioritize your safety by wearing appropriate safety gear. You can take Safety Glasses, Work Gloves, Hard Hat, Dust Mask, Steel-Toed Boots, High-Visibility Vest, Knee Pads according your needs.

How Much They Cost

The price of a retaining wall varies greatly based on the materials used, the size of the wall, and any additional features or landscaping that are required. A retaining wall can cost anything from $10 to $40 per square foot on average. However, choosing low-cost materials and doing the installation yourself can help keep expenses down.

For example, a concrete block retaining wall may cost around $15 to $25 per square foot, while a natural stone wall can range from $25 to $40 per square foot. DIY options such as tire or pallet walls can be even more budget-friendly, as they often involve repurposing materials you already have or can easily obtain.

Retaining Wall Ideas

Maintenance Tips for Your Retaining Wall

To ensure the longevity and functionality of your retaining wall, regular maintenance is essential. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Inspect for damage: Regularly inspect your retaining wall for any signs of damage, such as cracks or bulging. Addressing these issues promptly can prevent further damage and costly repairs.
  • Clean and remove debris: Clear any debris, leaves, or dirt that may accumulate on the wall. This will help maintain the appearance and prevent potential water damage.
  • Check drainage: Ensure that the drainage system behind the retaining wall is functioning correctly. Poor drainage can lead to soil saturation and compromise the stability of the wall.
  • Reapply sealant (if applicable): If your retaining wall is made of materials that require sealant, such as wood or concrete, reapply the sealant as recommended by the manufacturer. This will protect against weathering and prolong the life of the wall.

How to Install Retaining Wall Footing in 13 Steps

Obtain a Building Permit

Before you begin installing your retaining wall footing, or building your retaining wall in general, check with your local government to see if a building permit is required.

Identify the size and position of the retaining wall.

Determine the size and height of the retaining wall and the site where it will be built.

Obtain a Building Permit

Trench Excavation

Make a trench around the retaining wall’s perimeter. When determining the depth of the trench, keep in mind that you’ll need 2-3 inches of depth for your gravel base. The depth should be deep enough to bury half of the first layer of blocks as well as the gravel base.

If your wall units are 4 inches high, the trench should be 5-7 inches deep.  

You should double the width of your blocks in terms of breadth.

Trench Excavation

Level and Compact the Foundation

To allow for optimum drainage and to assist reinforce the retaining wall footing, add a layer of sandy soil or gravel at least 12 inches deep.

Level the surface by passing over the gravel or sandy soil layer using a vibratory plate compactor or hand tamper.

Then, on top of the base, place a layer of geotextile cloth to prevent soil from filtering through the sandy soil or gravel.

Level and Compact the Foundation

Set up the Formwork

Set up the wooden or metal formwork for the concrete footing.

To Make a Concrete Formwork

Determine the dimensions, shape, and layout of the concrete footing you want to build, then gather all of the items you’ll need, such as plywood or timber boards, stakes, screws, nails, and a level.

Cut plywood or lumber boards to the size required by your strategy. To achieve smooth concrete surfaces, ensure that the boards are straight and devoid of physical faults.

Connect the boards with screws or nails to produce the appropriate shape for the formwork structure. To prevent the formwork from collapsing under the weight of the wet concrete, use stakes or braces to support it from the outside.

Make sure the formwork is level both horizontally and vertically by using a level.

Materials for Reinforcement

After you’ve built your formwork, insert steel bars or mesh to assist reinforce the concrete and improve the load-bearing capacity of the footing.

Coat the Formwork in Release Agent

Coat the inside walls of the formwork with a release agent to make removal of the formwork from the poured concrete easier.

While releasing agents are available at your local home improvement store, you can also use common household items as an alternative, such as vegetable or mineral oil.

Construct the Concrete Mix

Then, if you have ready-mix concrete bags, simply fill them with water.

To Make Your Own Concrete Mix

To make the concrete mix, combine cement, sand, water, and gravel. To measure, gather a wheelbarrow or mixing container, a shovel, and a bucket.  

Determine the optimum concrete mix ratio to get the desired, peanut butter-like consistency. The most frequent mix ratio for concrete is 1:2:3. This mixture is made up of one part cement, two parts sand, and three parts gravel.

Pour the cement, sand, and gravel into the wheelbarrow to begin mixing the concrete. Then, while stirring with a shovel, gradually add water to the dry mix. Use approximately.75 gallons of water for every 80-pound bag of cement. Using a shovel, thoroughly combine the dry components until they are uniformly distributed and uniform in color.

Fill a cone-shaped container with the concrete, compact it, and then remove the container to verify the consistency of the concrete. The concrete should droop somewhat but retain its overall shape.

Concrete Should be Leveled

Pour new concrete into the formwork and begin leveling the concrete surface.

Use a screed board to balance out the freshly poured concrete throughout the formwork to level it. Back and forth with the screed board, topping up low spots and removing any excess concrete as needed.

Allow Time for the Concrete to Cure

Allow the poured concrete to cure for at least one to two days after it has been completed.

During this time, keep the concrete moist by spraying it with water or covering it with a damp cloth on a frequent basis to prevent cracking.

Backfill the Trench With Dirt

Fill the trench with earth and compact it to form a sturdy foundation for the retaining wall.

Take Out the Formwork

Remove the formwork and continue with the rest of the retaining wall construction once the concrete has fully set.


Incorporating a retaining wall into your outdoor space can improve its functionality as well as its beauty. You can improve your landscape without breaking the budget by selecting a cheap and imaginative design. There are numerous possibilities to suit your style and budget, whether you choose concrete blocks, natural stone, or reused materials. When choosing the correct retaining wall design, keep in mind the specific needs of your outdoor space, such as soil erosion and slope. With regular care, your retaining wall will last for years, giving both functionality and beauty.

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