A Full Breakdown of How Much It Costs to Build a Retaining Wall

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated February 21, 2022
a stone retaining wall with green grass and a fence in the background
camstockphotos / Adobe Stock

The average cost to build a retaining wall is $5,700, but you'll likely spend between $3,230 and $8,700, depending on labor, materials, and how custom you want to go

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Retaining walls serve many purposes, including beautifying a garden, diverting water, and holding a foundation in place. You’ve probably never considered the attractiveness of a retaining wall, but they are a focal point on your property. You’ll want your retaining wall to be functional and enhance your yard, all on your budget. Low-end projects start at $1,240, and high-end improvements can reach $14,000.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Retaining Wall?

The cost to build a retaining wall varies widely based on many different factors. Just like every home, every retaining wall project is unique, but some factors can help you estimate how much your project will cost. 

Labor fees are a significant part of retaining wall costs. You’ll pay an average of $50 to $75 per hour. The labor fees to install a retaining wall range from $10 to $50 per square foot, depending on the materials used. Interlocking retaining wall blocks or pin mechanisms are the fastest and easiest to install compared to hand-stacked limestone or I-Beam retaining walls.

Average Retaining Wall Labor Costs

  • Wood and Railroad Ties: $15-$75

  • Concrete Bricks: $60-$90

  • Concrete Blocks: $60-$75

  • Dry Stacked Stone: $60-$80

  • Stone Veneer: $30-$75

  • Poured Concrete: $60-$80

Retaining Wall Costs by Location

Where you put your retaining wall and how much reinforcement you need it to handle also affects costs. There’s a big difference in functionality between building a concrete retaining wall lakeside and adding visual interest to your landscape with a retaining wall in your front yard

  • Landscape: $30-$150 per linear foot

  • Driveway: $50-$150 per linear foot

  • Lake and seawalls: $125-$200 per linear foot

How Much Do Retaining Walls Cost by Type?

The concrete, stone, steel, and other material needed for installation are some of the most expensive costs of the retaining wall. You may have your heart set on an intricately stacked stone retaining wall you saw on a home improvement show, but you’ll need to plan your budget wisely to get the best landscape impact for your retaining wall dollars. 

Concrete Retaining Wall

Concrete retaining walls cost $10 to $100 per square face foot (the square feet of the face of the wall). You can choose from poured, split face block, or cinder block. Add veneers to poured and cinder walls to give them a bit of personality. Split face blocks have a rock-like texture and come in various colors.

Gabion and Stone Retaining Wall

Stone retaining walls cost $5 to $100 per square foot. Stacked stone or limestone options are popular but are more expensive. You’re probably familiar with the look of gabion and stone; they’re widely available materials and commonly used for retaining walls. Rocks or concrete blocks fill the wireframe to form sections of the wall. The prefab design is ideal for retaining walls but also popular for decorative plant boxes.

Brick Retaining Wall

Brick retaining walls cost $10 to $45 per square foot. On your next walk around the neighborhood, look at how many neighbors use bricks to spruce up their yards. Bricks come in many colors and act as veneers on a retaining wall, meaning they’re only one brick thick (a wythe) and fixed to the outside of poured or block concrete. If you’ve been itching to boost the curb appeal of your retaining wall, personalize the bricks with a custom color or texture.

Wood or Timber Retaining Wall

A homeowner favorite, a wooden retaining wall averages $15 to $30 per square foot. An affordable and readily available choice, wooden retaining walls are used for gardens and to keep the overall appearance of a natural setting in the yard. If you take care of the wood with waterproofing, your retaining wall could last up to 20 years. 

Railroad Tie Retaining Wall

Railroad ties cost $25 to $30 per square foot. Railroad tie retaining walls were more common in older homes. Because they are soaked with toxic creosote to avoid rot, they aren’t used as often now. Your pro installer will let you know if railroad ties are allowed in your area.

Steel Retaining Wall

Steel sheet piling retaining walls cost $40 to $60 per square foot. However, steel rusts, especially in coastal areas, which is why some choose to upgrade to a weather-resistant material. The price increases to $75 to $125 per square foot if you choose Corten Steel (often referred to by brand name COR-TEN®, or weathering steel). Homeowners like to invest in weathering steel because it withstands rust better than other steel products and has a decades-long lifespan. Some installers use a sheet of Corten over a timber or concrete wall as an affordable option that still offers extra protection.  

I-Beam Retaining Wall

One of the most expensive retaining wall options, I-beam retaining walls, cost $40 to $90 per square foot. I-beam retaining walls, also called soldier pile, are created with vertical I-beams concreted into holes with wood slats or precast concrete panels placed between the steel in the beams' grooves. Homeowners often choose I-Beam retaining walls to mark property lines and to prevent landscape erosion.

Rammed Earth Retaining Wall

For those looking for an environment-friendly option, rammed earth walls are the byproduct of compacting earth with a binder, like cement. Rammed earth retaining walls cost $20 to $30 per square foot and offer the strength of concrete. 

a red brick retaining wall lining driveway with green grass on other side
Natalie Schorr / Adobe Stock

What Factors Influence the Cost to Build a Retaining Wall?

Labor and material costs, along with the width, length, and height of the wall, are all critical factors in calculating the total costs of your retaining wall. Beyond those basics, it’s up to you to decide how many upgrades or extras you’d like to add to boost the overall appearance of your retaining wall. Contact a local retaining wall installer and ask about their selections. 

Upgrades for Your Retaining Wall

There is an amazing assortment of shapes, colors, and sizes of retaining wall materials available to you. Before committing to premium colors and sizes, make sure you love the upgrades and can envision yourself admiring them for years to come. 

Additional Labor Costs

Labor fees for retaining wall installation tend to be about $50 to $75 per hour. Anytime your project requires extra attention because of an awkward location, you can expect to pay toward the high end of that range. Reinforcement, scaffolding, and removing fences or gates also increase the overall cost. 

FAQs About Building a Retaining Wall

What should I consider when building a retaining wall?

Hardscape elements like retaining walls are labor-intensive and expensive. You'll likely spend between $3,230 and $8,700, but some projects reach $14,000. You should consider the return on investment for your retaining wall. If constructed properly, they’ll easily last decades, depending on the materials and function. Retaining wall projects can add up to 15% to a home’s value with an average return of 100% to 200%.

Should I buy retaining wall services or build a retaining wall myself?

The answer lies in your expertise and the size of your project. Leave the intricate building plans that require specific attention to drainage and perfect installation to the professionals. Some cities require a professional company to build retaining walls if the project is large enough. Homeowners with a DIY streak should lean toward decorative retaining wall projects that secure gardens, flower beds, and trees. 

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.