How Much Does a Retaining Wall Cost in 2022?

The national price range for building a retaining wall is $3,565 to $9,645, with most homeowners paying an average cost of $6,000.

Retaining walls can prevent erosion, make sloped or uneven terrain functional, and provide aesthetic benefits to your landscape. Expect a retaining wall to cost between $3,565 and $9,645, with an average cost of $6,000. A smaller, modest retaining wall can cost $1,215, while some larger projects can cost up to $12,345.

Keep in mind that the final project cost is subject to the size of the wall (length and height), labor costs, and the material the wall is made of. 

This cost guide covers:

Average costs for retaining walls in 2022

National average cost$6,000
Typical price range$3,565 – $9,645
Extreme low-end cost$1,215
Extreme high-end cost$12,345

Homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $3,565 to $9,645 nationally to install a standard retaining wall, with a low cost of $1,215 for smaller walls and a high cost of $12,345 for taller or longer walls.

To save money on a retaining wall, you can:

  • Reduce the height of the wall
  • Choose low-cost materials such as gabion, vinyl, wood, or interlocking concrete
  • Build a shorter wall

If money is no object for your project, there are a few customization options, such as adding a flower bed, adding landscape lighting, installing a mural, or adding an outdoor kitchen (the most expensive option), that you can use to improve the aesthetics of your landscape.

Retaining wall cost estimator by project size

The cost of a retaining wall ranges from $40 to $345 per linear foot. This pricing varies so widely because it depends on the height, length, and width of your project. The larger the wall, the higher the material and labor costs will be.

Typical wall sizes and associated costs, including labor, are shown in the table below.

Length of retaining wallTypical cost range (2 feet – 6 feet tall)
10 feet$400 – $3,450
15 feet $600 – $5,175
20 feet$800 – $6,900
25 feet $1,000 – $8,625
30 feet $1,200 – $10,350
50 feet $2,000 – $17,250
100 feet$4,000 – $34,500

Retaining wall cost by material

Aside from size, construction material is the most influential factor in determining the cost of a retaining wall. The most common material types are listed below, along with their costs, including labor.

Material Average cost per square foot
Vinyl$10 – $15
Concrete$20 – $55
Railroad ties$20 – $25
Timber$15 – $30
Brick$20 – $40
Rammed earth$20 – $25
Gabion$10 – $55
Stone$15 – $95
I-Beam$35 – $120
Steel$15 – $150

Vinyl

Vinyl is one of the more affordable, functional retaining wall materials. It’s lightweight and compact, making it a smart choice for modest walls that don’t need to support a lot of weight. It costs $10 to $15 per square foot.

Concrete

Concrete retaining walls cost between $20 and $55 per square foot. They come in several varieties, including:

  • Poured and precast concrete are the most expensive in this category.
  • Shotcrete is low-priced and easy to install.
  • Cement concrete is inexpensive, although it is not as sturdy as concrete.
  • Concrete blocks are made from poured concrete but require some reinforcement to support a lot of weight.

Railroad ties

Railroad ties range in cost from $20 to $25 per square foot. Although not commonly used because of their toxic coating, railroad ties can still be a good choice for building a stepped wall (but not beyond four feet).

Timber

Wooden retaining walls are one of the most economical options homeowners use to reshape a sloping site. They are easy to install and can last up to two decades if they have a waterproof coating. On average, they cost between $15 and $30 per square foot.

Brick

Brick retaining walls cost an average of $20 to $40 per square foot. They come in a variety of colors and can be used to build taller, tier-like walls as well as dry-stacked, mortared, or reinforced walls.

Rammed earth

Rammed earth walls are environmentally friendly and can be used as an alternative to brick and concrete because they have almost the same strength. They cost between $20 and $25 per square foot.

Gabion

For retaining walls made of gabions, you should budget between $10 and $55 per square foot. Gabion walls are found on lakeshores and steep slopes to prevent erosion. They are affordable, low-maintenance, and do not require a concrete foundation, but they are not very attractive.

Stone

Stone retaining walls range in price from $15 to $95 per square foot, depending on the type of stone used.

  • Granite and limestone are strong options with different designs, but granite remains the cheapest in this category.
  • Stone veneer is a solid option for foundation cladding that provides strength and decoration while reducing cost.
  • Natural stone adds a beautiful look to the wall but can be expensive.
  • Stack stone walls are known for their durability. They can be built in a variety of ways, using flat stones, boulders, stone veneers, and other materials. Because stack stone are so versatile, you can use them to build larger, taller, and more creative walls. 

I-Beam

I-Beam retaining walls rank among the most expensive options. They are best for supporting large structures such as patios, decks, pools, and structures that sit on top of a hill. The price per square foot for an I-Beam wall ranges from $35 to $120.

Steel

Steel retaining walls are an excellent choice if you need something even more durable. Their price starts at $65 and goes up to $150 per square foot, depending on the type of steel.

  • Sheet-piling walls are suitable for holding the ground along shorelines.
  • Corten steel is durable and requires little maintenance.

Other factors that affect cost

Many other factors of your unique project will affect the cost of building a retaining wall. It’s important to take them into account when calculating a cost estimate. The factors include:

Labor

Labor cost plays a major role in the construction of a retaining wall. Depending on the materials used and the project’s complexity, labor costs can range from $15 to $40 per square foot, with most contractors charging between $50 and $75 per hour.

Backfill

In certain circumstances, it may be necessary to fill in more soil to install a retaining wall on your property. The cost to backfill a yard with soil ranges from $15 to $50 per yard and $150 to $600 per truckload.

Waterproofing

Retaining walls last longer if they’re waterproofed. The cost to waterproof a retaining wall ranges from $2 to $10 per square foot.

Drainage

Drainage is just as important as waterproofing in extending the lifespan of retaining walls and preventing the need for expensive repairs. 

For walls that don’t have functioning drainage systems, structural engineers charge between $80 and $120 for excavation to correct the problem. If excavation doesn’t remedy the problem, demolition would be the next course of action, and that costs between $15 and $30 per foot.

Site preparation

Before installing the retaining wall, certain onsite preparations must be made. Preliminary work includes land clearing, which costs $500 to $1,000 per acre or up to $1,500 to $3,000 per acre for difficult terrain. 

Tree removal typically costs between $385 and $1,070 per tree, while land grading can cost about $0.40 to $2 per square foot.

Reinforcement

Reinforcement drives up labor costs. Additional reinforcement is usually required for a concrete retaining wall, especially if the wall is 4 feet high. In most cases, structural engineers use rebar for lateral support. The cost of installing rebar ranges from $1.50 to $2.50 per square foot.

Permits

Permits are required to build walls taller than 4 feet and, in some areas, 3 feet. Depending on the region, such a permit costs, on average, between $40 and $335.

Customizations

Customizations can further enhance your landscape and the newly constructed wall. There are several options, from building a fence or patio for added height and privacy to planting flower beds on top. You can also decorate the wall with murals or install landscape lighting.

In the table below, you’ll find an overview of the costs involved with common add-ons to retaining walls. 

CustomizationAverage added cost
Flower beds$1,000 – $3,000
Landscape lights$2,000 – $5,810
Fencing$2,000 – $4,500
Patio$1,500 – $5,550
Outdoor kitchen$6,035 – $14,835
Painted mural$1,515 – $3,250

Location

The pricing of retaining walls can also be affected by the location of the wall and the amount of reinforcement required for each location. See the table below for popular locations for retaining walls and the corresponding costs.

LocationCost per square foot 
Swimming pool$1,000 – $3,000
Driveway$35 – $130
Garden$30 – $150
Front yard$30 – $200
Backyard$40 – $465
Slope$40 – $200
Landscape$30 – $150
Shoreline $30 – $150

Cost of retaining wall repairs

As with any other edifice, retaining walls wear out over time and need to be repaired. You may need to make a number of repairs, such as patching, installing tiebacks, excavating drainage systems, or fixing foundation problems. Expect to pay between $400 and $1,065 for repairs, depending on the wall size, type, and the extent of the damage.

Certain services are required before and after the installation of a retaining wall. Some of these services include:

Yard cleanup

Prior to the installation of a retaining wall, yard cleanup may be required. A typical garden cleanup includes the removal of leaves and debris, as well as the trimming of shrubs. The cost depends on the size of the garden and the scope of services to be provided. However, on average, yard cleanup costs $265 to $590.

Landscape design

Professional landscaping has always impacted home improvements, and planning and design are essential to achieving that. A landscape designer will charge between $1,900 and $6,000 to create a sustainable landscape design for your property.

Concrete removal

Concrete retaining walls are some of the sturdiest and most reliable walls, but when they finally crack beyond repair, you will need to replace the existing wall with a new one. It costs about $565 to $2,775 to demolish a concrete wall.

Cost of building a retaining wall by location

The combination of labor and location will determine how much it will ultimately cost to build a retaining wall in your area. Expect higher prices if:

  • Your property is located in an earthquake zone because more engineering and labor are required to provide a solid structural foundation. There is usually an additional cost of 5% to 10% on average to make a retaining wall earthquake-resistant.
  • The material you want to use isn’t widely available in your area. Some materials, especially natural stone, are easier to get ahold of in some parts of the country than others. Expect to pay for shipping costs if your landscape contractor has to order materials from far away.
  • Cost of living is high in your area. Local cost of living has a big impact on the price of labor and materials. If you live somewhere with an especially high cost of living, such as California or New England, your landscaping costs might be higher than the national averages covered in this guide. 

FAQ

Can you build a retaining wall DIY?

Some retaining walls, including those made of railroad ties, concrete blocks, or dry stone walls (less than three feet high) can be DIY projects, but even they can be very complex, from choosing the appropriate materials and type of drainage to the location of the wall.

It’s understandable to want to reduce costs, but building a retaining wall requires expertise to ensure the wall’s structural integrity is not compromised by improper installation.

Hiring a structural engineer or a landscape contractor to build your retaining wall gets you:

  • Faster installation
  • Access to superior materials
  • Access to a variety of wall designs
  • Access to competent individuals

How long do retaining walls last?

A retaining wall’s lifespan depends on the material type, drainage system, and maintenance. That being said:

  • Railwood retaining walls can last 10-15 years.
  • Stone retaining walls last between 40 and 100 years or longer.
  • Concrete retaining walls last between 50 and 100 years.
  • Brick retaining walls can last for at least 100 years.

Do retaining walls need maintenance?

Yes, regular maintenance and inspections can extend the life of retaining walls. Watch for cracks, leaks, and shifting. The sooner you identify problems, the lower the cost will be to fix them.

Are retaining walls the same as landscape walls?

No, they have different functions. While retaining walls serve both drainage and soil retention purposes, landscape walls are purely decorative. In addition, landscape walls are often shorter, less expensive, and built to define an area rather than support it.

Final thoughts

To reiterate, the typical cost to build a retaining wall nationwide ranges from $3,565 to $9,645. A retaining wall can be a fantastic addition to your landscape, in addition to being an efficient way to stop soil erosion and maximize space.

Photo by Redi-Rock International – Flickr – CC BY 2.0

Ayoola Azzan

Ayoola Azzan is a versatile writer and investment enthusiast who hails from Nigeria. He loves developing an impactful course and enjoys meditating when at leisure.